Europe

#NomadicNordgrens September Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens September Travel Update

Hello, friends!

September began slowly as a month watching good ol' Max the dog in Rushden for our friends Scott and Chrissy, surrounded by the sight of fields and the clip-clop of passing horses. Our time became anything but peaceful when we left at the end of the month to set off on our Whirlwind Tour of Europe. We have only just had a chance to come up for air to post this update!

From Rushden we drove to Dover, where we spent the night, took a ferry to Dunkirk before the break of dawn, and drove to Amsterdam. Our stop in this city featured a boat tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Canals, a visit to the Anne Frank House, waffles, and the Red Light District.

We left Amsterdam and spent the night with Thilo (Hans' German foreign exchange student during high school) en route to Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen we had a morning to enjoy the beautiful Københavns Havn (Copenhagen's Harbor), seeing the bright buildings, being awestruck with the old ships, and relaxing with some coffee, tea, and avocado on rye.

The photo above is from the gorgeous Copenhagen neighborhood of Nyhavn.

After that, we headed northeast, across the Øresund Bridge ("...the longest tunnel-bridge for car and train traffic in Europe and the longest bridge crossing a country border in the world," according to Wikipedia), to Stockholm where Hans' Swedish family, Olle and Signe, graciously hosted us for a week.

Some highlights from Stockholm…
- spending time with Hans' family and figuring out how we are related
- a visit to The Vasa Museet (a 300-year-old resurrected warship that sunk in Stockholm harbor after sailing for only 1,300 meters...it's a genuinely fascinating story and you can read more here)
- food, as always
- walking along Stockholm's lake
- strolling through Gamla Stan
- time to unwind a bit!

On to the photos!

1. Beautiful buildings surrounding the main square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town.
2. The restored Vasa ship is 98% original and the museum is WELL worth a visit if you're ever in Stockholm!
3. We celebrated 5 years of marriage by visiting Highclere Castle for a day during the centennial memorial of the end of WW1. Any Downton fanatics in the house?
4. Ginny, our car, getting much needed new “front shoes” in Stockholm
5. Fancy façades line the canals in Amsterdam

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: A very brief stop by the castle where my grandpa Nordgren got remarried was an unexpected surprise. Connecting with family and my heritage was really special!

Rachel's favorite: The Vasa Museum was SUPER interesting because the ship is this extremely well-preserved time capsule of life in 17th-century Sweden. The Vasa sank 1,300 meters into her maiden voyage due to a serious design flaw and a bit of wind. A few days later, we visited the Stockholm IKEA to see just how far Swedish design has come in the last couple of centuries!

Mutual favorite: our river cruise in Amsterdam!

We're also reflecting a lot on our visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in light of the recent domestic terrorism attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rachel especially remembers this quote from the museum...

"Some time this terrible war will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and [not] just Jews." - Anne Frank

We want to remember that every single one of us bears the label of "person" before anything else. Any other label used to degrade a person's inherent humanity and dignity, or separate people into an "us vs them" dichotomy, is (not to put too fine a point on it) not our best work as humans. Let's do better.


Bonus people!

The top photo features (from left to right) Hans, Rachel, Signe, Fredrik, and Olle. Olle is Hans' 2nd cousin twice removed. Signe is Olle's wife and Fredrik is one of their three sons. We feel so blessed to have met them, and it was wonderful to get acquainted! They almost didn't let Banjo leave ;)

Botton left: Scott tries to teach Banjo to take a treat "gently" from his hand. It didn't work...Scott nearly lost a few fingers. Max is the dog next to Banjo. Milo and Bruce are next to Banjo and Max, and were taken with Scott and Chrissy on their month-long trip while we watched Max.

Bottom right: Rachel reconnected with her friend Martina from the international program at Washburn University, where we attended college.

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Best in Food

Hans: I'm going to cheat a wee bit and mention my favorite sweet and favorite savory. We spent a week in Stockholm with Signe and Olle (my Swedish family) and Signe treated us to some of the most Swedish dishes she could come up with. My favorite savory was oven roasted salmon and my favorite sweets were Signe's homemade cardamom cinnamon rolls on Sweden's national cinnamon roll day. Good timing - lucky us!

Rachel: a few things! First of all, Scott is the king of roast chicken...it is absolute perfection. Second of all, we were positively spoiled by Signe and Olle, and being welcomed around the family table felt especially sweet since we've been apart from our immediate families for so long. I also really loved the avocado toast on rye that we had in Copenhagen.

A Note From Banjo...

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I luved mi tiem wif Maax. We layd arond awl dae. An we runned in ze feelds to! I lernt too eat blak berries frum ze thornee vin.

Then my stoopid hoomins decieded to cramp mee in back of kar 197 timez in last free weaks. I wundre, amn I in prizon? They do dis so much that I wish I could have stayed with nice Oola and Seegna. Oola give mee lotsa bellie rubz. Dae has rume for mee too stehhhhch and relaks.

Only ting keep me gooing: biskits!

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update

Happy summer, everyone!

First of all, apologies for this update being so late! Rachel's job was exceptionally busy in July and August, and so by the time she got done with work, she doesn't want to be anywhere near a computer. We're combining the last two months into one newsletter...and spoiler alert, it contains a lot of London!

Allow us to explain the photo above. At our last housesit in London, a certain canine decided to excavate a beehive four minutes before his humans were about to head out for dinner and a walking tour around the City of London. This resulted in said humans, one of whom had actually put on a full face of makeup and an outfit that did not consist of yoga pants and a tank top, having to nurse the histamine-infused canine with lavender essential oil and Benadryl for the rest of the night.

The humans were not amused.

At the end of June, we arrived back in Wellingborough for a return housesit with the sweetest little darling dog named Poppy. We were welcomed back like family by Sarah and Paul (which was such a blessing!) and had fun cheering on England in the World Cup. Other than the two days we went into London, July was a fairly quiet month. We spent a lot of time taking Poppy and Banjo on walks, working, and trying not to melt in the summer heat!

After Wellingborough, we spent a few days in an idyllic little village called Cheveley near Newmarket, the thoroughbred horse-racing capital of the UK. There were gorgeous horses everywhere and Rachel was in heaven. We made our way south to Rotherfield in Sussex, where we enjoyed a week in a beautiful countryside home watching a happy-go-lucky dog (appropriately) named Bumble, and his feline friends Munchkin and Stumpy.

Then, London! We spent just over two weeks in Blackheath near Greenwich, looking after a gentle sweetheart of a lab named Loki. His wonderful humans, Liz and Paul, gave us enough London tips to last a lifetime, and we did our best to get out and see the city when Rachel wasn't working.

Some of our July and August London favorites were...
- The Tower of London
- Strolling across bridges to catch a view of the city
- An "Influential Women of London" bike tour
- Having drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Thames
- Getting lost in side streets and bookstores
- Services at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
- Seeing a sublime performance of "As You Like It" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
- The Museum of London
- Wandering around Covent Garden
- A Suffragette exhibition at the Houses of Parliament
- Dishoom: "from Bombay with love"
- Finding picnic provisions at Borough Market
- Biking around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

On to the photos!

1. Munching on watermelon on a summery afternoon walk!
2. The gorgeous Sky Garden in the City of London
3. A delightful map of London we found at Aqua Shard...it feels like we're really starting to fit together the pieces of this city in our minds!
4. A London pub being annoyingly fabulous
5. Hans having a cuddle with Poppy

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1. Banjo being carried down an escalator in the London Underground. Dogs have to be carried on the escalators because their paws can get stuck in the "moving teeth" otherwise...ouch!
2. The eternally gorgeous Westminster Abbey
3. Oh, look! The Tower of London!
4. A nighttime stroll across London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background
5. Banjo with his Rushden buddy, Max


Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: I had a really great time picking wild blackberries and making a pie from them when we were in Rotherfield. I also enjoyed an evening Rachel and I spent biking around London and along the Thames. On another night we had a picnic in Greenwich Park with the London skyline with the sunset. I guess the theme here is the slow moments we spent together!

Rachel's favorite: London, London, London. I absolutely loved our time in that amazing city, and it was really rewarding to start to feel like we sort of knew our way around. I really loved going to a theatre performance at the Globe, exploring museums and galleries with Hans, and walking along the Southbank of the Thames at night together.

Mutual favorite: Hans put together a walking tour of the City of London (the oldest part of London) for us. We went after dinner one evening and explored the sites of some of the oldest parts of London...without the crowds! Seeing the Tower lit up at night was stunning, and standing next to a nearly 2,000-year-old bit of the old Roman wall while also being able to see the Shard was especially poignant...two bookends of the amazing history of this city.


Bonus People! And Pie!

London brought a few friends along, too! Rachel got to meet Tsh Oxenreider (the author of one of our mutual favorite books, At Home In The World) when she was in town leading a London trip. A darling friend from Topeka named Amy met up with Rachel at the National Portrait Gallery for brunch and art browsing when she was visiting London with family. Rachel's dear friend and longtime penpal, Kayla, came through London on her way back from an internship in Bosnia, and we crammed as much sightseeing and catching-up as possible into two days.

Also, here's a picture of a very proud Hans with the Blackberry pie he made.

Best in Food

July: We went to the Castle Ashby Gardens near Wellingborough and were totally surprised by a delightful continental market in their old stable yard. There were food stalls with French cheese, Italian cured meats, and stacks of bread and pastries, gelato, an olive bar, and some sort of creamy garlic prawn situation that smelled absolutely divine. We enjoyed a Cumin Gouda and Tome de Chevre with sun-dried tomato bread and crisp, sparkling lemonade. Yum!

August: Dishoom. We ate here twice and could have easily moved in. Their tagline is "from Bombay with love," which is entirely appropriate. It's is family-style Indian food, sweet and savory and spicy and superb, served in a friendly, cosy setting. Dishoom is a culinary celebration of Indian culture and if you go to London and do not eat there, we will never speak to you again.

A Note From Banjo...

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I haz to be karried in da undrgrund toob. Iss embarissing. Not as embarissing as my moom takeen piktures of mee 'nd pooting dem on dee interneets wen i hud six beestungs. i knoow it wuz stoopid to try 'nd moove da beehive, but i reeely wanteed to have a wee dere 'nd eet waz in dey way. Den ma hoomans poot Deen in da wittle face talkie toy 'nd even hee laffed at mee. Eet wuz ookay tho beecuz dey poot me in the bafftub whif sum nice smelly stuff 'nd gave me sleepy pillz 'nd dat made mee happeeeeee.


After we leave Rushden towards the end of September, we're headed back to the Continent. We'll cross the Channel, spend a few days in Amsterdam and then a day or two in Copenhagen, and then head further north to visit some of Hans' extended family in Sweden! We’re not sure what our plans for the rest of the fall will be, but we will keep you posted!

#NomadicNordgrens June Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens June Travel Update

Welcome back, friends!

Yesterday, the temperature was in the low 80's with 35% humidity, and the Brits (bless their hearts) were making such a fuss about how HOT it was. For us, it's the summer weather of our dreams! Kansas regularly reaches into the upper 90's in July, and the humidity is 10000% "feeling like I'm breathing through a damp washrag."

June saw us going from one end of the United Kingdom to the other and back again. We started off in the south of England, drove up to Scotland (our housesit was between Glasgow and Edinburgh) and then back down to Cornwall. All in all, we traveled over 1,000 miles!

When we started discussing places we wanted to visit on this trip, the Scottish Highlands were at the top of Hans' list. We made that happen this month, and it was absolutely beautiful! It feels like Scotland was just making up different shades of green, because it seems impossible that one little slice of the earth's surface could be that lush.

We adored exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh, and got serious Harry Potter vibes all over the place. We even went to the Elephant House Cafe, where JK Rowling wrote much of the first HP books! Our Porlock friends, Bill and Daphne, "set us up" with Daphne's granddaughter Charlotte and her partner Jamie. They live in Glasgow, and we absolutely loved getting to know them and spending time together. They showed us some of the best that Glasgow has to offer, and we're really grateful!

After Scotland, we headed back down south. Rachel spent 5 days at Buckfast Abbey in Dartmoor, giving herself the gift of time and space to read, think, and write. Hans and Banjo made a proper "Boy's Week" out of it and camped around Cornwall and Devon. Then we made our way back to Wellingborough, where we had the delightful experience of watching England play in the World Cup with Sarah and Paul before they left for their holiday.

England won 6-1 against Panama, and it was obviously because we Americans are some sort of good luck charm.

P.S.
Banjo's eye has entirely healed! Thanks for your well wishes, everyone!

On to the photos!

1. Feeling glamorous aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
2. Hans' favorite flower is the poppy, and there are tons of them here in England!
3. The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, the location of this classic Harry Potter scene
4. The Abbey church at Buckfast, the monastery where Rachel did a personal retreat while Hans was camping with Banjo
5. A windblown Banjo on the Cornwall coast

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: This month is hard to pick just one. There is a three-way tie between Rachel's dumbfounded reaction to the beauty and magic of Glasgow University's campus(think Hogwarts-esque), our day trip through the Scottish Highlands to see Loch Ness and Glenfinnan Viaduct, and my week of camping and hiking exploration on the historic Cornwall coastal cliffs and beaches with Banjo.

Rachel's favorite: In Scotland, my favorite was exploring Edinburgh...we barely spent any time there but I am itching to go back. In England, I loved the peace and quiet of my retreat at Buckfast Abbey.

Mutual favorite: exploring the drop-dead-gorgeous Highlands!

The funniest picture award of the month goes to the cows in the field where Hans camped one night, pictured below trying to figure out what was in the tent. Banjo did not find being used as "photo bait" very amusing.

Best in Food

Hans is turning into quite the chef! This month, we feasted on dinnertime delicacies such as Mediterranean salad (couscous and spinach as the base; caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and feta cheese for the toppings; and a balsamic vinegar olive oil dressing), grilled kebabs, curry over rice with mango chutney, and crockpot chicken tacos...here's the recipe. (you will thank us later) Also, June 29th was National Cream Tea Day, so of course, we had to indulge!


A Note From Banjo...

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Ma hoomans tink dey are sooooooo funnee. Dey triked mee into joomping in Lock Ness 'nd den dey took dis picture preetanding lik I wuz de Lock Ness munster. Wutever. I felt sumthin' brush my legz but Im not gunna tell dem dat becuz dey laffed at mee. Mwahahaha. Kamping wiff Hanz wuz reely fun. We hiked lotz and lotz and didn't take baffs and didn't sey "excuz mee" wen we farteed. The kows were reely scary tho. I tink dey were gonna eet me. Iss nice beeing bak wiff Poppy, even if shee steels my biscoots sumtimes.


We're actually not entirely sure what our August plans are just yet! We're hoping to find a housesit in or around London, but we're keeping an eye out around the rest of the country as well!

What have you been up to this summer?

#NomadicNordgrens May Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens May Travel Update

Hello, friends!

We're almost halfway through our nomadic journey (how crazy is that?!) and we're working hard to make the most of our time in Europe before our crossing back to the States in December aboard the QM2.

Banjo managed to scratch up his eye pretty badly whilst galavanting through the forests of Switzerland (as one does), and it was refusing to heal despite a couple vet visits and medications. The vet in Porlock did a minor surgery that seems to have worked, so the good news is that he's on the mend...although still in the cone of shame.

Psst! This month's update has an extra special section towards the end that you won't want to miss!

After leaving Wellingborough at the beginning of the month, we did our first return housesit! Lis and Carl invited us back to look after Oscar, and we were so excited to spend more time with them (and Lis's mum, Sheila!) and enjoy the gorgeousness that is the Cotswolds in Spring.

After leaving Ilmington, we made our way back down south to Porlock. We had a lovely evening with Karen, Graeme, and Graeme's mum Tess (we housesat for them in December), catching up and talking about travel adventures with dogs! Afterwards, we spent the better part of two weeks (our housesitting plans changed) being super grateful for the hospitality of the local parish rector, Bill, and his wife Daphne, whom we got to know in December. Hans "earned our keep" by doing lots of chores for Daphne!

Then, we journeyed north towards Scotland. We stopped for a night in Manchester to visit Rachel's dear friend Katherine and then made our way to Coatbridge, where we are now. We're watching a darling little 17-year-old Yorkie named Rosie, who sounds like a baby Teletubby when she coughs.

After our time in Scotland, we're looking forward to heading back to Wellingborough for the month of July to spend more time with Paul and Sarah, and their darling girl Poppy!

On to the photos!

1. Hans standing next to the purplest tree we've ever seen at Hidcote Garden near Ilmington
2. Getting ready for a walk with Oscar and Banjo
3. Banjo overlooking Porlock Bay
4. Dunster Castle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the Bristol Channel and Exmoor. Fun fact: a castle has existed here since Norman times!
5. Our beloved Porlock

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: seeing the difference between winter and spring in the Exmoor landscape and foliage as we walked down to the Weir for dinner at the Bottom Ship pub

Rachel's favorite: still not over the Royal Wedding...

Mutual favorite: enjoying the beauty of England in bloom, and spending lots of time with some of the kind and wonderful people we met earlier in our journey!

Best in Food

After returning from Spain, Lis and Carl treated us to a delectable dinner at their favorite Italian inspired restaurant in Chipping Camden, Huxley's. For appetizers, we enjoyed baked fondue, sun-dried tomatoes, tangy Tzatziki and pita, and our new favorite cheese, halloumi. Hans had a burger and fries because he was feeling a little homesick, and Rachel can't remember what she had because the conversation was so darn good. We topped the evening off with tiramisu and coffee, and even got a little Cotswold history lesson from Carl on the drive!


Special Wedding News!

We kept a little secret from all of you...when we were in Paris in March, Dean (Rachel's dad) proposed to Roxann! At the end of our bike tour and picnic, Hans, Leo, and Rachel conveniently "forgot to get dessert" and scampered off, leaving Dean and Roxann by the banks of the Seine. Apparently, Dean had some lovely things to say, Roxann said yes, a sparkly ring was pulled out, and a passing boat of tourists cheered! When we got back, Rachel had to peek over the embankment wall to make sure we wouldn't interrupt, and then the five of us celebrated with macarons and taking lots of pictures. They're getting married in June!

Congratulations, Dean and Roxann!!!

Oh, and Rachel went to the Royal Wedding.

Read more about her (amazing, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime) experience right here. Special thanks to our Ilmington friends for keeping an eye out for Rachel on TV!


A Note From Banjo...

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Wut ded I doo 2 deseerv dis? Myhoomans keep laffin at mee and iss notfare cuz haff de tym i cant heer dembecuz oof dis stoopid lamp sheed koneting. Leetle kyds laff at mee 2 'nd deyask der mooms wut's rong wif mee. Nuthin's rong wif mee!! Iss myhoomans who r dee stoopid ones fur pooting dis dumb ting on mi face. Mehbee DEY shood ware kones oof shame. See how dey lik eet. Mi eyeewuz dooin jest fyne. I scratcheds eetevery dey cuz dat made eet feel better. Daffney wuz nise to mee 'nd she gavme lots oof coodles and shee deedn'tlaff at mee like SUM PEEPLE.


May felt full and blooming and blessed, and once again we’re just floored with gratitude. We are absolutely loving being back in the UK, and the more time we spend here, the more it feels like home.

Did you watch the Royal Wedding?

#NomadicNordgrens April Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens April 2018 Travel Update

Thanks to Hans' mom, we were able to get in touch with the German relatives and spend some time with them in April. I mostly nodded and smiled and tried to remember the names of all the cousins, but I loved watching my husband get to uncover his heritage roots a bit. We'll be visiting his Swedish family later this summer!


Welcome back to our travel tales!

After our grand adventures in London and Paris during March with Dean and Roxann, we headed to Leer, Germany, where we stayed with Thilo, Hans' longtime friend and high school foreign exchange student. It was wonderful to spend time together! We celebrated Good Friday with him and his family before heading to Bielefeld (still in Germany) to meet relatives from Hans' mom's side of the family.

Our German relatives also gave us a warm welcome and showed us the old Bentemann farm as well as some significant towns and landmarks. We are so grateful for their hospitality, and for how much we learned about the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region. We sort of felt like we were on a private tour with the best guides in Germany! Thank you so much to Annelie, Steven, Karin, Friederich, Ulrike, Elisabeth, Heinz, Karin, and Gustav for making us feel right at home.

The photo above was taken at Externsteine, a massive rock formation near Lippe in Germany. You can't really see any of the rocks in the picture because Banjo's furry face is in the way, so we suggest clicking on the link to check them out!

After Germany, we headed to Zürich, Switzerland for about two weeks to watch a lovely menagerie of animals for a couple named Julie and Eric. Fun fact: Eric is actually from Kansas! After Switzerland, we spent a day exploring Liechtenstein (the world's sixth smallest country!) before heading back to the UK, where we will be for the rest of the summer.

As always, we feel deeply thankful for everyone who has welcomed the three of us into their homes and lives during our travels. In today's crazy and often discordant world, we are grateful for the continual reminder that kindness knows no boundaries and there is much more that unites us as humans (and canines!) than divides us.

On to the photos!

1. The inscription on the Bentemann family home in Germany
2. The church in Hiden, Germany, where Hans' great-grandfather was baptized
3. Hans' German family!
4. Rachel cuddling with Ivy, one of Eric and Julie's dogs in Zürich
5. The Alps, being far more gorgeous than is socially acceptable

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: connecting with his German family and re-connecting with Thilo

Rachel's favorite: Rachel is starting to think this is a dumb and restrictive question, but if forced to choose she would probably say visiting the Sparrenburg Castle in Bielefeld

Mutual favorite: it's a tie between enjoying the sheer beauty of the Alps and seeing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where a live orchestra performed the music as the movie played

Best in Food

For Good Friday (technically still in March, but who's counting?), Hans' foreign exchange "parents," Udo and Dagmar, invited us to join them for a lovely family dinner. We enjoyed a simply delicious meal of salmon with a creamy filling, rice, and sauteed spinach all accompanied by a heavenly cream sauce and glasses of ice cold white wine. For dessert, chocolate...because duh, it's Germany. 

Hans' real German family made sure that we ate really well, too. We were treated to all sorts of traditional German dishes, like braided Easter bread, local meats and cheeses (including a hard cheese with peppercorns in it that Rachel adored), potato pancakes called "pickert," and of course, bratwurst! 


A Note From Banjo...

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Ma hoomans tell mee dat dis iss zee only paart oof da neewslitter dat peeple actoolly reed. Dat meens my hoomans kood chuk da rest of dis ting 'nd speend moor time pettin me orr gimme moor of da speshal treets dat dee niice peeple in Gerrmuny gaav us. I rode da train AND da toob in Lundun 'nd I wuz reely brave beecuz da toob soundeed lik eet wuz gooona eat me but I staid kalm 'nd karried oon. We arr bak in Engelund 'nd I lik it heer becooz der arr lotz of sheepz.

One of the biggest surprises in our travels has been how much community Hans and I have found abroad. When we started out, I mistakenly assumed that we'd get really lonely and sick of each other, because we would only have each other for company. While it's true that we spend basically all of our time together (and we do get annoyed with each other sometimes), we've also been pleasantly surprised by the relationships we've discovered and strengthened with other people we've met.

Have you ever visited extended family abroad? What was your experience like?