Zigs and Zags: The Best and Worst of the Summer Months

Well, hey there. Pardon me while I brush the dust off of this thing.

<coughs>

Friends, this summer was bananas.

We hit June and then it was the end of August. As the end of June ticked near, I stressed out about getting this (generally monthly) post finished and published.

But you know what? I drive this boat, and if I’m not ready to pull her into the harbor at a certain time, so be it.

So, at long last, here are the zigs (and a couple zags) from the past few months.

kayak

Zigs

All the end-of-school-year events.

Once upon a time, Cory and I were up to our necks in all the glitz and glam that came with the Las Vegas travel writing landscape. Now, our outings are very rarely related to me and more often woven into the school community.

In the last few weeks of the school year, we kicked back at barbecues, attended farewell parties, and squeezed in time for one last bowling outing/brunch/picnic in the park. Kyiv in June is divine, making the chaotic end of the school year that much more enjoyable.

A year of yoga in the books.

I’m not going to lie: Every single time I stand in front of a yoga class, I feel like a fraud. There’s no good reason for this, really. I don’t fully buy in to the philosophical leanings that define yoga, but I do know how to sequence and teach a class safely, and that’s most important to me.

I sent a survey to everyone who participated in my once-weekly class, and prepared for the worst. I was pleasantly — and shockingly — surprised by the positive feedback. In fact, the first year of teaching went so well that I’m planning on offering two classes a week during this school year.

Kyiv Pride march: year three edition.

We attended Kyiv Pride for our third year last spring. Every year the number of marchers increases and this year the route was even extended. It’s still very much a march versus a celebratory parade, but its growth feels promising to me.

This year protesters were allowed inside the march route, but everyone was respectful of each other. The only really wacky thing that happened was, during one section of the march, bystanders outside the security line lobbed eggs at us. It feels so immature and counterproductive, really. Why not just let people be the people they’re meant to be? Is that really so hard?

In any case, as long as we’re living here, we’ll show up and support the local LGBTQ+ community at this annual march.

One year of partner coffee down — and a new one starting!

Being a trailing spouse can be a pretty lonely gig. I spent the first couple years as an expat in Ukraine exploring the city and figuring things out on my own, but I knew there were other people like me. Other trailing partners who were, for the most part, spending their days alone.

Last year I finally did something about it. Early in the year, with the help of a new trailing spouse, I kicked off a weekly partner coffee date. Hands down, our Thursday morning get together is absolutely one of the highlights of my week. I’m beyond thrilled we’re already back at it this year!

There is a small group of us who consistently gather. We try out new cafes every week, swap tips and new finds, and truly enjoy each other’s company. It’s really hard for people who are not expats to understand what it’s like to be one. The camaraderie and shared experience of this group of friends makes it particularly dear to me.

team retreat

Kayaking + kicking back.

Amid all the end-of-the-year crazies, A called me and said we had to visit a beach she’d discovered. So I dropped everything I had planned, and we did just that.

This hidden little beach was quiet and sun-dappled. We rented a kayak and paddled around for a bit, then ordered pitchers of lemonade and chatted the afternoon away.

Family and friend time.

We spent this summer based out of Wisconsin. It always feels a bit odd returning “home” to where I grew up when the definition of “home” constantly evolves. We had a relatively busy but low-key summer: helping my dad build a new garage, helping my mom sort and sell some stuff, exploring local shops with my sister, walking the dogs in the morning, playing board games in the evening.

We tried to camp but were driven out early because of mosquitoes. I didn’t get my hair highlighted because I waited too long to make an appointment. We prepared a shipment of our items still in storage but ended up not sending anything back after all. So … you win some, you lose some.

But spending time with my family is always wonderful, especially since we all realize in-face time isn’t easy to come by now. So, even though our summer holiday didn’t involve hiking hundreds of miles through Austria, it was special in its own way.

Access to a library.

I know a lot of expat friends go crazy buying certain items or eating out at certain places when they return to the U.S.

Me? I go straight to the library. Some books can only be read in hard copy. I stocked up with ample in-person-only reading options when I had the opportunity.

A spectacular week in Colorado.

One of the reasons we returned to the United States this summer was because I had to attend a work retreat in Colorado. The team I work with is lovely, but I feel like an introverted fish swimming in an extroverted-infused sea when I’m around all of these people and it’s quite overwhelming.

The highlights of my week, honestly, were not the days I spent with my colleagues but the two days following. I carpooled from Salida to Denver with two other relatively reserved colleagues, and we had thoughtful, low-key conversations. That same evening, I met up with two of my cousins who happen to live in Denver — and who I haven’t seen in years. And I spent the next day with one of my longest and closest friends, who I generally get face time with once every couple years.

After such a chaotic few days early in the week, it was so nice to ground myself with small groups and intimate moments before returning back to Wisconsin.

Kyiv, take four.

And before we knew it … we were back in Kyiv! Can you believe we’ve started our fourth school year in Ukraine? Truly, I blinked and time ran away.

We live in the same apartment, steeped in habits and routines. And we still very much love Kyiv, so clearly we made the right decision to return for year #4.

Zags

Time to say good-bye.

One of the hardest things about the international teaching circuit is knowing that the end of the school year often means your closest friends are dispersing to the farthest corners of the planet. (Of course, it’s also a good excuse to plan trips to see them!)

But, it’s not just people we had to say good-bye to in June. Since we were away for most of the summer, we had to kiss Rudy good-bye and leave him in the hands of his (truly beloved) pet-sitters. From his purr-worthy morning hugs to his crazy cat antics late at night, I missed him every single day. I was thrilled to be reunited in August.

The failed camping trip.

A few summers ago Cory and I inherited a decrepit Scamp, which we gutted, rebuilt, and decorated in a crisp, clean white-and-blue palette. I’m so proud with how it looks now, and for the first time ever, we finally took it out for an adventure.

I can’t even tell you about how amazing the Scamp is. It’s far roomier and more comfortable than anticipated. We loved being able to make coffee on a handy stove and playing board games late at night. I liked not sleeping in a tent.

But why, oh, why didn’t anyone warn us about the mosquitoes in northern Wisconsin in the summer? It’s a good thing we love the Scamp so much because we couldn’t leave it. Not to hike, not to cook, not to play yard games. We even stopped drinking liquids to avoid stepping out to use the bathroom.

We had no choice but to call it off early and call it a wash.

wisconsin sunset

A summer schedule that wasn’t.

You know that adage of how people who work for themselves have so much flexibility? Well, not really. Not when everyone and everything else comes first.

I struggled so hard this summer to stay on top of my work. I was the first one up every morning, the last one asleep at night, and constantly exhausted.

A strict nine-to-five lifestyle isn’t necessary for me, but I appreciate something resembling a routine most of the time. This summer was not that time.

Self care took a nose dive.

I was brutal to myself this summer. No meditation. No journaling. No afternoon walks. Very little yoga. I didn’t give myself time and attention this summer, and I noticed the difference physically and mentally.

But you know what? Since being back in Kyiv, I’ve put myself first (besides Rudy, of course), and my body, mind, and mood greatly appreciate it.

wisconsin street art

Everything In Between

Lovely written work.

I really want to get back to my writing roots, and I’m trying to sow the seeds so I can do that again. It’s a long, hard struggle, but I’m working on it.

I am beyond thrilled to share this essay reflecting on my 20-year high school reunion over at The Smart Set. I thought about writing this for a full year, so it feels great to see it in print. I got to drop some sustainable travel advice — more of this, please! And this remarkable story about ex-FARC guerillas who became rafting guides took incredible effort, so I’m thrilled it finally came to fruition. (I’d love more of this storytelling in my life as well.)

On the work front, it was a pleasure to share an initiative to expand a natural route system in Patagonia. Plus I penned a few business-related pieces on chatbots, advocacy itineraries, and peer feedback.

And, on good ol’ Kaleidoscopic Wandering, I finally managed to write about my quick trip to Bulgaria, my June reads, and, most recently, a piece near and dear to my heart about life milestones — and how I didn’t have one this summer.

2 Responses to “Zigs and Zags: The Best and Worst of the Summer Months”

  1. Jill

    You might think you didn’t get a lot done this summer, but we loved having you home. I, especially appreciated your company on the morning dog walk. I had forgotten how easy it is having just one leash/one dog to deal with! The boys miss you & C, by the way.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I loved our morning dog walks. They get so tangled up with one person and two leashes! It was lovely to spend the summer with all of you – four-leggeds and two-leggeds!

      Reply

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