...and we're off!

taking a year of pretirement to travel the world

on may 23, 2013, we quit our jobs and began our year of "pretirement." these are some of our adventures around the world.

nyc and phoenix family reunion

having spent two months living out of our backpacks, it was nice to come home to nyc, if only for a few short days. the night we got back, we managed to stay up despite our jet lag and catch a couple of awesome cmj (college media journal) showcases, all thanks to rachel. if you like ray lamontagne, check out foy vance. he's got an unbelievable voice. and if you haven't already heard of them, give half moon run a listen, too. we also got brunch with pete and julia, our lovely friends who'll be staying at our apartment until we're back next spring. pete's a kiwi and julia's from argentina, so we're looking forward to all their recommendations when we head south of the equator! the rest of our days were spent catching up with people and getting ready for our upcoming travels. we were eager to spend our next chapter of pretirement in asia! 

but before shipping out to the far east, we spent the next couple of weeks in the southwest. my family was having a big reunion in phoenix, and a week later our friends parsa and kevin were getting married in houston. both were perfect excuses to stay stateside a bit longer. the reunion was something i'd been looking forward to all year. my dad has seven brothers and sisters, so it's always a lot of fun when the entire family gets together - and it doesn't happen often since we have a very large family scattered across the states, philippines, england, and australia. plus, alex would be meeting many of my relatives for the first time, and so would his parents - they were heading down to phoenix, too! unfortunately there'd be several people who they wouldn't get to meet. the one sibling who couldn't make it this year was my tita elo's twin sister, tita ebe. luckily in just a few short months, we'd get to see her and my cousins joshua, jarrett, and janice in the philippines, as well as my cousins pia and jb in australia, who also weren't able to come. guess our timing worked out pretty well!

our three days in phoenix were booked solid with three huge parties hosted by my cousins dodi and michelle, dan and mimi, and my tito nilo and tita mila. at any given moment, there were probably between 50-100 people around. hard to believe, considering we were missing almost 30 people! the whole time we were either eating or singing karaoke - the two mainstays of any filipino get-together. someone always brings a portable karaoke machine, no one's too shy to grab the mic, and everyone goes to town on the huge buffet of homecooked filipino dishes and other yummy favorites. my tito cugie and tita chit flew down from new hampshire with a huge box full of fresh lobster and crab, which everybody was scrambling for. and i can never get enough of my tita elo's empanadas and fried lumpia (egg rolls) - they're pretty much the best things on earth. 

tita elo's famous empanadas, fresh from the pan. yum.

we also got some quality time in with the m3 - especially alex, who made sure it got some well-deserved new tires. it felt so good being back behind the wheel again after doing four road trips with four tiny cars in europe. alex also spent a couple nights with his mom and dad, who took a week off to escape the minnesota cold. since our parents had only met once at our graduation six years ago, we were looking forward to having them meet again and get to know my dad's side of the family. shocker - the stoewers were a hit with the ballecers, and vice versa! everyone had a great time. alex's mom even joined my dad in a karaoke rendition of "new york, new york", which was just awesome. cindy and jon also witnessed the ballecer roast, where my dad gets up and cracks jokes about each of his siblings, leaving the whole house shaking with shrieks of laughter. (if you didn't already know, filipino laughter is five times louder and highly contagious.)

the three days went by very quickly. before we knew it, it was time to get the beemer back on the highway. since we had about a week until the wedding in houston, we decided to make a road trip out of the time in between, and alex's parents were joining us! before we left, we had a nice lunch with my family at the pecan farm at south mountain. it's a bit pricey, but a beautiful place to picnic and enjoy fresh, locally grown food. afterwards we said goodbye to my parents and brothers and climbed into the beemer. first stop - page, arizona!