Back when I started grad school, I decided that I would treat myself to Lasik surgery after I graduated and landed a full-time job. I’ve worn glasses since I was seven and contacts since about 12, so I decided it was the a cost-effective decision. In October, I found myself on my last few sets of contacts, and I realized that I would either have to invest in a new prescription and contacts or in corrective surgery. I did some research and scheduled a consultation at The Eye Guys, one of the Lasik practices here in Augusta.
After discussing the costs with Mac (it was around $4200 with a military discount), I booked my surgery for our sixth anniversary (December 15). We went to work and left early. My surgery was scheduled for 2:30 pm. After we arrived, the staff gave me some eye drops and pain medication, and I waited for about 20 minutes for those to kick in. The surgery itself took maybe five minutes. It’s a weird sensation because you actually can’t see while the surgery is done, but you can see when you sit up. We grabbed take out for dinner on the way home, I took a nap, then had my follow-up appointment the next day. I could see about 20/60 right away and have seen an improvement in my vision since then. Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m glad I finally had this done.
Oh, wait? A blog post that’s months late? Who am I?
In my continuing mission to see all of the things in the places we live, Mac and I trekked about three hours into North Georgia to visit Helen, a Bavarian-inspired village that is home to the world’s longest Oktoberfest. It’s a cute little town that looks like it was transplanted from southern Germany to the southern Appalachians. One of my sorority sisters visited off-season and said it wasn’t quite as fun.
We parked in one of the city lots and headed over to Muller’s Cheese House, a German and Czech restaurant whose specialty is slabs of fried cheese. Mac was in heaven, and we ordered a bit too much fried cheese. We decided to walk off a few bites of lunch, so we walked around the park in town before heading down the main drag. Lots of people were in lederhosen and drindls. Several restaurants had live music (even some polka bands). We popped in and out of a few stores, crossed the Chattahoochee River, and walked over to the main beer hall. It was free for service members, and $10 for me. Once inside, we grabbed some drinks (Riesling for me and a beer shandy Mac developed a taste for on his visits to Germany). We sat in the hall listening to the polka band while enjoying our drinks and watching polka dancers. It was a fun weekend trip and something to definitely check out on a fall weekend in Georgia.
Every time we move, we have to decide what we are going to do for housing. When we found out that we would be moving back to Fort Gordon, we knew that this stint should be about two years. We had already lived here, so we were familiar with the housing options. Real estate is reasonably cheap here, and we could afford to buy or rent a house with a payment well within Mac’s housing allowance. There are also an assortment of apartment complexes (we lived in a luxury complex in 2013). We discussed our options, but our decision ultimately came down to one factor: time.
Mac got official orders in February with an initial report date in May of last year, both of us were out of town the majority of March, and April was hectic wrapping up final assignments for me and training a replacement for Mac. We didn’t have a chance to schedule a house-hunting trip to Augusta. We didn’t want to live in an apartment again, and we were both leery of renting a house sight-unseen. Because of this, we chose to live on-post. We also knew the neighborhoods for Mac’s rank, so we decided that we wanted a house in the newer neighborhood (this is a duplex) over the older neighborhood (renovated single-family).
I know on-post and military housing get a lot of flack. They’re not fancy, you can’t really make them super homey (unless you want to change everything back to the way it was when you leave), and you never really get away from the military. But for us on this stint, it makes the most sense. We both work under three miles from our offices, so our commutes are short (under 5 minutes for me, 7 – 10 for Mac depending on lights). We don’t have to worry about home maintenance (like when a hose on a toilet failed and soaked our master bath), and we don’t have to worry about resale values or finding tenants when we move next summer. It is definitely more expensive than buying or renting off-post, but that’s a cost we can live with for the two years we live here.
I’m not on top of this blogging thing. I have a running list of post ideas and drafts but haven’t had that burst of inspiration and motivation to get them done.
2018 has been a pretty low-key year so far. We always travel for Christmas, so coming home is bit more relaxing than you would expect the beginning of a year to be. We went to St. Augustine over the long MLK weekend, and Augusta had snow last month. I also participated in an initiative where I wore one little black dress all week to raise money and awareness to combat generational poverty in the Augusta area. You can donate here. Otherwise, we’ve been working, working out, and hanging out with the cats.
Our last full day in Europe was spent exploring Holland, specifically Volendam, a fishing village, and a tourist trap called Zaanse Schans. Volendam is on the water with plenty of restaurants offering Dutch fish dishes, a stroopwafel factory (a must see for every single person alive), and gift shops galore. Zaanse Schans is a recreation of a traditional Dutch village and has clog making, cheese making, chocolate making, tons of windmills, and one of the most beautiful men on the face of the Earth. This guy is a younger Dutch Gerard Butler. I have a major thing for Gerard Butler, so I just kind of stared in awe at this fine creation before my eyes. Sadly, my pictures of him don’t him any justice. The whole town is quite photogenic, and you can stock up on plenty of Dutch goodies to take home.
Find comfy shoes and break them in! I found some cute sneakers that I thought would be great for walking 10-ish miles a day. I didn’t really wear them too much and quickly found out that my bunions weren’t fans of those shoes. I was in agony and switched to flats (and bought a pair of gel insoles at a French pharmacy) for the rest of the trip.
Research your packing options. Are you doing a true backpacking trip or will you have a suitcase? I read probably dozens of articles and posts about what to wear and what to pack. The weather and your bag will really drive what you need.
Don’t overpack! You will be tempted to take all kinds of clothes. Check out my packing suggestions for what I actually packed and wore during our ten-day trip.
Update all of your documents. Make sure your passport is current.
Set travel notifications on your cards.
Exchange your currency before you get to the airport. A lot of banks exchange currency at much better rates than the kiosks in the airport (or for free).
If you’re not a regular reader and found this article, these are my suggestions for what to pack to prepare for your European adventure. You’ll probably read dozens of these posts, and I wanted to add my two cents about my personal experiences. We were told to pack only a carry-on because we had short windows of time in airports and train stations, and I wasn’t interested in lugging around an overstuffed carry-on through three countries. We had two travel days and spent eight days in London, Paris, and Amsterdam in late March and early April, and we had pretty fantastic weather most of the trip. London and Paris were sunny and dry, but we did have an unexpected cold snap with rain in Amsterdam. Here’s what I packed and wore over our trip.
Depending on your trip itinerary, you could be walking 12-15 miles a day, so you’ll need to find what shoes work for you. I packed athletic shoes and flats. My roommates packed riding boots, booties, sneakers, and loafers. I would bring two pairs for everyday wear (to include one you wear on the plane) and a dressier pair for going out or a formal dinner.
A top and pants / bottoms for every three days
I packed two pairs of leggings and one pair of jeans and alternated a pair each day. I packed three t-shirts, a going out tops, and three layering sweaters. I also had clean undies for every day and an undershirt for every three days that I paired with one of the shirts. The only shirt I wore once was a going-out top that I wore our last night.
Three days is a good magic number for wearing clothes before they get too funky or dirty, especially if you alternate the days you wear clothes. The only exception is your underwear. Bring fresh ones for every day. Everyone will thank you. Wearing undershirts (even a simple camisole) can extend the freshness of your tops, especially if you visit tourist-heavy areas that get really hot.
I was really concerned about socks. I have really sweaty feet (gross, I know), so I researched what worked with to eliminate odor, maintain comfort, and prevent blisters. Several posts recommended Smart Wool, so I went out and bought them. I found them at Sierra Trading Post; these were production seconds but were fine for me. Other bloggers said these wash well in a hotel sink; I packed four pairs to maximize cleanness and reduce stinky socks. They were pretty comfy, and I had no blisters.
A lightweight sweater, jacket, or fleece
In addition to my layering sweaters, I tossed a fleece shell in my bag. I used the fleece on the planes, trains, and busses but didn’t need it in London or Paris. Amsterdam wound up being cold and rainy (the forecast changed after we left), so I wore a sweater and my fleece while we were there.
A waterproof shell
I threw this one in my stuff because we got to drive to Denver in a blizzard before our flight (like a genuine, they-closed-the-interstate blizzard), and I needed it that night in Colorado. It was perfect for keeping dry in the intermittent rain showers in Amsterdam. It was folded up small enough to pack in an outer pocket on my suitcase.
Despite your best efforts, you will probably be a bit funky by the end of your trip if you pack like I did and don’t do laundry. A small bottle of Febreze helps you feel fresh wearing a shirt on its last clean legs. Fun fact: tons of Europeans still smoke. If you go to any restaurant, club, or bar, expect to walk out smelling like an ashtray. Febreze really helps if you still have planned days to wear those outfits again and / or if you don’t enjoy smelling like said ashtray.
A separate outfit for plane rides
I wore a t-shirt and yoga pants on our flights to and from Europe and intentionally didn’t wear them during the trip. It was nice to have a cleaner option at the end of wearing three pairs of pants over ten days for a ten-hour flight back to the US, an hour-ish connection to Denver, and an hour and a half drive home.
One site I was truly excited to visit was the Anne Frank house. I read The Diary of Anne Frank back in seventh grade, and I welcomed the opportunity to visit the house in person. The house has a few rather steep staircases, and you are given an audio tour player as you enter. The upper levels where the Franks and the others lived are narrow with a one-way traffic flow, so be prepared to not move at your own pace if you want to view and read about the artifacts in each room.
What struck me was just how small and cramped the rooms actually are. You can start to understand the desperation and urgency of families who went into hiding to avoid certain death at the hands of the Nazis. The rooms also follow a chronological order: the first rooms talk about the start of the war and the plans Otto and Edith Frank made. As you wind through the rooms and floors, you progress through the years of the war and finally end in a room about the concentration camps the hiders were sent to. It’s a strangely emotional place that contrasts the first-hand account of a teenage girl against the backdrop of one of the greatest atrocities committed in the world.
Our first full day in Amsterdam was jam-packed. We started out early (this on day 8 of 10) with a bus and walking tour around town. We hired a local guide for this part, and I felt really bad because a lot of us (including me) fell asleep. Some of our stops included a windmill still used as a house (sorry to the resident who had 40 Americans show up and start taking pictures), cloisters for single women, and lots of blooming flowers. We also made our stop at the Amsterdam sign. It was a chilly, rainy morning, so I treated myself to a hot chocolate from a stand near the sign.
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