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August 16, 2017

Photos in Óbidos

We stumbled upon Óbidos completely by accident on our way from Peniche to Nazaré. It would make a lovely stayover for a day or two, and I am dying to explore more of these beautiful abandoned buildings someday!

Have you spent more time in Óbidos? Would you recommend it, or are there other small towns north of Lisbon you like more?

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August 9, 2017

Making Friends in Barcelona

Google Search: "beach volleyball barcelona." Enter key.

The main idea was to just find where the beach volleyball courts exist on the many kilometers of shoreline in and around Barcelona.

I had no idea it was possible to join a "meet-up" for beach volleyball and have a guaranteed spot to play.

So, that's exactly what I did. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday.

The couple of hours of volleyball usually stretched into a couple more hours of tapas and talking, and I could not have found a more fun way to feel like a local in Barcelona!

This ended up designing the format for my time in Barcelona: waking up early, taking the bus to the beach, playing volleyball until lunch, sharing a cultural exchange well into the afternoon, then wandering around on my own until dinner. I peppered in a few jazz experiences, relaxing on the beach, and admiring the gorgeous architecture around the city.

I had it in mind to maybe do some other things, spend more time in the Gothic quarter, go back up to Parc Güell, whatever.

This full week in Barcelona showed me one thing for sure: I will find ways to return more often than every three years (the current frequency). I can find groups to play volleyball with, eat amazing and cheap food, enjoy energetic jazz music, and practice my Spanish.

In addition, there are so many Vespas all over this town, it's an Instagram @ScooterSquatter party!

The greatest thing about this trip was that I didn't let typical tourism pressure me too much. I didn't rush, I didn't spend all my money, and I let the days flow like I was a part of the scene - instead of blustering around just observing everyone and everything.

It increased my international volleyball network on the Barcelona beach to include Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, El Salvador, Czech Republic, and the USA. We all regularly called out the score in at least four languages. I actually improved at moving in sand and understanding 2-on-2 volleyball game strategy.

If only every single trip I took could be like this one!

Wait until you hear about what Marc and I attempted on our next stop in Portugal...

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August 1, 2017

Live Well: August

Welcome to the final installment of the Live Well series provided by my very own sister, Lindsay Wampler. I may be a traveling expat athlete, but I really haven't explored the health and fitness aspects of that world on this website - which is where Lindsay comes in. 

Lindsay is a 29-year-old occupational therapy graduate and health and fitness coach. Her recently-transplanted-from-Southern-California-to-Tennessee family consists of her wonderful husband, two dogs, and two cats. They both strive to live well through healthy eating and exercising, and I am very thankful that Lindsay has been happy to share her expertise with us each month! 

Please feel free to share her wisdom with your family and friends!


August is a busy month with the back-to-school buzz in the air. Enjoy the recipes and information below to help maintain a happy and healthy self!

Beverage Boost

Glowing Green Smoothie Bowl
Serves 1

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup spinach
1 cup ice
1 packet/scoop Vanilla Shakeology*
1/4 banana, cut into slices for garnish
1 kiwi, peeled and cut into slices for garnish
2 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish

Blend until smooth and pour into bowl. Add garnishes.

*If you do not have Vanilla Shakeology, you may substitute a vanilla protein powder; however, you get more than just protein powder when you use Shakeology.

Healthy Eating Recipe

Linguine with Tomato Sauce
Serves 6

1 pound linguine (I suggest gluten-free variety by Ancient Harvest)
4 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped with reserving juices
1 cup fresh basil
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat and add garlic; cook until fragrant (~30 seconds). Add tomatoes and their juices, salt, and pepper; simmer, stirring occasionally until tomatoes break down and sauce thickens (~45-50 minutes). When sauce has 20 minutes left to cook, cook the pasta. Mix pasta, sauce, and basil together.


Essential Oils Mixology

Focus Blend
3 drops Lavender essential oil
3 drops Vetiver essential oil
3 drops Cedarwood essential oil

Fill home diffuser with distilled water. Add essential oils. Voila!

About the Author

My name is Lindsay and I once was a Swagerty, too, but I now am a Wampler. I am a Christ-lover and am disciplined to live the life of my dreams! I suck at traveling because I am scared to fly, but I love to explore the cities around me and build a home I love to spend time in. I am a wife, mother of fur babies, occupational therapy graduate, online health and fitness coach, and a sharer of my love for essential oils! I am also a lover of all things Disney!

You can find me on Facebookmy group page, and Instagram or reach me directly through my email at lindsayannwampler[at]gmail[dot]com. I would love to hear from you!

Let us know if you try any variations of these delicious recipes, challenging workouts, or essential oils mixes in the comments below!!!
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July 27, 2017

8 Reasons Why Language Learning is Awesome

I nodded with attentive gusto. I had no idea what this guy was saying.

I had attempted to start a conversation based on my high school Spanish with a Cuban. In the middle of a German beer hall.

The Cuban was clearly happy to be rattling on about something "somos" and "Havana" in his own language. I began wondering if it would have been better for us to try to talk with our ridiculous immigrant German.

Instead, I told him I could speak French. Well, he understood my, "I speak France," to mean that I speak French, so it all worked out.

I was trying to win a few culture points.

German was not on my list of languages to learn, but here I am, in the heart of Bavaria. Spanish, on the other hand, has always been lingering there, just half of a lifetime away to when I was fourteen and it was way too easy at school. French had my heart from an early age, and all those hopes and dreams were fulfilled during our time in France. Add in the number of times I like to head off to Portugal and Italy, and we may as well toss those two Latin languages in there, too.

It's thrilling, terrifying, and quite the challenge. I will never be fluent in all of these languages. But I can reasonably expect to be able to order off of menus, get through basic introductions, and ask for directions in all of these languages within the next five years.

I have to consciously remember which language I'm speaking for the word "but" because I even mix that up in English now. There are also some phrases in French and German that just better express what I'm trying to say. Or, like when talking with the Cuban, having to go through French out loud, German in my head, saying the Spanish word for "corn," and finally landing on pero.

It's all in there somewhere.

Pero - mais - aber - but why is it important to learn any extra languages, let alone several?

1. To Respect

Spanish was not as important to learn in California when I was in high school as it is today. I had no reason to speak another language, and none of my family or friends were bilingual. Anyone who did speak more than just English was some kind of super-brained freak with too much free time (is that how some people view me now?!). What I didn't realize was that by avoiding languages other than English, I was disrespecting the value of cultures outside of my own. I don't think every monolingual person is disrespectful, but when we put effort into learning another language, it definitely shows a respect for the foundation of another culture.

2. To Understand

With respect comes a level of cultural understanding. I can't tell you how many times I understood situations and people so much better because it was explained within the context of their language. Translations don't always exist for every word, and understanding goes so much deeper than an explanation. I want to understand different people from different places, and the best way to do that is by meeting them at their own language level.

3. To Conquer Fear

Trying to learn, let alone speak, another language is a daunting task. We have to overcome our own fears of failure and looking stupid in order to grow and learn. Nobody speaks a foreign language well after one week. Not even one year. We have to be brave and really commit to the struggle because the journey only gets better as it continues.

Another fear to conquer can sometimes be on the listener's end. They aren't afraid of your poor handle of their language, but many times now I have been able to help beat down the American stereotype of forcing English out of everyone. Instead of making a foreigner uncomfortable with their performance in your language, we have the chance to eliminate this fear by choosing to speak their language instead. I'm also no longer afraid to go to new places because of the languages I have learned or am learning...or to the places where I don't speak the language at all. Conquering fear over and over again has braced me with the courage to be able to communicate no matter the situation.

4. To Communicate

With language sharing, we get to ask a lot of questions about another culture and world. But the curiosity about what's different usually exists on both sides. People want to know about where you are from and what your world is like, too. Anytime we are able to communicate in another language about our home culture, we open up more channels of understanding and openness between humanity. We also usually find out that despite our minor differences, we have more in common than we originally believed.

5. To Create Opportunities

Learning another language opens up doors for opportunities to travel, live, and work in places outside of your home country. It also creates opportunities for work with those language speakers who happen to live and travel in your home country, too. An "opportunity" usually serves as word for creating employment options, but it just as much an opportunity to have a conversation, give directions, and share a meal with someone in another language.

6. To Make (and Keep) Friends

This byproduct of language learning is the most rewarding. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to make friends even before learning any words in another language with the universal communication of smiling and laughing. But with every step forward in a language, my relationships have grown deeper and more meaningful. Having friendships in other languages has also made me even more thankful for the friendships I have with other English speakers, and especially for my best friends from my pre-expat life who can understand me even in my fastest slang-ridden English.

7. To Keep Secrets

Yes, this is definitely an awesome reason to speak more than one language! This is also probably the most fun reason because it's like your own little code language club that you get to be a part of when you are traveling or just in the company of others who do not speak whatever language you have in common with your friend. I enjoy doing this the most with my Swiss friend, Julia, and now Marc and I can share some secrets in German around our English-speaking friends, too.

8. To Be More

We always hear about how important it is to be a "lifelong learner." I felt like I was on the learning curve during my youth education, and that continued at a different pace during my university studies. When I directed sports camps and coached college volleyball, I felt like my learning curve jumped from basic academics to business, financial, and management studies. After moving overseas, I have learned that all of that was super easy. The learning curve of living in another culture and language is so much steeper and constantly new obstacles appear. It is an unprecedented area of growth in my life, and I am so grateful to be pushed and challenged in such a multi-dimensional way. I am more now than I was before, and communicating in more than just English has been a huge part of that.

My first teammate that I met abroad, Martina the Czech volleyball player, told me right after I moved to Belgium, "The more languages you speak, the more people you know."

She was so right. We can say all we want about knowledge, culture, and so on. Ultimately, language learning connects people to each other. That is the single best way we will ever invest the time we have been given on earth: into each other.

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