So, thanksgiving has rolled around again. This time last year we were living in London, and celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in true American style (minus the corn that Meg forgot in the microwave). That year had been quite a turning point in both of our lives. I had tried to get back into work (I lasted about 3 months before deciding it definitely wasn’t for me!), and Meg had completed her pastry course in France, and we were now living together in London for a few months. Before we embarked on our big ‘hairventure’ in the new year.
Looking back therefore at the last 12 months, it has been another epic year, and truly a great deal to be thankful for. We had begun our trip in January, and hit the road proper in February. In March we lived in Austin, TX - Meg working for an awesome bakery there (Easy Tiger) and I volunteered for the SxSW festival (an event I’d been meaning to go to for so many years). April & May we travelled across the US again, and ended up settling down a little in New Orleans for some more working & volunteering (& proceeding to fallen totally in love with the city during this time). June & July we hit the road again, before I spent the summer in Guatemala & Costa Rica, and Meg got some work done in Ohio. September & October we got back onto the road, and before we knew it November had arrived, and we had a marriage to tick off. After a lovely week with both of our families, and now officially Mr & Mrs, we can look back and genuinely think we have achieved more in these last 12 months, than many people would have conquered in 5 or even 10 years.
So, to that end, this week is purely just about being grateful. Nothing soppy, nothing romantic, nothing lovey-dovey, but just a straight up ‘Cheers world’…
With the family all back to their respective homes, and the wedding finished, it was finally time to relax and enjoy the being married bit. We didn’t spend a lot of time planning our wedding, in fact we spent about 6 weeks. I can’t imagine if I’d had 6 months or a year to plan, I feel like it would have been much harder. In the end it was perfect, for me it couldn’t have gone better. But we couldn’t go far afterwards as we had to wait for our wedding certificate (which had to be picked up in person) and wouldn’t be available for at least a week, so we just went back to the coast to putts about near the sea for a few days and relax.
And that’s literally what we did for the entire week. Woke up by the sea, did some admin, had some coffee, went to sleep by the sea. At the end of the week I shuttled into San Francisco and was able to score a copy of our wedding certificate, so we could carry on down the coast. We hit highway 1 and wound down the ocean side. Big Sur is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world - it’s long, slow work in Milton, but we enjoyed the drive immensely. What happens now? We’re not sure. Our funds are pretty depleted so it’s probably time to take a break and do some work (well, I’ll work. Jonathan will tinker in Milton), so we’ll continue down the coast until we find somewhere willing to hire me and then go from there.
All of the time with family, and the actually getting married bit, has given us some time to reflect on our choices in life - namely our living in a van (down by the river). We’ve both made a lot of unorthodox choices in life, travelled a lot and been away from home for a long time, but that doesn’t mean our families fully understand our living in 80 square feet. And they certainly look at us with faces full of doubt when we say we plan on adding a child into that 80 square feet (at some point) rather than stopping, buying a house, and raising a kid the “normal” way. But the thing is, the real kicker for us, is we go to bed in our tiny space happy. We wake up in our tiny space happy. And we drive about in our tiny space happy. I reckon Jonathan and I have spent more time together in the last year than most couples get to spend with each other in 5 years, and if we have a kid, how lucky will they be to have both parents 24/7 - is that not the dream? Will we eventually stop? I’m sure, at some point. In fact, I’m confident we’ll find somewhere that fits for us, whether that’s in Argentina, or Namibia, or Thailand or Scotland. I couldn’t guess, but I don’t think it matters, all that matters is that we’re happy with our choices, and so far we certainly are.
After the idea of getting married in Mexico in the new year, was less than convenient for family, plan B kicked into action, and our quiet, in-out San Francisco wedding got bumped up to plan A. This wasn’t a problem, as any wedding of ours was always going to be a small affair (short notice, tiny budget, minimal people & fuss).
We popped into San Francisco City Hall on the Tuesday, to sign the bit of paper that allowed us to get married. Whilst there, we did some planning around potential photo spots, and watched a couple of weddings wedding - proper conveyor belt stuff. We timed the whole ceremony to last 3 minutes! City Hall looked stunning, so we were very pleased with our choice – although, it appeared there was going to be a lot of Chinese tourists to potentially contend with on the actual day.
Our families starting arriving on the Wednesday & Thursday, and we’d hired a house for the week, so took full advantage of washing clothes, having a bed, and drinking champagne at every opportunity.
On the wedding morning (having slept the night before together in Milton. We thought stuff in, we were getting married on a Friday 13th, so there couldn’t be any more taboo/bad luck items worth worrying about), we all donned our respective dresses & suits, had a few quick photos, and bundled ourselves into taxis (Meg naturally looked gorgeous). We arrived at City Hall with plenty of time to spare (neither myself, nor Meg, wanted to leave anything to chance on this of all days), so @thenomadicpeople managed to get a lot of the wedding photos out the way early.
The ceremony itself was a little bit of a blur for both of us in all honesty. We had the sweetest old lady officiating (Clarice – she must have been in her 80’s) and she made it feel extremely personal & special, even if it did last all of about 2 minutes. We then took a cable car/tram to the Hardwater bar on the waterfront for some drinks & nibbles, before allowing others to retire. We headed off to Chinatown to take some more photos, as we wanted something Chinese – after all, that is where it all began for us both. We thought we’d try and wing it at the social security office whilst there, and get Meg’s name changed. But, they were having none of it. However, the sight of someone in their wedding dress, certainly gave a few smiles to the people waiting their turn in line.
The evening was spent at the delicious State Bird Provisions restaurant. Plus, we had the bonus appearance of Hans, an old friend from Shanghai, who happened to be in San Francisco that week for work. All in all, it capped off a lovely day very nicely.
I am not one for getting emotional (British stiff upper lip & all that), but everything worked out perfectly. It was great just having a small family gathering, with no airs & graces to worry about, or random long-lost family members to contend with. So a huge thanks for everyone making the effort, and their extreme warmth, generosity and love - who’d have thought it #hairventuresgetshitched
The thing about waiting for your wedding is you’re always just waiting for your wedding. Everything else is just killing time. Which is exactly how we felt this week. We had arrived on the west coast with a week to spare, and now we just weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. California is truly beautiful (though this bit of the world isn’t the stereotype of palm trees and bikinis, more like redwoods and big scarves). So we contented ourselves with a week of bouncing from beach to vineyard and back again. The problem we were finding is although we expected California to be the van life mecca, it is very much “we do not want you lousy hippies camping on our beaches, and living the good life. We paid far too much for this view”. Seriously, we were finding it hard to find a place to park overnight that didn’t make us a bit nervous.
Luckily we didn’t have to for long. We managed to get a house sit, and not just any house sit, but a house sit in the center of San Francisco - you could not get much better than that! We found that we could park Milton in Walnut Creek (a suburb) in a CVS parking lot for just $5 a night, and then take the train in. Which is exactly what we did. It’s quite a posh suburb so we didn’t feel too worried leaving him there for a long weekend. The house sit went great, they had a big boxer and little yorkie, both a bit more high maintenance than Gogi, but let’s be honest, what dog isn’t? But, the real advantage was getting to check out the city, work through the public transport, and get a preview of what the wedding week would be like. Yay! Wedding week.
Like I said. It’s all just a waiting game.
Week 41 – “Over seas from coast to coast. Find the place I love the most. Where the fields are green. To see you once again, my love” – Westlife, 2000
We have hit a bit of a milestone. 16,240 miles (or 26,135 km for the rest of us) and we have officially, kind of, driven from coast to coast….in a very round about way, and with a 2 month hiatus in between. But hey, as they say, ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’.
Having left the nature of Yellowstone & Grand Tetons behind us (at least we thought. We managed to gain a couple of mice hitchhikers), we headed back into civilisation and more of our comfort zone - the exciting world of washing clothes, sleeping in gym car parks, and wandering around small cities. On this occasion, it was the turn of Salt Lake City; which seemed to have a rather high proportion of homeless people (my main take out from the city). We did try to spend a few hours in Park City where the 2002 winter Olympics took place, but much like a lot of things it was ‘closed for the season’. I don’t really remember the games to be honest, although that might be the fact that Great Britain only ever seems to be competitive in curling (sweeping) or luge (throwing yourself headfirst down an iced water slide wearing a wetsuit). All I do remember was that it was the games that was done for corruption. Which seems weird for a city/state run predominantly by religious Mormons?
On our way out of the city, we stopped off at the Bonneville Salt flats. I was hoping it was going to be like that place in Bolivia – where everyone takes photos of small dinosaurs, cars, etc next to adults, and the whole perspective makes everything look the same size. Alas, it appears it was ‘water’ season, so the flats were covered in water & most of the road submerged. It was also just rather windy. I’m not sure how Anthony Hopkins rode his motorcycle on it…
We were heading to San Francisco to stop for a few weeks, but were lucky enough to pass through Nevada on Nevada Day, so I felt obliged to visit the capital (Carson City) for their annual parade. I loved it. Floats of random groups such as, civil war re-enactment, mayor hopefuls, high school bands, along with a ‘men hammering nails into granite’ & a ‘longest beard’ contests. Meg however, has apparently seen it many times before, so was quite keen to truck us out of there.
So, not a hugely exciting week all-in-all. But, we’ve made it to San Fran, so it’s going to be a week of exploring the outskirts (Napa Valley, etc) before the big day arrives. The BIG day…