August 4, 2015

California Summer Daze, Part 2


The end of my time in the USA was spent with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. It was a fitting end to a really great summer, and I'm so thankful we were all able to be together. The six of us haven't been together since Lindsay and Justin got married - two years ago!

Central Cal

I found out at the airport check-in desk that my plane was going to look like this:

But then the cool thing was that it gave me hot air balloon views of Sacramento like this:

I was just glad all 9 of us made it to Visalia. That was definitely the smallest plane I've ever been on, and, hallelujah, it was not as terrifying as I expected it to be.

What did I do in Visalia?

I had a good time eating! My parents did a great job showing off Visalia to me, taking me to three really fun and delicious restaurants: Om, Nom, Nom!, The Lunch Box, and The Planing Mill Artisan Pizzeria. They let me borrow their car to drive up to Fresno to see an old friend at another great restaurant, The Dog House.

Grandma Carol clearly had bought these dishes for Marc and me. Perfect inheritance.
I got to relax in the pool literally everyday for two weeks. But even with such a chill daily routine, I somehow ended up being super productive, reading tons of travel magazine articles, two books (finished Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman and almost finished Louis L'Amour's Education of a Wandering Man), and publishing my very first eBook! (For more info, check out Four Years in Paris.)

I have very passionate opinions about this book.
Read it with an open mind and in the context of the times.
But, most importantly, I got to hang out and talk for hours with my dad and mom, both as individuals, and as a pair. It was just good, old-fashioned quality time together. When you only get to see your parents once a year, you work a lot harder to enjoy the time you do have together.

By the time the two weeks were up, the two of them looked at me and said, "It feels like you just got here."

I felt the same way.

The original Swagertys: me, Lindsay, Dad, and Mom!


Our lives require high levels of organization, planning, and generosity from others. We arranged for Marc to fly into Ontario to be picked up by my sister, Lindsay, and brother-in-law, Justin. Then my parents and said sister and brother-in-law all graciously agreed to drive to Santa Clarita (north LA County) for a meet-up/hand-off/family reunion of sorts!

The best restaurant in California is Stonefire, so that's obviously where we rendez-vous-ed. Stonefire actually has the best salad in the entire world, in my opinion. I mean, feel free to argue, but I have eaten salad in nearly thirty countries now, and I still prefer Stonefire's tri-tip barbecue chopped salad to all others!

The salad and conversation: legendary.
We all had a lot of fun being crazy and weird (okay, maybe the two son-in-laws were faking it...) and just being together was perfect.

Saying goodbye to my parents meant the final leg of #SwagVilUSA had begun. We got into my sister's car, and headed out to San Bernardino.

The next few days were a hysterical mix of building my first and last 3-D puzzle of Neuschwanstein, eating the incredible food my sister makes, and visiting as many friends as happened to have matching free time.

So. Intense. I earned my engineering degree!
We packed as much as we could into five days, and then we were off again! It was our shortest USA summer (seven weeks) since we began our European lives in 2011.

I will say that because I finished the summer with my family, I did feel like it was rushed. But I think I feel that way because I have usually started my summers with them, and Europe feels further away when the summer starts. Regardless of why the hurried feeling was there, our weeks in America were really good for everyone.

Our families and friends encouraged us greatly in our move to Germany, and we couldn't ask for a more supportive bunch of awesome people!

And they say that I'm the weird one?!
We may be expats for now - and maybe forever. Returning to the USA doesn't necessarily inspire us to move back, however, it does remind us of the wonderful world of people in our lives who would welcome us back in an instant.

If you want or need more insight into why people like us just have to live abroad, please go read one of the best articles I've ever seen about wanderlust and expat life by our photographer friend, Bethany Carlson. I agree with everything she says and it's all truth.

We wouldn't be who we are today or doing what we're doing without you people. You know who you are (there are lots of "you," so if you're not sure "you" means "you," just jump on board), and we thank you and love you very much.

Thanks for sending us off to another year in Europe! We hope you'll come to our new corner of the continent and we'll see you soon!