what I did on my summer vacation

almost every summer, it seems I take a [usually unintentional] break from blogging. being married to a teacher means that my life and my calendar revolve around the school year. we are lucky to have short breaks throughout the year, but summer is the time when we travel the most.

and when I'm in Tokyo -- I'd rather spend my time exploring adorable alleys and stunning shrines than sitting in front of a computer screen. when I am with my family and friends -- I want to soak up every conversation, every glass of wine, every trip to the beach or board game or whatever activity we have planned.

so the memories pile up over the months. and when I come home to Taiwan, I unpack them along with the instant photos and the new can opener, a gluten free pretzel stash and that little bit of Lake Michigan sand you can never get out of the bottom of your bag.

here's what I did on my summer vacation...

I played host to my sister-in-law and twin nephews. they came to visit us in Taipei, and we had a great time showing them around. it's always nice to have family visit and give them a chance to see what our life is like here. the boys had never traveled internationally before and they were amazing in dealing with all the culture shock.

as a bonus to their visit, we all flew up to Tokyo for a week. we spent 3 days at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea [amazing!] and the rest exploring the city. we had a few mishaps along the way -- but our guests were troopers. most of our time was spent wandering through the alleys of Asakusa, exploring the Senso-ji Temple and Imado Shrine [which was full of cats!] and of course we had to nerd out at the Pokémon Center.

when our visitors flew back to Chicago... I got on the flight with them. originally I had planned to stay in Taiwan for the summer. but my Dad concocted a plan to get me home, and I was able to [by a very roundabout route] meet up with my parents and surprise my sister and nephews when they arrived.

I spent a week with my family on the west coast of Michigan. we hiked at the state park, looked for petosky stones on the beach, shopped at farmers markets and went to local concerts. on 4th of July there is a huge parade in town. we watched from my Aunt's house and then stayed up late to see the fireworks over the lake. we even managed to squeeze in a trip over to my family's cabin to visit our extended family, and the lake where I spent my childhood.

then I drove with my parents back over to the east side of the state. we took a mini road trip up through the "thumb" of Michigan [because if you didn't realize, it's shaped like a hand] to scope out some lighthouses. in the few days before and after, I tried to squeeze in seeing some of my closest friends and eating some tacos. then I hopped the early morning Amtrak to Chicago.

I was able to stay a few days with my cousin, and her husband and newborn daughter. we spent a lot of time in cute coffee shops or wandering her adorable neighborhood, and met up with our other cousin who is also living in Chicago. I also got my fill of cousin/niece snuggles.

before I knew it, though, I was back on a flight to Taipei.

no offense to everyone else, but... my favorite thing about this summer was spending time with my nephews. I was able to see 4 out of 5 of them. being an Aunt is truly an awesome thing. and while my newest nephew [who was 5 weeks old when we met] probably won't remember my visit, I'm hoping the others will treasure our Pokemon discussions, jumping in the pool, photo-taking and game playing as much as I will.

since coming back to Taiwan, it's been a flurry of jetlag and reuniting with old freinds. hopefully, I'll be making some new ones too as this summer's batch of expats arrives. we are working on settling into a schedule as the school year starts back up, getting our routine of cooking and cleaning and gym time and working and fun all organized.

I am planning for that to include a lot more writing and blogging than was accomplished this summer -- as soon as I find a space to put all these photos I brought home 😉


Olympic National Park, WA // Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls

take a short hike through a magical mossy forest to visit the enchanting Marymere Falls, in the heart of the Olympic National Park, Washington

Lake Crescent and the hike to Marymere Falls was my first introduction to Olympic National Park, one of several stops we made during our Pacific Northwest road trip.

Olympic National Park is huge. this is not a place you can explore in a day. in a month, or a year... maybe. the park covers the entire central area of the Olympic Peninsula, and creeps up Washington's western coast. we visited six different locations within the park on our trip, and still barely skirted the outside of it.

the Storm King ranger station was still closed for the season, so when we arrived at Lake Crescent we were greeted by the feathered welcome wagon instead. with lakefront views like this -- and after being cooped up in the car all day -- I didn't mind. we were traveling all the way from the San Juan Islands down to Forks that day, so a stop for fresh air and to stretch our legs was more than welcome.

it was already late afternoon when we stopped. but a short and mostly flat 2 mile round trip hike to spy Marymere Falls was too tempting to resist.

as the sun sank lower, the temperature dropped and I vowed to buy another layer because my teeth were chattering. [though right now the weather in Taipei is so hot and humid that I feel like a steamed dumpling and I'd gladly go back.]

the hike was wet, and the trail was muddy. there was not a dry surface anywhere to be found. in the moments that the light rain stopped, the green leaves still dripped down on us from above. but... we didn't mind that much.

because the silent forest was also full of magic. smiling skull-shaped rocks and twisted roots, moss and ferns and tree trunks bigger than my arms could reach around. and the air -- fresh and earthy and so, so clean. it felt like I was hiking into a fairytale, and I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest for the third time in as many days.

by the time we reached Marymere Falls, I had given up hope of keeping my lens dry. I was freezing cold and wet and muddy... but it was still just magical.

it wasn't the most impressive waterfall that we visited that trip, but it was special because it was the first. with my hands so cold [and my camera perilously damp] I shoved my hands in my pockets and just looked on the way back. the light was slanting through the tall, proud trees in the the most gorgeous way. it lit up the tiny raindrops and the gleaming dark wood and electric green leaves. likely in a way my hopelessly smeared lens could never capture.

but the mental pictures are there, the memory of it. and I value that more.

I left with a smile on my face, and in my heart.


thirty-three and six

my thirty-third birthday was a few weeks ago, which means a few days after that, this blog turned six.

sharing a birthday/blogiversary post is kindof a tradition around here, and though I've been slow to get back in the swing of regular posting, I couldn't let the occasion drift by unmarked.

so here are six facts about this blog, and thirty-three randoms bits about me:

1-- I came up with the name "ink and adventure" as we were driving back to Princeton from the job fair in Boston where Luke was first hired to teach in Taiwan. I actually launched with the name "hello, adventure" because I was nervous about the ink part implying I was a writer. [yeah, I know.] it lasted for maybe a month before I changed it to this title -- the one that just felt right in my heart.

2-- there have been 493 posts published on this blog. [16 have been reverted back to drafts. anyone remember the nail files?] the hands down most popular post of all time: 10 days in Bali packing list. it's definitely not the most minimal or useful packing post I've done, but Pinterest just loves this one.

3-- ink and adventure has had too many design changes to count, but I'm proud to say that I've created them all myself. I'd like to think as I went through phases in life and grew as a person, my blog also changed to reflect that.

4-- I shared the highest number of posts in 2014, but earned the most pageviews in 2016 [with a third of the posts.] 2017 wins for annoying marketing emails and unrelated guest post offers received. November 2012 was my most prolific month thanks to scoot crash recovery, with 16 posts published.

5-- of all the thousands of photos that I've shared on this blog, there have maybe been 5 that I have not taken myself. [this doesn't count those from the random month of guest posts I did, or the hundreds of photos my poor husband has been subjected to taking of me -- several included here --but I still think that's pretty impressive.]

6-- I have debated deleting this blog a hundred thousand times. I have thought for hours about changing the content I share [and, actually, have changed it.] I'm not sure where the future will lead us, but at the end of six years I am so happy to have all these memories to look back on.

1-- this birthday post feels weird compared to last year's. but as I'm writing this from Starbucks two weeks belated, I'm just going to roll with it.

2-- I love lists. I love making them, and I love checking them off. sometimes I will add something I've already done to my to-do list, just so I can have the joy of crossing it out.

3-- next month I get to go back to Tokyo Disney and I am so.freaking.excited.

4-- but aside from that, I will be spending this summer in Taiwan. for the first time. it's going to be really sticky and hot, but I'm also looking forward to exploring this island in a new way.

5-- BUT. so long as our savings plan stays on track, we are hoping to take some really exciting adventures in the year ahead.

6-- I write almost every day. it's usually just in my journal, but it's become such a habit that I hardly consider it writing anymore. [also, I get really cranky if I don't write.]

7-- of the twenty countries that I've traveled to, New Zealand is my favorite. and probably always will be. I would move there in a heartbeat, even if it meant living in a campervan forever. [actually... that would be awesome.]

8-- despite gardening skills running in my mom's side of the family, the only plants I can manage to keep alive are ceramic cacti.

9-- I still wear my hair in braided pigtails. those are cool again, right?

10-- it [usually] takes me a long time to make a decision, but once I've weighed all my options, done the research and made my choice -- I go all in.

11-- my mom mailed me a letterboard for my birthday and I'm kindof obsessed. also, half the messages I have put on it thus far have to do with wine.

12-- I've always been a writer. I can't remember a time when I wasn't making up stories, scribbling secrets in notebooks, or in search of the perfect writing implement.

13-- the book I'm currently writing has been a huge source of joy in my life. revising and editing aren't actually fun, but I've been known to squeal and jump up and down when I think of a new plot point. and sometimes leap out of bed in the middle of the night to run into my office and scribble down a thought before it escapes.

14-- related: the wall of my office is plastered in a mess post-it notes. half of them are in latin or french. the other half have been re-written after I deciphered my 4am in the dark handwriting

15-- my biggest pet peeve about living in Asia is the difference in how personal space is perceived. basically: you get the amount of space that your body physically occupies, and not a millimeter more. and actually, sometimes less.

16-- IKEA has become my new Target. [since there is no Target in Taiwan.] the only thing that reigns me in is that I have to hand carry all of my purchases home.

17-- I still use an actual planner, because the glide of ink on paper makes me happy.

18-- I hate facebook, but it's a necessary evil as an expat. I go through phases of trying to use it in a way that's less distasteful. but mostly, I'd rather have actual conversations with people to be updated on their lives.

19-- I would almost always rather be wearing pajamas.

20-- and if I can't wear pajamas or workout clothes, then a dress.

21-- I'm a video game nerd. husband bought me a Nintendo DS for my birthday, and it is designed to look like Pikachu's face. and I love it.

22-- as much as I'm enjoying Pokemon Ultra Sun, the Legend of Zelda series is still my all time favorite video game franchise. [BUT I am still dreaming of the day they release a game where Zelda is the main player.]

23-- even though I am gluten and lactose intolerant, pizza is still my favorite food.

24-- oddly enough, moving closer to the MRT has gotten me out to explore more of our own neighborhood instead of the rest of the [now easily accessible] city.

25-- washi tape is the solution to 80% of my problems.

26-- I'd rather stay in and split a bottle of wine with a friend or two, sitting on someone's couch than go out and have a fancy drink at a bar.

27-- turquoise is apparently my favorite color. I've been working on decorating our apartment and nearly everything I put up is some shade of blue or green or in between.

28-- instead of feeling guilty that I haven't blogged about so many of my adventures these past few years, I've decided that time has been a good way to winnow through and let me pick the best things to share. [sometimes us travel bloggers can be obsessed about posting every small thing we saw or did.]

29-- three really simple things that make me happy: kittens, sunshine, and wine.

30-- when I get food cravings, they are 80% for something salty and crunchy [potato chips] 15% for something green and leafy [no really, I crave salad] and only 5% for chocolate or sweets.

31-- I've started going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 6 or 7. I don't care if it makes me a grandma, I love it. I get so much more done with my day.

32-- the past two years have been the hardest of my life. I've struggled with both my physical and mental health, and had to fight every day to do anything beyond just taking care of myself. it was hell, and I would never want to relive it, but I know it's made me so much stronger.

33- I'm relying on that strength to help me make 33 a better year. I'm hoping that it brings fierce self-love, heaps of creative energy, peace of mind, and of course -- lots of adventure.

[and a few more happy but blurry moments like this, please.]


Taipei // Confucius and Bao An Temples

my very first day as an expat in Taiwan, I fell head over heels for the colorfully scaled and curly whiskered dragons that top the temples here.

Taiwan has more temples per capita than any other country in the world. some are massive complexes attached to monestaries or built into mountainsides, and some are barely bigger than a phone booth. you'll find temples sandwiched between convenience stores and dumpling shops, hiding on hiking trails or down alleys only wide enough for a scooter. I've seen my fair share of temples, but with over 15,000 on the island... I've barely begun to scratch the surface.

a few weeks ago, though, I finally crossed two major temples off my list: Taipei's Confucius Temple, and the UNESCO award-winning Dalongdong Bao An Temple. while the history and details on both these temples would each merit their own blog post, I'm combining them here because A: they are practically neighbors in location and B: I'm not going to look up the guidebook facts to relay to you because I trust in your capacity to use google 😉

Taipei Confucius Temple

ok, before I say anything about the temple can we take a moment to appreciate how adorable these Confucius figures are? Taiwan loves to make things cute and cartoonish, and even revered historical and religious figures cannot escape the cute-ification.

cartoon Confucius aside, the temple grounds are spacious and well maintained. they are also very tourist-friendly. at the entrance there is a visitor's center with guides and information available in English and about 12 other languages. they offer tours, video presentations, educational exhibits, and a special ceremony for viewing each year on Confucius' birthday. there's even a gift shop and café.

I was surprised to see how ornate this temple was [dragons!] compared to the Confucius Temple in Kaohsiung. it definitely was not the prettiest or most elaborate I've seen, but it was large and full of [English!] information regarding both Confucius and the temple.

just across the street, however...

Dalongdong Bao An Temple

if you're into bright colors, intricate details, and dragons [duh!] then this is the temple for you. I don't like to play favorites but Bao An is definitely in my top 5. the restoration and upkeep they have done on all the tile work and painting is just stunning -- and quite literally award-winning. there were just so many details to take in. every time I looked at the same structure I would notice something new.

the layout felt spacious and unique, and thankfully was free from hordes of tourists that tend to clog up the more popular Longshan Temple. [sorry Longshan, a trip to the Confucius and Bao An Temples will be my new go-to for showing around visitors.]

I'm not sure if the hand painted lanterns are always there, or it they were left up from the recent festival. they were clearly student work from nearby schools. [and wow, some of those kids are talented!]

I also loved the abundance of plants arranged around the grounds. everything felt so serene -- definitely #goodvibesonly coming out of Bao An that day.

how to get there

take the red line of the MRT to Yuanshan Station. exit 2 [at the north end of the station] will put you right on Kulun Street, which you can follow west to the temples. follow the brown tourism signs [in English] and you can be at either in 5-8 minutes... or just keep your eyes open for dragons.
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