Yes, I realize this is my Travel blog, and this post is mostly about the US, but I had to travel to get there so I’m gonna say it still counts. And without it there would be a big gap between the beginning of June and the middle of July so…
As I was thinking about the past month back home I realized something- maybe not realized- but was reminded… Although I love exploring- seeing new places, meeting new people, learning about myself- I love the idea of ‘home’ just as much. Home is Seattle. Home is New York. Home is Salt Lake. Anywhere I have family and/or really good friends will always be home to me. And I think it’s ok to have several ‘homes’, they all represent slightly different times of my life, and slightly different versions of me… so they’ll all always be important, part of my story. And I’m also sure I’ll have several more ‘homes’ over the course of my life- it’s cool to think that there are places in the world that for the moment are just names/places on a map, but one day will hold an incredibly special place in my heart… presumably with new special people!
On top of that, many of my new friends I’ve met traveling haven’t been to Seattle or New York (oh yeah, I did sneak off for 10 days to hit Croatia!) so it’ll still be a ‘travel’ blog…
Here we go.
Actually the first bit of ‘home’ didn’t happen on US soil at all! It just so happened that my travel plans were going to line up with my Dad/Stepmom’s summer trip and we’d all be in London together for a few days. I was fresh off a month in India and to be honest was looking forward to a little first-world convenience (and a little diversity in the food… don’t get me wrong, I loved my butter chicken but honestly would you ever order delivery Indian 30 straight days? Didn’t think so).
I met them at their hotel, and after giving them a few gifts- a scarf for Cherie and some Nepal pants for my Dad- we were off to play tourist for a few days! It was fun to just hang out with the both of them in a city that wasn’t Salt Lake. Nothing wrong with the SLC, but when we’re there we kinda tend to do the same things so it was nice spending time with them in a different environment. We took in the sights, ate the food, shared stories from our respective adventures and generally just enjoyed each other’s company. In many ways I’m still getting to know both of them so opportunities like this are priceless, and ones I want to make the most of. This was the first time I’d seen my Dad since Grammy passed so we got to chat a bit about her, her funeral, how he and the family were doing etc. I’d been saving a hug for him for a few months now, it was nice to finally give it to him.
The trip concluded (if you don’t count coffee the next morning) with us seeing the musical Kinky Boots. It was super fun. Even funnier was Cherie continually asking me if I was ok with the content, if I liked it, found it funny etc… I can’t imagine a show centered around drag queens and platform boots would have the same appeal in the slightly more conservative town of Salt Lake, but in London it was perfect- I enjoyed the experience tremendously (it was just as fun watching Dad to see how he was enjoying it, haha).
This was just a quick pitstop to grab a complete change of clothes and say a quick hello to whoever had a free moment. I ditched all my trekking gear and swapped it for a backpack that would have to span 1. A Bachelor Party 2. LA pitstop 3. Yacht Week in Croatia 4. London Pitstop and 5. Phil’s wedding plus family/friend time in Seattle! One thing is for sure, I’m getting much better at packing things that are multi-purpose. I’m also getting better at just wearing the same thing over and over and not caring…
Added Bonus! My sister Mackenzie was in NY visiting a friend! Homes colliding! She didn’t know I was going to be there so I coordinated a surprise with the friend she was staying with 🙂 I love surprising people… So, in addition to seeing Jason and Sami (who are gracious enough to always offer me their second bedroom when I’m home), Egbert, and a handful of others, I got to hang with the kid sis! Life was good…
We had decided to have Phil’s bachelor party in Lake Tahoe- which honestly was the only reason I was back in the US, if not for this I’d have probably stayed in India a bit longer or checked out another country (Germany/Italy?) for a bit… But as I was set to spend some time with some really great guys I wasn’t all that upset…. just a bit nervous as my name was on the rental agreement for the house and I know what these weekends can very easily can turn into However, we kept it pretty real… Phil had asked for a ‘weekend with the boys that wasn’t centered around booze and partying, more around hanging out and even some athletics’. And somehow, we managed to pull it off! We played horseshoes, we bbqed, even hiked, meditated and did yoga! We had a day on the lake with a few boats/jetskis. We had a nice dinner and a night at the club. But all of it, 100% was centered on us hanging out with each other. Catching up on life. Celebrating Phil, sharing stories, etc… Who knew we had it in us? Are we growing up? (almost- we did end up with a slight damage deposit hit due to urine in the owner’s dryer… though we still maintain it was an animal that snuck in 😉 )
Some shots of the gang- we teamed up for horseshoes/beer pong etc. So much fun…
After a quick layover in LA where I somehow managed to see a ton of friends in a very short amount of time- coffee with one, lunch with another, drinks with another, dinner with yet another AND a hike with one and yoga with another! Phew! Was a lot of running around, but as I hadn’t been in the states in 4 months and had no real idea when I’d be back It was worth it… and then I was on a flight to Croatia!
Yes, if you’ve been reading all these, you know that I haven’t been exactly ‘efficient’ with my travel itineraries/routes. I mean, who goes from LA to Seattle via Croatia? (insert hand raising emoji) But, AJ had graciously offered to host Joe and I (and later a few more friends) at his company retreat on a luxury yacht in Croatia- yes, you read that correctly. Though I had initially planned on just going to Sedona or Zion and climbing some rocks and then sitting on them watching sunsets- AJ’s logic of ‘when else are you going to have a friend offer a fully paid for week aboard a yacht in Croatia?’ followed by ‘honestly, what else do you have going on?’ eventually convinced me (ok, it didn’t take much convincing.
And although Yes, this was a party, on a yacht, in Croatia, during summer time when many travelers are there attending Yacht Week… it still felt like home. Joe and AJ were there. Then another close friend Mindee arrived, then Mike (another friend from the US)… and although the boat was stocked with AJ’s employees (most of them are mid 20’s and full of energy!) and there was plenty of partying to be done, AJ still made sure that the trip wasn’t a total shit show. He had organized Yoga every day, massage, different sessions around personal/professional development, life coaching, etc. Joe and I even got to lead a segment on ‘changing your conversations to enrich your life’. It was awesome!
I realized that I no longer really cared about being out and partying till 5am- sure it was fun every once in a while, but honestly I really just enjoyed hanging out with my friends old and new and talking… Celebrating life doesn’t always have to involve a hangover the next morning. Many of AJ’s team wrote notes to Joe and myself expressing gratitude for our session, saying that kicking things off with it led to everyone having a much better time, having much better conversations with their friends/colleagues than they otherwise probably would have. That to me meant the most and is definitely the direction I want my life to continue going in. Leading by example and inspiring positive change in the world, staying consistent with my own personal mantra- I am a man for myself so that I may be a man for others.
The grand finale. Phil’s wedding was going to be amazing. We all knew it. With the collection of people attending and the love and energy that Phil and Liz would be bringing, how could it not be? I knew it would also be a little hectic as I tried to see home friends/family in addition to filling my duties as co-best man so I got home a few days early. I wanted to make the most of this time in Seattle!
After landing I headed immediately to my Mom’s house (July 2). I’d spend the first 2 nights over there before heading over to Seattle for the 4th of July and all the subsequent wedding stuff. Just like with Dad, Mom hadn’t seen me in 4 months! She of course started crying immediately, haha. I love her. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and it always makes my heart explode when I see how happy she is to see me, even as I try to play it cool. It was nice to be ‘home’. After catching up with her a bit, and giving her yet another scarf to add to the collection I’ve brought her from all my travels, I headed over to my sister Meaghan’s house to see her and Emma (and it turned out Kenny was home too!). As I said, I play it cool when I see my family, so I gave Meaghan a hug full of brotherly love… but it’s getting harder and harder to keep it together when I see Emma! One of these days, I’ll be crying like my mom… She’s such a special girl and means absolutely everything to me 🙂 And she’s getting old so fast! I swear she was 2 yesterday and now she’s starting to drive.
We spent the 3rd of July BBQing at Mom/Chuck’s place. Another added bonus Eric was up from California with Keri and his kids! For those that don’t know, Eric was one of my first friends when I moved to Washington in 9th grade, became one of my best friends in high school and then became my step-brother! After we both moved away from home, his Dad asked my Mom out on a date and something like 20 years later they’re still married (confused on the timing as they didn’t actually tell us when it happened!) So there I was, surrounded by family, it was awesome. After the ‘families’ all left to head home for the evening- Eric got a fun pass and he and I went down to downtown Poulsbo to watch the annual 3rd of July fireworks show. It was a bit surreal as we figured that it had been probably 20 years since we’d been down for that. Back then we were just a couple of 19/20 year olds with a plastic bottle of vodka/OJ hanging out looking to pick up chicks… Wow. Time had flown. Yet in that moment, hanging with him, time didn’t seem like it had passed at all… though this time we were legal and had a beer at the bar. It’s been nice spending more time with him in the past few years after a few years had passed where we were both kinda doing our own thing. Family.
I was already on such a high from those two days and now was headed over to Seattle for a 4th of July BBQ with my Seaside/Volleyball crew! This WAS my entire life during my 20s before I moved to NY. Volleyball, funny outfits, Kenny Loggins, and Bud Light. I have spent so much time laughing with these guys over the years that my heart immediately lifts when we get together. Most are now married, engaged, have kids, dogs, etc so it always means a ton when they make the time to hang out when I’m home. I’m sure it’s not always easy fitting me in to already crowded schedules- I really really appreciate the effort… I love these guys. No other way to put it. As our Seaside antics are getting further and further in our rearview mirror, it’s rare that I get to see everyone at once so this day was awesome. There were a few absent due to previous commitments, but for the most part the crew showed up and we got to have a ‘Seaside in July’. We had our vball, we had our funny outfits, we had our bud lights, and we had our Kenny Loggins. Phil even showed up for a bit!
This is another thing that is really special to me- my Seattle friends are now friends with my New York friends. It’s cool to see to very different yet very important parts of my life come together. It’s cool when they are excited to see each other and catch up (and would be even if I wasn’t there!) Worlds are colliding, Jerry!
We had an epic day in the Seattle Summer sun, literally 10 hours at the park hanging out, eating, drinking, catching up etc. And for the most part those that couldn’t attend that day I was able to catch up with later while I was home. Life is indeed good…
And things kept getting better! The rest of NY was arriving in Seattle! It was also a special feeling that I’d get to share Seattle with many friends who’ve never been here before. My heart was getting fuller and fuller. Keep in mind that as I’ve been traveling there are many of my friends I haven’t seen in many months. And here they all were. All in one place. And to make things even better (sensing a theme here?) My Mom, Meaghan, and Emma came over to Seattle to hang out! There are many many people who are incredibly important to my life that my own family hasn’t met and now these connections were happening as well. Of course everyone ‘knows’ Emma from all the posting I do, but now they get to meet her in real life and not just the ‘Flat Emma’ version 🙂 Honestly this trip would end up being one of the most memorable stretches of time in my entire life- I was just happy, as simple as that. And now for the Main Event.
Most people know Seattle for one thing. Rain. And they’re not wrong, it’s pretty miserable for a good bit of time every year. What most don’t know is how epic the summers are! It’s light super early, stays light super late, and in between it’s sunny and ~80 with zero humidity. The mountains glow, the water and skies are a special blue, and (of course) everyone just seems to be in awesome moods. Which made everything all the better as Seattle delivered a picture perfect weekend for Phil and Liz!
From the rehearsal to the dinner to the wedding party photos to the ceremony/reception, to the celebratory boat ride the next day- absolute perfect weather. But I’m jumping ahead…
The rehearsal was super fun as well all got ourselves ready for the big day. Most of these gents I’d just seen at the Bachelor Party but it was good to share a few laughs from that as well as hanging out with Liz’s bridal crew. I got to catch up with Phil’s parents, meet his brother from China and some of the other folks that are super important to he and Liz’s (and therefore mine) lives. Afterwards we ended up on a rooftop bar in downtown and were treated to an amazing sunset over the Olympic mountains- not a bad first impression for the Seattle rookies!
The wedding day had finally arrived and we were all dying to get it going! Not because we wanted to get it over with or just skip ahead to the reception or anything, but because we knew the entire day would be amazing and we couldn’t wait to spend it together! Per tradition, the guys all got ready together as did the ladies (and per tradition we had scotch and they had champagne)… Photos were done at Gasworks Park and the Fremont Troll, everyone was so happy, such good/positive energy. If Phil/Liz were at all stressed they didn’t show it. The ceremony itself was beautiful and went off without a hitch, I even managed to not lose their rings (something I was quite stressed about. That’s a lot of responsibility!) And now it was time to party…
But first, Tommy and I had to give our best man speech. We’d been working on it over text/email for a few months, but really only started practicing it in Tahoe and then again in Seattle. We had planned to each talk a little, then serenade Phil/Liz Top Gun style with a customized version of Lost that Lovin’ Feeling. We decided to let the ladies (Liz had co-bridesmaids as well) give their speech first as we were certain they wouldn’t want to follow us… AND THEY CRUSHED IT! Complete with a song of their own. Shit. Now WE were the ones feeling the pressure… But we did it, and it was fun… we even added a last minute addition of having all the other Groomsmen stand up midway through the song and join us!
Phew… another stress checked off the list… NOW I could finally relax and party. Which we did. Into the night. The positive energy, the love, the friendship, everything was overflowing until the last of us went to bed around 2am (we had brought the party back to W hotel lobby- the DJ there was awesome too).
The next morning… Exhausted, but not depleted, we all made it out onto a boat for a 3 hour brunch cruise around Lake Union/Lake Washington. Again it was a special way to share ‘home’ with many of my friends who hadn’t been to Seattle before. It’s a totally different way to see the city, and who doesn’t love being on a boat? Once again it was a perfect day weather-wise and everyone had an awesome time celebrating the new Mr and Mrs Wendler… After a final (and lower key) night out, everyone was headed back to their respective homes- wedding mission accomplished!
i wasn’t finished yet though, I still had a few more days to hang with the family! So I headed back to Poulsbo… Mom made a big spaghetti dinner for us my last night- yes, I finally tried my Mom’s spaghetti sauce! It was nice to just relax, and soak in all the amazingness of the past month… AND finally catch up on a bit of sleep! I closed things out by watching Emma’s soccer team scrimmage another team. I love watching her play! I also love making fun of the fact that she still runs like a T Rex with her arms all close to her body- she’s never amused. After one more hug from Meaghan and Emma, I was off to the airport. It was time for another chapter in this excellent adventure to begin.
I’ll end with this. Multiple times during this trip I just looked around and was so amazed at who I saw, the quality of the people. When my Mom and Sis met all my friends in Seattle they both sent me separate notes saying I had such a great group of friends. Even thinking back to my going away Funky Brunch I remembered my friend Pete pulling me aside and saying “it’s amazing how many cool/nice people are here… generally at parties there’s always at least one or 2 assholes, you never have any! How do you do it?”. It’s true. I’m blessed.
A special thanks to all my friends and family. I love you all so much and am just filled with gratitude to have each and every one of you in my life. Life is indeed good.
Bring on Scotland!
~follow your bliss
Just a guy on a hero's journey...