When in Pennsylvania

Have you been waiting in anticipation to figure out WHERE I could have possibly gone after being in Hershey all week? No, I didn’t think so, either, so we’ll just let it out.

Obviously I had to go back to the ‘burgh!

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As soon as I found out I was going to be a mere 4-hour drive from my first home-away-from-home, I told everyone I could think of to make sure that they’d be around. I even convinced Erin to fly in from chilly New Hampshire!

We were really happy to be together again.

We were really happy to be reunited.

After finding her roaming around on campus and completely freaking out about being back, we remembered that we had a last-minute Friday Night Dinner to throw together. Off to Giant Eagle!

Erin works for Lindt at the moment, so we joke about our career rivalry sometimes, but I think I still got her trained…

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Our next stop was to our friend Wes’s new place to 1. see what the hell everyone has been up to, and 2. make some delicious things! Apparently, Texas has worn off on me more than I thought it would because we chose to make my new favorite: fried pickles.

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And, I mean, if you have a bunch of pickle juice left over, might as well do some pickle juice shots, right? The Midwest boys were troopers and humored my request for something Southern.

Look at that concentration.

Look at that concentration.

We went bar hopping in the neighborhood of Bloomfield for the rest of the night, which was a first for me. With so many nooks and crannies, Pittsburgh neighborhoods leave a lot to be explored! I think I could have lived there for 8 years and still had things left to discover. (There’s my aside for why everyone should visit Pittsburgh at least once.)

The rest of the weekend was spent strolling through campus, eating our way through Pittsburgh’s quirky food offerings, and catching up with whoever we could find.

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture's frame!

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture’s frame!

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Iron Cactus for happy hour.

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Steel Cactus for happy hour.

Unsurprisingly, our happy "hour" turned into a happy marathon.

Unsurprisingly, our happy “hour” turned into a happy marathon.

I found an Abi!

I found an Abi!

It was strange enjoying the city from such a different perspective. Erin and I stayed with our friend, Nick, in South Side, so we didn’t have our own cozy apartment to go back to whenever we wanted. It was nice that we didn’t have to worry about classes or homework, but that meant that we also didn’t really have any purpose to be in Oakland, which was the center of our Universe for 4 years. That pushed us to try a lot of new places, which I hadn’t expected! It’s just an odd sensation feeling slightly out of place in a city where you belonged and called home.

The last activity before having to fly back to San Antone was to meet up with my friend, Alexis, to plan our trip to Peru and Chile!

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

We hit a point in our brainstorming when we kind of decided we would just wing it and do what we felt like once we got there, which is RIGHT when a girl sitting at a table behind us turned around to ask, “are you planning a trip to Peru? I travelled through there for 6 weeks. Do you want some suggestions?” LIFE SAVER! I love when strangers come out of nowhere and are awesome people.

After all that excitement, I had to grab Erin and head back to the airport. It felt like the weekend had flown by and we didn’t get everywhere we wanted to, but I was so appreciative of being able to get a different view on “my city” and spending time with some of my favorite people without any distractions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my short time as an “adult”, it’s that mini trips will save your sanity!

Speaking of, next on the blog brag list is quite a bit more than just a mini trip. Back to South America we go!

– Alexa

If you actually listen to me, and go to Pittsburgh, here’s where I ate and drank my face off on this last trip that I’d definitely recommend:

Pittsburgh Popcorn
Steel Cactus
Franktuary
Espresso a Mano
Big Dog Coffee

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When Hell Freezes Over

Abi and I just got back from a trip to southern California (that post is in the works), and it’s in the 80s and sunny today in San Antonio (sorry to brag), BUT it’s still February = many of you reading this are chilling. Literally. I haven’t written in forever, so I thought I’d use a wintery, icy theme to catch up on everything big that’s happened the past few months.

So, the question is: WHAT DOES ONE DO IN SAN ANTONIO WHEN IT’S COLD?

Let me tell you.

1. Escape to Austin with your roommate from college and warm up with spicy fried pickles and beer at Banger’s on Rainey Street.

You’re right, that doesn’t answer the “what to do in San Antonio” question, but I’m getting there.

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Skeptical.

Skeptical.

2. Grab your co-worker, go out on Sixth Street, and continue the weird pickle theme by making your East Coast roomie try pickle juice shots for the first time ever.

Fairy lights make you forget it's windy and freezing. For a second.

Fairy lights make you forget it’s windy and freezing. For a second.

My minions

My minions

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I told you they were real!

3. On your way back from Austin the next day, grab some wood-fired coffee and breakfast tacos from Summermoon, then get a hat and a hug at Buc-ee’s.

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4. Attempt to sightsee in downtown San Antonio.

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Alamo drive-by

Alamo drive-by

5. Give up, and ummmm… drink some more!

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SoHo and Barriba Cantina are both highly recommended. By me. Take that for what it’s worth.

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6. Buy some touristy drug rugs on the Riverwalk, and hang out like it’s a Sunday before classes start again.

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7. Exchange a friend for a mommy, and do pretty much the same thing all over!

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

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This time, step it up a notch, and get spiked coffee at Halcyon, which is my true love.

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

8. Do that whole celebrating Christmas thing. That’ll make you all warm and fuzzy.

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The Gristmill in Gruene, TX is extra adorable for the holidays!

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9. Throw New Year’s in there, too, while you’re at it.

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10. Finally, volunteer locally to get the feel-goods flowing and help out some people in need.

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Part of Hershey’s Austin district helped out at Morgan’s Wonderland!

As you can see, the list gets a little more wholesome towards the end, but let’s be real, there’s a reason why chilly Russians are stereotyped as big drinkers. San Antonio doesn’t usually have an excuse, but yesterday was National Margarita Day, at least! Stay warm, y’all!

– Alexa

The Thing About Airplanes

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While writing this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Austin after dropping off Erin at the airport following our second roomie reunion. I’ll make sure to share how that went, but it’s been cold and rainy all weekend, and I remembered that I had written some thoughts on traveling while on my way to Seattle two weeks ago, so you get a mushy, rambling, introspective post first. (<– DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.)

The Scene

So, like I said, this came to me on my way to see Robby (wow, need to write about that, too). I was on my second 2.5-hour flight, dehydrated and slightly delirious, and a mix of thoughts were floating through my head. I remembered something Abi had said recently that went something like, “daydreams are better than regular dreams because you can usually remember them in detail.” And I was definitely daydreaming. Past flights came to mind, and all of the combined emotions I felt on them waved over me. I became hyper-aware of where I was going and why, really contemplated the significance of travel in my life, and noticed how the purpose of it has changed from what I did in college to now.

If you haven’t already, this is where you can stop reading if you only like this blog for the pics.

The Daydream

Airports are kind of strange places, right? It seems that air travel brings out a different side of everyone: parents become even more overprotective and stressed as they herd their small children around, the calm-and-collected personalities are suddenly thrown into a state of confusion and lost baggage, the quiet types are forced to bond with their seatmates on a long flight, even if they will never see that person again. Everyone has a completely different end goal, yet they all need to go through the same means to achieve it.

If I go back through significant moments in my recent life history, most of them happened in an airport or were bookended by a walk through airport security and baggage claims: discovering Pittsburgh, leaving the country for the first time, being introduced to Argentina (and later taken away from it), living and traveling in Europe for the first time, commemorating graduation by traveling with my best friends, and lately, reconnecting with those friends all over the country. They’re the memories that stick because they were the most emotionally intense, whether I was running in three directions at once with a stupid excited grin on my face or bawling my eyes out alone in a window seat on the plane. Or a mix of the two. Opening yourself to a new place and accepting it as a part of you is both invigorating and heartbreaking knowing you must leave it behind, even to return to the place you call home.

Going through those moments made me start thinking about all the people I appreciate (and used to appreciate) the most in my life. A lot of them I’ve met while traveling or talking about it, and you definitely realize who matters when you’re willing to throw away a lot of time, money, and leg room to go see them. Recognizing that, a latent guilt started to creep into my chest when I thought of those I haven’t made those small sacrifices for. Technology may be keeping us more easily connected than ever, but nothing beats being at the same table with a lifelong friend to catch up on what time and distance have taken away.

The Meaning

I’ve been doing a lot of life evaluation lately, so maybe this is a byproduct of that exercise, or maybe I was just short on sleep and fluids when I wrote these thoughts down. In any case, it’s helped remind me what I’ve found to be meaningful all along: uncovering the wonderful oddities the world has to offer, finding my own niche in unexpected places, and sharing it all with people who make me a better person.

Let the soul searching and good times continue.

– Alexa

So This One Time, I Went to Paris…

Oh yeah! Paris! Remember that little trip I mentioned? Heh. 😛 This post has been looming over me, mostly because I have so many pictures to choose from. Once I looked through the ones I have, I realized it just wouldn’t be fair to cut them all down to one annoyingly long post, so I’m going to do this a day at a time. Here it goes. (Click on the first picture to flip through!)

Pretty jam-packed day, right? I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was absolutely fantastic. France won me over from the start. That actually means something coming from the girl who used to say that Europe was “too cliché” to want to go see. I mean, I still talk about South America ALL the time, but the few areas of Europe that I’ve seen so far are pretty freaking cool. It deserves the hype. More Paris to come soon!

– Alexa

P.S. – As you can see, I decided to do pictures a little differently than normal because it was easier. Let me know if you hate this format or not so I don’t make anyone angry. There should be no reason to be angry while talking about amazing trips!