I might need a vacation… from vacation!

2 people, 6 months, 13 trips, 4 countries, 14 cities, and way too many frequent flyer miles to count. After all that, it’s official: I miss my bed.

Since August of last year, Andy and I have been traveling constantly, both for business and for fun. It feels like we’ve slept in every bed but our own, and I think our dog is starting to consider the kennel his real home. Our condo is just a place he visits sometimes, although its amenities do include complimentary chew toys.

At first, going to so many different places was exciting. Vegas, Europe, the Carolinas… Andy and I flew everywhere for everything: to attend events, see family, work on a business project, and of course, take a real vacation. Pretty soon we finished all the airline crossword puzzles. Then Andy started saying the flights felt too long, but since I often fell asleep before takeoff and woke up after landing, I really had no idea what he was talking about.

Other than visiting our families in Houston and Rochester, NY—which are always our favorite trips (Are you reading this, Mom and Dad?)—I think there were 3 vacations that stood out from the rest of our Crazy Travel.

The first was Ireland. Andy had to go there for a conference, so we decided that I should tag along and make it our first international trip together. His conference was held in the tiny town of Nenagh, where I spent my days exploring (and re-exploring) all four blocks of the main square, and then writing in a wonderful little café. To many people that might sound boring, but I felt both exhilarated and relaxed at the same time. There’s something about Europe’s combination of cobbled streets and contemporary culture that puts my soul at ease.

When Andy was done working, he and I traveled to Dublin for the weekend. We toured the old jail, Trinity College, the infamous Temple Bar area, and the zoo. And of course no European trip would be complete without a castle and a cathedral. Pretty much the only things we didn’t see were a leprechaun and pot of gold. But Ireland was as green, rainy, and hospitable as promised, and we really enjoyed our time together there.

A month later, just before Thanksgiving, we rendezvoused with my parents in Las Vegas to celebrate my twenty-fourth birthday and my dad’s ______ieth. (I don’t think I’m allowed to say how old he is.) My half-sisters met us there from Phoenix, and together we had a whirlwind couple of days. We visited Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon, and we saw Cirque du Soleil’s “O” as well as the Blue Man Group show. The whole weekend was a blast, but the best part was that my dad had his wife and all three of his daughters together to celebrate his milestone birthday.

Last but not least, Andy and I met up with his parents to attend and celebrate his younger brother’s graduation from the US Marines boot camp. I’ve never had a friend or family member in the military before, so that weekend at Parris Island really affected me. Anyone can have an intellectual opinion about our military, where it is, and what it’s doing. But when there’s a body, a face, a person that you care about who is serving—when your emotions get involved—that changes everything. Rather than think about Andy’s brother being deployed, I’ll just say that we were extremely proud of his accomplishment in becoming a Marine, and honored to have been a part of his graduation experience.

For better or worse, the end of 2009 meant the end of our Crazy Travel. Was it insane, expensive, and exhausting? Yes, absolutely yes. But was it worth every mile, every penny, and every minute away from my bed? Yes, absolutely yes.

6 days in Cincinnati

One of the hardest things to do after you leave school is keep in touch with your friends. You no longer get to see them every day in class or at lunch. You no longer call each other to solve calculus problems or chat about the Homecoming game. In some cases, like ours, you no longer even live in the same state. So what’s the secret to our success?

Effort.

We chat online several times a week, and we talk on the phone once or twice a month. Actually one of our favorite ways to keep in touch is to write letters, usually on goofy stationery we forgot we had. (Yes, people do still use pen and paper and the US Postal Service.) But even though we tend to rely on hightech methods of communication, the best way to keep in touch is lowest on the tech scale: seeing each face to face and hanging out in person.

That’s exactly what we did last month when Angie came to Cincinnati.

Day 1 started normal enough: Kristan went to work and Angie was dropped off at the airport. Unfortunately, Angie’s itinerary consisted of a full day of traveling on the world’s smallest planes — from Austin to Cleveland, then Cleveland to Dayton. Then there was a delay in Austin, which resulted in the itsy bitsy plane being restarted three times, and Angie began to worry about being late. Ironically, Angie ended up arriving early to Dayton, and Kristan was the one running late.

After a belated but happy reunion at the airport, we drove an hour through the pouring rain back to Kristan’s office to finish an important project and run it to FedEx. We got to FedEx at 8:58 pm — exactly 2 minutes before they would have closed, i.e., exactly 2 minutes before Kristan would have been fired.

Needless to say, we were both happy to go home and relax that night. And with Andy gone on a business trip, we were able to have some quality girl time.

Highlight of the day: The “7th grade sleepover,” reminiscing about the past as well as wondering about the future.

Day 2 was a little more relaxing. Angie spent the day getting to know Riley (the puppy) while Kristan was at work. That night Andy came back from Chicago and the three of us had a lovely dinner, followed by an even better dessert.

Highlight of the day: Black Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s. Officially Angie’s favorite thing about Cincinnati.

Kristan used a Personal Day on Friday (Day 3) to spend time with Angie. They took Riley to Eden Park, had dinner at Newport on the Levee — think: subdued version of Kemah — and walked across the Purple People Bridge from Ohio to Kentucky. Strangely, many of Cincinnati’s attractions are actually in Kentucky.

Highlight of the day: An adorable older woman telling us she wished she had a camera to take a picture of the three of us — Kristan, Angie and Riley — as we sat on a giant swing sculpture in the park.

Day 4 started with an exhausting but exhilarating aerobic dance class at nine in the morning. Afterwards, Angie said, “Let’s go for a run!” and Kristan gave her a look that said, “Over my dead body. No, really.” Then we drove around East Walnut Hills to look at ridiculous mansion-like houses and take pictures, much like we used to do in Houston.

Highlight of the day: Flailing limbs in the back row of dance class despite Kristan’s dance lessons and Angie’s ballroom course.

Day 5 was very food-focused, with waffles, bacon, and strawberries for breakfast at home, and then grocery shopping at Jungle Jim’s — an international market with singing Campbell’s Soup cans, bumper cars, and other strange novelties. We also did some clothes shopping, but after looking at our receipts, we don’t feel like talking about that…

Highlight of the day: Spending half an hour agonizing over which novelty candy bars to get. Lion Bars from Europe, Pocky from Japan, or Sky Bars from (1940s) America?

And finally on Day 6, Angie “got” to relax at home again, because Kristan had to work and forgot that the art museum is closed on Mondays. Luckily Angie didn’t mind, because she got to play with Riley again!

Highlight of the day: Singing off-key and talking about life while driving back to the airport in the PT “Party Time” Cruiser.

Maybe it wasn’t some wild and crazy, Hollywood-style, Thelma and Louise best friend weekend, but we had a good time even without Brad Pitt or getting chased by the police. Our friendship grew stronger, and we know it will continue to grow because of all the effort we put in. And the best part is, in a good friendship, effort doesn’t feel like effort at all. It’s just fun.

So whether by phone, World Wide Web, postal service, or in person, go keep in touch with a friend. It’s totally worth it.

The Fab Five

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend did not buy me chocolates or flowers. He also didn’t take me out to dinner. He didn’t give me a giant teddy bear, or a mix tape, or any of the usual romantic Hallmark-y things. No, for Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend drove me from Cincinnati to Chicago—for the Spice Girls concert. If enduring a whole weekend of Girl Power doesn’t demonstrate his love, I’m not sure what could. (Nevermind the fact that for Valentine’s Day, I made my boyfriend endure a whole weekend of Girl Power…)

In fairness, both of us agree that regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or musical taste, those were two of the most entertaining hours you could imagine. The “Fab Five” designed a spectacular show that used their music to illustrate their professional and personal journey as a group. I must confess that I don’t remember much about their first tour in the 90s—except the heartbreak of Ginger Spice quitting just before they came to the States—but I am quite certain that I will never forget their Reunion.

It began with a slew of their biggest hits (“Spice Up Your Life,” “Stop,” and “Who Do U Think U Are” to name a few) as well as elaborate silver costumes designed by Roberto Cavalli. There were about seven video screens, twenty male dancers, and a whole lot of screaming fans. My voice had gone hoarse by the fourth or fifth song, but of course I had no intention of stopping.

For the rest of the night, Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty tore through elaborate themed sets and costumes: giant feathers and pink heart-shaped dressing room doors; red flamenco capes; dominatrix black leather, whips, and chains; and more. Each also performed solo, some electing to cover classic hits (like Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”) while others sang their own songs (like Melanie C’s “I Turn to You”). This is when much of the crowd went silent and I began to feel like a superior fan, because I knew all the words to their solo works and their third album, i.e., I stuck by them even after they’d faded in popularity.

Then Andy rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t be a stuck-up Spice fan. That’s worse than not being a fan at all.”

Doh.

One of the most popular performances of the night was “Mama,” in which the Spice Children joined the Spice Girls on stage (with protective earphones the size of their heads). A video of the Spice Mothers played on the background screen, giving the audience three generations of Spice. Tasty!

The night ended with their first #1 hit, the one that brought Girl Power to the whole world: “Wannabe.” It’s never been my favorite song of theirs, but there’s something to be said for being the start of it all, and I think that’s why they chose to come full circle and end the night with it.

If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends.

So it may not have been a conventional Valentine’s Day, but by indulging me in this, Andy “got with my friends” Mel C, Mel B, Emma, Victoria, and Geri, and definitely made me zig-a-zig-ah.