Then + Now: Our Story

Many of you have been asking us a lot of questions lately, like: What’s next? Where are you going to live? What are you going to do for jobs? Are you going to travel again? Aren’t you sick of wearing the same clothes?

Before I talk about where we’re going, I’m going to talk about where we’ve been.

We left Portland 14 months ago on September 27, 2014 after selling our house, our cars and most of our belongings. Our goal was to unclutter our lives in an effort to downsize, minimize and simplify. To live a life untethered.

Getting a Parkinson’s diagnosis will do that to you, you know. Nudge you to take stock of your life and to really think about what matters. To prioritize your goals and dreams.

For us, travel came out on top.

We’ve always talked about wanting to travel the world. We weren’t sure what it would look like, or when it would happen, but it was always something we dreamed about doing together. We talked about it a lot, but there wasn’t ever a perfect opportunity to make it happen. Of course, life doesn’t work that way, does it. The gift of travel wasn’t going to fall into our laps. We needed to make it happen.

The Parkinson’s diagnosis almost four years ago was a major catalyst in making our dream a reality, although back then we didn’t look at it that way. Grief can cloud one’s vision, and life became really emotional and complicated. A couple of years later Harry’s job was eliminated, an event that propelled us into action. I had spent four years working at my wonderful (but totally stressful and highly dysfunctional) high-poverty school and I was more than ready for a plane ticket to South America. It was time for us to travel. #seizetheday

Atlas Photohk-cropped

We said “goodbye for now” to our wonderful community in Portland, the place we’ve both called home (separately and together) for 20 years. We road tripped across the US in our “new” tricked out mini-van named Moby for six weeks, visiting National Parks in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Oregon VanIMG_4166

We spent another six weeks visiting friends and family near and far, from Michigan to Maine, Virginia to Florida, and many states in between.


In three months we drove 10,000 miles.

On January 13th, 2015, we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a one-way ticket using frequent flier miles. We didn’t really have a plan… except really, that WAS the plan.

To let go of expectations. To slow down. To explore new cultures and places. To be present with one another. To be vulnerable. To let go of planning, let time stand still, live day by day.

Over the course of 10 months we spent time in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. We traveled mostly by bus, taking the slow road to places unknown to us. We tried new foods, experienced new cultures and witnessed poverty unlike any we had seen. We hiked in phenomenal places, we clapped along to traditional music and we walked along beautiful beaches. We met wonderful people, connected with locals and learned to communicate using a different language. We experienced highs and lows, gratitude and fear, curiosity and compassion.


We also really got to know this thing called Parkinson’s. No longer hiding in the shadows of our busy lives in Portland, Harry’s PD became an ever-present character in our journey, a third wheel, an uninvited guest to our party. Fully exposed and real, we talked about it often, analyzing symptoms while trying to predict how his body would function on any given day (which isn’t possible, you know). We celebrated amazing hikes in the Andes, swore at frustrating walks down the street, and laughed when he fell out of a cab in Quito. We learned to be flexible and adapt our daily plans as necessary, to move slowly and to be grateful for all the little things. And big things. Like walking across rivers and jumping off the roof of our hostel into the Caribbean down below.


Additionally, we experienced something else. Something really amazing and beautiful.

Let’s call it icing on our South America cake.

The two of us connected in a way that feels real and honest and powerful. Being together, side-by-side for 14 months, has brought us closer than we’ve ever been, literally and emotionally. Relying on one another when situations got tricky, counting on each other when we needed to most, and knowing that we had each other’s backs all the time has taken us to a new level in our relationship.

And just in time, too.

The future is unknown in so many ways, but together we know we have the strength, humor and resilience to handle whatever comes our way with grace. Well, it might be a messy kind of grace, but we’ll be in it together.


You asked what’s next.

We spent our first week back in the US with my aunt Nancy in south Florida; my parents came down from Michigan to spend the week with us. We had a wonderful time together soaking up the hot sun and making happy hour count every day. Thanks, mom and dad!


We spent a few days in northern Florida with Aunt Susan and Uncle Bill, then a few days with Sarah, Steve and Mia in Gainsville. We’ll visit friends in Savannah, Asheville, and Charlottesville before heading up to Alexandria.

We’ll spend the winter holidays on the east coast with Harry’s family and my brother and his kids. Then we’ll house sit for Harry’s cousin in Alexandria for a month or so, we’ll drive up to New England if the weather permits, and we’ll spend some time in Michigan with my parents. Eventually we’ll cruise on out to Portland, hopefully visiting our Colorado friends along the way.

We’ve had numerous offers to house sit in different places around the country and we’re considering all our options. Maybe, wherever we are, we’ll just dive in and practice the day-by-day mentality we’ve come to perfect while being in South America.

There are several factors that determine where we’ll end up for the next period of time: quality of life, cost of living, job prospects, family + friends, health care for Harry and soccer for me. We strive to continue the stress-free lifestyle that we’ve been enjoying this last year. We’re seeking jobs that will balance our desire to make a difference in our community with the slow-paced quality of life we’ve come to appreciate.

We’re still writing the playbook.

Thanks for coming along on the ride with us. We appreciate all your love and support!


10 Months With My Backpack: A Look Inside

I’ll be honest. While I’ve definitely enjoyed meeting other travelers in South America, sometimes I’m more interested in the contents of their backpack than I am in hearing about the guy who snored too loudly in their hostel the night before.

When you’re on the road, your backpack is your life. It’s your home on-your-back, turtle style. It’s the one go-to place where you keep all your things. The contents of your pack say a lot about what you value and how much you need on a very basic level. I read a lot of travel blogs, and I always find myself checking out the author’s “Items In My Pack” page. It’s interesting to me what others deem as necessary. What might be a luxury item for some is a must-have for others. Also, as a very organized and systematic person, I’m intrigued how other people function within the confines of their packs.

Harry and I have pretty small backpacks. It was our goal to travel light and we’ve done just that. I have had a lot of people ask how our stuff is holding out (pretty good for the most part) and whether or not we’re totally sick of wearing the same clothes over and over (yes!). And, hey — I’ll also add that I’m totally sick of seeing Harry wear the same clothes over and over again, too. Ten months will do that to you. Harry, of course, could care less.

Both of our backpacks weigh less than 24 pounds on any given day.


Last week we were on a bus trip with our NZ friends Liz and Alex. Before too long the conversation turned to the contents of our backpacks. Alex asked Harry what was inside his pack, so Harry listed off the items without too much thought. Liz and I had already extensively compared notes so it was interesting listening to the guys share their travel secrets with each other. This “how well do you know the contents of your pack” game prompted me to create a summary of my own to share with anyone who might be interested.


I purchased a Gregory 42 liter pack for this trip. Gregory makes backpacks especially designed for the female body and I’m all about supporting a business that values making excellent equipment just for women. It’s a small pack and for the most part it’s been great. However, with that said, I do plan on sending them a meaty review along with my thoughts on how they can make it even better. Who knows, maybe they’ll offer me a job. Ha! However, it’s literally filled to capacity so I really have to be systematic and somewhat forceful when I pack up or things just won’t fit.

Here’s the #1 reason why I love this backpack: it’s got a full-body zipper so you can access the inside like a suitcase in addition to accessing it from the top like a normal backpack. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than having to reach waaaaay down into your pack to dig something out. I think this full-body zipper is a brilliant feature.
Clothes and Shoes
Not knowing what our exact travel plans were made packing pretty tricky. We knew we’d be spending time in the mountains, in cities and on the beach, so we did our best to choose what we thought we’d need on a very basic level. We did a pretty good job for the most part although at this point I’m ready for some different clothes!
  • 1 pair of quick-dry REI travel pants
  • 1 pair of zip-to-shorts pants (purchased in Argentina)
  • 1 pair of jeans (purchased in Peru)
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 belt
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 3 skirts (probably 1 too many)
  • 2 dresses
  • 3 nicer tank tops
  • 2 sporty tank tops
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 long-sleeve Nike quick-dry shirt (I wish I also had a long-sleeve cotton shirt)
  • 5 tee shirts (I threw 2 away when they got holes and purchased 3 cheap ones in Peru that aren’t coming home with me. I also wish I had packed some cuter tees)
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 lightweight down jacket (this baby is worth its weight in gold! I literally wore it everyday for months on end)
  • 1 sweater, scarf and hat (purchased in Bolivia)
  • 1 rain coat
  • 2 sports bras
  • 2 bras
  • 6 pairs of underwear (I started with 8 but lost 2 along the way)
  • 3 pairs of socks (I started with 4 but lost 1 along the way. 4/6 have holes in them)
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 1 scarf/pashmina
  • 1 bikini
  • 1 baseball hat for sun protection (purchased in Colombia)
  • 1 pair tennis shoes
  • 1 pair hiking shoes
  • 1 pair Birkenstocks
  • 1 pair flip flops
Technology and Gadgets
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot. It fits right into my pocket, it takes pretty great pics, it holds up well when I drop it and it’s got some fun settings to play with. I think bigger cameras draw unwanted attention and make you a target.
  • Camera charger, cable, case, small tripod and spare battery
  • 1 extra memory card
  • 2 thumb drives to store photos
  • iPhone 4  (This was a last minute addition given to us by Harry’s dad, and we’re so glad we have it. Harry carries the laptop with him)
  • iPhone charger
  • Watch with alarm function
  • Sunglasses and case
  • Head lamp and extra batteries
  • 1st aid kit (small with just a few basics)
  • Money belt
  • Sink plug to use when washing clothes
  • Packing cubes to organize clothes and stuff
  • 3 reusable nylon bags that fold up tiny when not in use (for laundry and groceries, etc)
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • 1 sleeping bag liner
  • 1 spork
  • 1 knife (“acquired” in Patagonia)
  • 1 vegetable peeler (purchased in Buenos Aires)


  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
  • Comb
  • Lotion
  • Sun screen
  • Q-tips
  • Eye drops
  • Nail clippers and file
  • Razor and blades (shared with Harry)
  • Scissors
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Queeze-free wrist bands (for motion sickness)
  • 10 Burt’s Bees lip balm (don’t laugh, we’re almost out!)
  • Meds, pills
  • 2 pairs of earrings
  • 2 necklaces (one purchased in Ecuador)

Toiletries before:

Packing Up

Toiletries after:

Packing Up.2

My Top 5 Highly Recommended Things To Make Travel Life Fun And Easy: 

  1. Backpack with a full-body zipper (as mentioned above) so you can access the inside like a suitcase in addition to accessing it from the top like a normal backpack. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than having to reach waaaaay down into your pack to dig something out. I think this full-body zipper is a brilliant feature.
  2. Packing cubes in different colors. When you pack, everything has its special place, and when you take something out, put it right back where you got it. When you want your leggings you’ll know to find them in the green packing cube. Need socks? Look in the purple cube. No more digging around. Be organized, people! Impress your friends. I love the Eagle Creek packing cubes. They are super lightweight and very durable and they come in fun colors.
  3. Head Lamp. Being a courteous roommate means using this instead of turning on the overhead light. It’s good for reading in bed, finding the bathroom in the middle of the night, exploring caves and hiking up to Machu Picchu in the dark.
  4. Spork. We each have one and we use them all the time. They’re really lightweight and durable with a built-in fork, spoon and knife. Plus, they’re super cute with a fun name.
  5. Sink PlugWe’ve used this many times to wash clothes in hostel sinks. It’s super lightweight and inexpensive. I use shampoo or soap for doing laundry instead of detergent to keep things simple.

What Else? 

Harry also carries a small red backpack with him where ever he goes, and I carry a messenger bag. We also have a small black duffle bag that we schlep around as well; it’s used as our carry-on bag for buses and planes. We use it for food, water, Harry’s Crocs, my fleece, a book and other miscellaneous things. It’s falling apart at the seams (literally! I’ve had to stitch it up in three different places) but it works. I thought about replacing it, but I don’t want anything too flashy because it could attract unwanted attention. Nothing screams “tourist” more than a brightly colored bag from Bolivia.

So there you go. My advice to you? Pack light!

Life Untethered: Our Plan

Tomorrow we are flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin the next phase of our year-long adventure. We plan on being in South America for six to eight months to learn Spanish, volunteer and travel. Why did we choose South America? Learning Spanish is  one goal, as is exploring new terrain. And to be honest, we’re also looking forward to a warmer winter this year. We look forward to connecting with locals and exploring the natural beauty and cultural offerings of South America.

We are flying from Miami to Buenos Aires via Houston and Santiago, Chile. Our twenty-four hour flight is courtesy of frequent flier miles so trust me when I say that we’re not complaining. We got one way tickets so we don’t have a return date right now. Taking life one day at a time for the past 3 months has been really nice and living with less stress is something we both aspire to do long term.

During our month long stay in BA we will study Spanish, explore the city, and research places to visit. It’s our goal to find volunteer opportunities so we can connect on a deeper level with a family or a local organization.

Here are some fun things that will make our stay in Buenos Aires pretty special:

1. Harry’s niece Emma spent last spring/summer studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Her enthusiasm, tips and recommendations have been invaluable. Imagine being in Argentina during the World Cup!

2. One of Emma’s Spanish teachers, Melina, actually used to live in Portland and teach at Reed College! What a small world. We look forward to spending time with her both as a friend and as our Spanish tutor.

3. Melina’s boyfriend is currently working in Chile, so we will be renting his BA apartment in the Palermo neighborhood for a month upon our arrival. His place looks really nice and it’s in a great (read: safe) neighborhood. We can’t wait to hunker down in one place for an extended period of time. We look forward to frequenting local markets and exploring the city.

3. My cousin Maureen’s friends, Linda and Frank, work at the American Embassy in BA. Linda has been a great resource for us. She and Frank invited us over for dinner Friday night and we look forward to meeting them in person.

4. Linda also e-introduced us to her taxi driver who will pick us up at the airport on Wednesday. We were going to take the public bus (a seventy minute ride) but after twenty four hours of travel I imagine seeing Don Julio holding a sign with our names on it might feel a little bit like we won the lottery.

5. Harry’s cousin Ellen is a retired Spanish teacher. She and her husband Amin — get this! — are also flying to Buenos Aires tomorrow! We did not coordinate our efforts, people…. it just happened. They will be staying in our neighborhood as well… another coincidence. It will be fun to kick around with them for a little while before they head out of town.

The number one destination on our list is Patagonia. The best time to visit is January through March when the weather is hopefully more hospitable. Our thought is to take a bus down from BA, more than a 30 hour journey. Ideally we’ll stop at a few little towns along the way to break up the ride and meet some locals. Driving will afford us the luxury to experience the vastness and incredible landscape that you miss when flying. Too bad Moby can’t join us.

How we’ll spend the reminder of our time in South America is still up in the air. Our travels across the US have been day-to-day and that’s how we plan on rolling down south, too. Our journey will be shaped by the people we meet along the way.

Please keep in touch, friends! We’d love to hear from you.