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About Amber

(And The Husband)

After 10 years as an attorney, I left my job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living my life. I am now a recovering tax lawyer, perpetual nomad, intrepid foodie, and yoga teacher, traveling the world With Husband In Tow.  I plan, Eric follows, and after 65 countries and 12 years of marriage, I want to share our travel and expat tales with you. Follow me @husbandintow

Currently: Stalled in Ubud, Bali!

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Traveling, With Husband in Tow

Monday
Jul282014

Seeing Chicago From the River - Chicago Electric Boats

I love returning to a city that I am familiar with, particularly one where I have intimate knowledge.  This is one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to attend a blogger bootcamp called BlogHouse - it was hosted in Chicago.   

Little did I know when I sent in my application, that I would be captain of a ship on the mighty Chicago River.

Okay, maybe “captain of a ship” is a bit much, but when the BlogHouse folks asked for two volunteers to captain a boat, I said sure, why not.  I, honestly, thought it was an honorary title.  I mean, who puts a boating novice in charge of a boat, of any size, on the busy Chicago River?

Apparently, Chicago Electric Boat Company does.  

And, that is how I found myself next to Cailin from Travel Yourself, both of us donning a dapper captains’ hat, watching a safety video on how to navigate the Chicago River.

Chicago Electric Boat CompanyI have taken river cruises before in Chicago, with one of my favorites being the Architectural Boat Tour, but this was entirely different.  A small boat, for about 12-15 people, low to the water, being captained by one of the group.  What could go wrong?

I received an instructional briefing, while the others in the group happily dug into the beer cooler on board, generously donated by Goose Island.  

Chicago Electric Boat CompanyI was under strict rules not to drink while navigating the river.  I was fine with that.  I felt a lot of pressure to keep all my fellow travel bloggers safe.  I tried to act all confident, but in fact, I really had no idea what I was doing.

Chicago Electric Boat CompanyI occasionally attempted to regal the group with interesting Chicago River stories, along with other Chicago resident, Lisa, from LL World Tour.  After all, every other Chicago River boat tour I took always had a tour guide.  I felt I just HAD to be the captain and the river guide, all wrapped into one.  But, I knew my primary responsibility was just that - to be a responsible boat captain, avoiding the giant ferries, tour boats, and water taxis that seemed to be everywhere on the river that night.

The group chit catted, bonded, and got to know one another - really the point behind the field trip.  Some of them took photos for me, and took photos with me, so at least I felt part of the group - even if I was sans beer.

Chicago Electric Boat CompanyFor those on board who were knew to Chicago, it was certainly an amazing experience.  They kept sticking their head up through the roof to snap photos, as we slowly meandered past the Opera House, Trump Tower, and the Wrigley Building.

As the sun started to dip behind the Chicago skyline, and the summer temperatures dropped quickly in the Windy City, I was ready to join my group in some refreshments, and pretty much demanded that margaritas be served to me immediately.  I was thrilled to have seen the Chicago River from a new perspective, but was also ready for my captain duties to come to an end.

Chicago Electric Boat Company

Would you captain a boat full of travel bloggers on a major waterway??

Thursday
Jul242014

Reflections on Two Years as a Travel Blogger

Two Years as a Travel BloggerEric's 40th BirthdayI knew this day was coming, as I saw the days and weeks on the calendar come and go.  I even said to Eric, we need to come up with something good for the date.  Last year, it was 12 Things I Learned From 12 Months on the Road.  Perhaps this year it was a list of 24 Things I Learned as a Travel Blogger, but have I learned that much more?  

More importantly, though, I have been finding it increasingly hard to write, as writers’ block comes and goes, and I get distracted by my other “jobs” and responsibilities. It is also increasingly more difficult as we have struggled over the last few weeks with living in Bali, for a variety of reasons.  I still knew, though, that I had to reflect one way or the other on this new life we are living.

After all, we left the US two years ago today. 

Two years ago, we boarded a plane with my my mother in in law to Ireland, for two weeks in Kilkee with family - Aunt Theresa, Uncle Jack, Steph and Linda and their children and dogs.  Most important we were getting two weeks with Eric’s cousin Eddie.  Little did I know how grateful I would be for those two weeks with Ed in Kilkee.   

Because what should be a post on how wonderful my life is after spending two years as a travel blogger, or two years as a world traveler, is instead a post about how happy I am to be living the life that I am.  

Two years after that trip to Ireland, we have just returned from another trip to Ireland.  This time to say our final farewells to Eddie Crean, who died a few weeks ago after a cycling accident in Colorado.  Ed was a true adventurer, who lived his 43 years to the fullest, traveling the world, exploring the outdoors, and focusing his time on his friends and his family.  

Eddie CreanAlthough he should have lived another 40 years, many of us took solace, and toasted, to the life that Ed lived well.  He did not spent his 20 years working in the US as a slave to the 9 to 5, working under fluorescent lights 80 hours a week.  Although he became a US citizen, that part of him never became fully American.

Instead, he worked his butt off for a moving company, Gentle Giant, always saving money for his next adventure, his next trip home to Ireland, or to spoil his niece and nephews, and most important to him, his son.  He climbed Kilimanjaro, and to Everest Base Camp, and took so many road trips across the US that I lost track.  He worked to live, not lived to work. 

It is often true that, in times like this, people take a moment to reflect on their own lives, as there is always a constant muttering of the cliche “life is short.”  Perhaps if I were still living my former life as a tax attorney I would be focusing on a similar reflection, and making huge life changes having learned from Ed.

Instead, I am thinking about how I have spent the last two years as a travel blogger, and as a traveler, living my life on my own terms.   

Eric and I each set our own goals years ago.  Eric set the goal that he wanted to leave the US by the time he was 40.  We beat that by 2 years, as Eric just celebrated his 40th birthday here in Bali.  We wanted to live in Asia, and we have been living in Bali for over a year now.  I wanted to be a writer, and I am.  I wanted to be a yoga teacher, and I am.

Although this month we feel as though we are living on the far side of the world, so far from the family we just spent a week with in Ireland, we are living the life we wanted to live, right?  I get to spent a ton of time with my husband, and we have grown closer each day of the last two years.  We are living a healthier life, and a happier one.  And, although there are days here in Bali that we question whether we are happy living here, I know for sure we are much happier now than we were two years ago.

We are not spending the 80 hours a week, in an office, working jobs we hate.  We make A LOT less now than we did before, working as a travel blogger, and starting new businesses.  But, we work to live, and not live to work.  This is what I reflect on as I celebrate the two year anniversary of being a travel blogger.  And, it is something for which I am grateful.

Tuesday
Jul222014

When a Writer Drinks

When a Writer DrinksOccasionally, when I drink, I start to write.  I often believe that the writing is profound, in a Truman Capote kind of way.  Then, I show it to Eric after, he reads it, shrugs his shoulders and I realize it was quite possibly, complete crap.  Because when a writer drinks, often times, it's crap.

On our way from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, we flew sheer across the Gulf.  Something I have never done during the day.  We were flying home to family, for a funeral, and certainly not the most celebratory of trips. 

That may have been why I had two, very good pours, of whiskey before 11 am. 

Eric joined me.  At least I was not drinking alone.

There was part of me that enjoyed the banter between Eric and I.  The discussions about our seat neighborhoods, the other people who boarded the plane, the fact that there was a window in the bathroom of our Etihad flight.  I think that we each relished the moment where we could pretend that this was a normal flight, a normal trip to Ireland, instead of a rushed, last minute booking to celebrate, and bury, someone who Eric thought of as a brother.

I recognized how strange the flight was, even as we pretended to be normal.  Eric noticed that I had become fascinated with the landscape out the window.  As we made our way north, we flew over Kuwait City - so much beige, and in complete contrast to our landscape in Bali.

When a Writer DrinksThen, the map function on the Etihad entertainment system told me we were crossing over Baghdad.

I am an adventurer, a traveler.  At least I sometimes pretend to be.  I knew my chances of ever setting foot in Baghdad were slim to none.  Just flying over the legendary city was enough for me. 

The flight path followed the Tigris River, another geographic spot of legend.  I realized that, perhaps, I am not as much of an adventurer as I thought.

Ed, Eric’s cousin who we were heading home to say goodbye to, was an adventurer, way before we were.  Climbing to base camp of Mt. Everest, having his stuff stolen in Thailand, driving across the US so many times it made us embarrassed of the fact that he, an Irishman, had seen more of the US, than we did. 

I knew when we landed in Ireland we would be surrounded by green - the lush green countryside of Ireland, that we had grown accustomed to seeing over the last half dozen visits.  But, for those brief moments, while flying over some of the most dry, and beige, landscape I think there is, I realized how far we had traveled.  From our rice paddies in Bali, across the desert of Baghdad, up the Tigris River, across the entirety of Europe, and back home to Ireland.

Was it the whiskey talking?  Did I have a point? I was not sure.  I tried to settle in to the in-flight entertainment.  I tried not to count down the hours until we landed in Dublin.  I tried not to think about the family that waited at the other end, about the conversations, the condolences.  Instead, in a strange and eerie way it was easier for me to think about Baghdad - some place so distant, so remote, and yet so personal to so many people.  

Maybe the whiskey made me brave, made me think that I was a legitimate writer.  Maybe I thought I was being insightful.  Maybe I was just numbing my pain, Eric’s pain, and tried to make it seem like something more than just another flight where I drank a little free booze and fell asleep, dreaming of Ireland.  Maybe, I was just another writer who thinks that when a writer drinks, insight, and an explanation of the universe will pour forward.