Welcome back dear readers! Those of you following for a while will know I’m currently Stateside! Back in September I announced on the blog some big news!! I was leaving my job to spend February, March and April in Washington State for a sufficient amount of time with my girlfriend.
You can catch up on how month one went here, but if you didn’t read that post then I guess I’d sum it up by essentially saying I’d grown accustomed to being unemployed. I’ve contemplated writing a blog post about this previously but one word that I think describes me pretty aptly is “unambitious”.
Society’s definition of ambitious is one I struggle to align with. Ambition is associated with progress in your profession. If you’re a window cleaner or road sweeper or whatever you’re nothing compared to the CEO’s of the world and the concept has always bemused me.
Why can’t ambition be to become a parent or to travel the world or to own my own house or to fall in love? I’m not suggesting it’s impossible to have both but society seems to judge your ambition or your importance dependent on your profession. It’s not okay to just float along in life – “What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in five years?”
My ambition was to become one of those “skilled workers” the government talk about. I wanted to be an accountant and once I got my foot in the door, I realised the accountants I was aspiring to be were sending me emails at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night or 5:30am on a Friday morning or spending their weekends working.
My sister got married on October 5th last year and whilst my job role was a very different job at that moment in time, in the back of my head there was this little voice screaming “Quarter-end”. I’d already made my mind up on coming to Washington by that point but I could just envisage this alternative lifestyle of the “ambitious accountant”..
The first Saturday of October? The first after September? It’s quarter end, I’ve got to work.. “Sorry Natasha but..”
“BUT IT’S MY WEDDING JASON!!”
How many ambitious professionals have missed something of significance because of work commitments? I quickly learnt that I didn’t want to be that person. Over the last few years I’ve watched my sister get married, I’ve celebrated New Year’s in Paris and Edinburgh, I’ve attended countless games of football in multiple countries, I’ve bar-hopped in Nashville, danced in the streets of New Orleans, fallen in and out of love, laughed, cried and most importantly lived..
I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent but that brings me back to the original point. The morale of month one was happiness. I made the point in that post that, finance-permitting, I could happily never work another day in my life. Just give me more of this life. Drinking tea in coffee shops, walking by the lake, watching football in a bar, spending my time visiting museums, date nights, catching up with friends. If being ambitious means sacrificing all of this, I don’t want to be ambitious! Work just isn’t that important to me (P.S – if you’re reading, please employ me!).
Anyway, I published my month one post on March 3rd and a few things have changed since then. I think the cruelest thing about my first four weeks here was truly appreciating time and freedom. Time seemed to stand still for the entirety of my first month here and it was bliss having the freedom to just enjoy the simple things in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “small-town” person but I was certainly appreciating the perks that come with it and living somewhere like this.
The last couple of weeks in particular has often been described as “this is the new normal” but I’d only just escaped the restraints of “the old normal”. So it has been an interesting second month, I’m not sure it’ll read as fun as the first month here but there have still been some highs and noteworthy moments that I hope you enjoy hearing about. I plan to go in the same format, week by week, as month one. Here goes!
I call this FA Cup week. Whilst not working certainly has its merits, the lack of routine certainly makes tracking the days a little trickier. Haleigh’s work schedule helped of course but I’ll be honest and say the football was probably one of the things helping me keep on top of the calendar – “what game is on today or this weekend?”
Week five was FA Cup week with games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately the FA Cup isn’t shown on TV out here but fortunately is on the ESPN app that is sold with the Disney+ bundle which meant Haleigh’s family were already subscribed to it. At the very least I’d pinpointed Wednesday as a “day at home” to watch Tottenham’s FA Cup game v Norwich.
I thought about what else to do this week and I decided it was going to be a bit of a recovery week as far as my bank balance went. Week four in particular had been a little spendier than I’d anticipated and I didn’t want to blow all of my money halfway in to this trip, I didn’t want to be financially dependent on Haleigh whilst I was here so this was a week to cutback a little.
Tuesday I spent at home, watched the FA Cup football and popped to the apartment complex’s gym afterwards to work off some of the beer from week four’s Brews and Tunes festival haha. I then spent the evening relaxing with Haleigh.
As I’ve already alluded to, Wednesday was Tottenham’s FA Cup day so one I intended to spend at home. The FA Cup was the one remaining shining light in this shit-show of a season for Spurs. It has been a disaster but if we could win the FA Cup, for the first time since 1991, for the first time in living memory for me (born in 88), then this season could still go down as a memorable one.
Sadly Spurs were dreadful. We took a fortuitous lead and then spent the next 70 minutes sleeping instead of trying to cement the win. Our manager’s complaints for weeks had been how the injuries were taking its toll on the squad and instead of ensuring we avoided an extra 30 minutes of football we sat back and waited for the inevitable Norwich equaliser late on which took us to extra-time.
From then on we tried to win the game, 80 minutes too late and ultimately got what we deserved for our negativity by losing the penalty shoot-out. I’ve joked all season that I couldn’t have wished for a better season to have pissed off for 3 months and this was the “cherry on the top” – another pathetic display and result in this shambles of a season.
I am missing the football but one thing I can credit the virus for is in ridding me of having to watch this Tottenham team. I’m sure for any Liverpool fan the prospect of a cancelled season is agonising but there will be celebrations long in to the night on Tottenham High Road if we void this season and start over.
It was another football-inspired mood-changer on this trip. Four games without a win and I’d only been here just over four weeks at this point. Ridiculous. Fortunately Thursday was less football-filled and consequently a positive day haha.
Two of Haleigh’s co-workers wanted to meet up and the invitation stretched to me to impose on a “girl’s night out”. As it was, one of the colleagues wasn’t able to join us so it just ended up being myself, Haleigh and Kristi. We went along to one of the restaurants I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, Michael’s on the Lake, it’s a nice place that unsurprisingly is situated along the lake.
We chatted over drinks and good food before saying our goodbyes. It was nice to spend a little time together, Kristi kindly paid for us, refusing any notion of us contributing towards dinner. We promised to do it again before I went home with us returning the gesture.
Thursday had been the one thing I’d budgeted for this week so with a cheaper night than expected I decided to get out and wander in to town on Friday. I re-visited my usual favourites. I kicked off my morning with some tea and a book at Mason’s Place which has become one of the nicest ways to pass the time here. It’s a cosy and friendly place in town. In the home state of Starbucks I’d still much rather visit and support little places like this, even if Starbucks is to an extent a “local business”.
Moving on I went to grab lunch and popped in to Midway Pub. I usually only visit when there’s football on but in spite of there being no football, it’s still a nice lunch spot and again just friendly to visit. Oddly enough the previous week I’d got chatting to a barman I’d yet to see in there, who just so happened to be leaving Moses Lake and moving to Seattle in the imminent future. Today I got talking to a barmaid I’d yet to see in there, who was leaving Moses Lake and moving down to California. Two born and bred Moses Lake barstaff moving out of town – bizarre! She was friendly though and offered a few recommendations of local things to see and do before I left Washington.
I headed home before Haleigh got back from work. Friday has typically become our date night so we went out to Rock Top for the first time on this particular trip. It’s become a bit of a regular for us, it was the place we had our very first date back in September 2017, but oddly we’d yet to come here after almost a full five weeks in town. I don’t know why but I was really in the mood for a burger and surprisingly opted for my first ever Veggie burger.
I appreciate vegetarians and vegans who impose that lifestyle for a number of reasons, and perhaps this just wasn’t a great veggie burger, but those kidding themselves they’re a substitute in taste for a meat burger are mistaken. As I said, perhaps it just wasn’t a great veggie burger or perhaps I was just consciously aware that it was a veggie burger but I felt like there was a noticeable difference in taste. That said, it was still enjoyable. I had no complaints with the burger itself but it was no substitute for the “real thing”.
Following food we tried our luck at going bowling, we’d talked about going a week earlier but when we phoned they suggested all of the lanes were fully booked so we decided against it. We had better luck this week so went along for a couple of games. I bowled pretty well, particularly in the first game, but I found myself mesmerised by the guys in the lane next to us.
I’m guessing they participate in a bowling league of sorts and were getting some practice in but it was entertaining to watch. I’ve no doubt they knew what they were doing, partly as I used to watch my parents play bowling in a league every week, but I’d just watch them seemingly aim for the gutter on each throw and watch the ball do its magic and swerve back inwards and see all of the pins drop. As I said, mesmerising bowling!
The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed. I don’t think we really did much other than hang out. We’ve spent most of our time at home either watching Netflix, watching movies on Disney+ or playing CTR on the PS4 haha.
Ah, the last week of normalcy out here in Washington! The first thing I did this week was unsurprisingly football related again. I’ve been trying to get out at least once a week but generally aiming at twice a week. With midweek football being a frequent occurrence at this time of the season I’ve generally been able to squeeze in a pub trip most weeks.
This week Tottenham were playing their second leg of their Champions League tie against Leipzig. Ironically after all my complaints of visiting Germany too frequently in recent years, if I’d not been in Washington I would likely have been in Leipzig for this fixture. It’s a German city I’ve yet to visit but heard good things about.
Leipzig are one of those football teams that cause a little controversy due to their ownership, particularly in Germany where football clubs are generally majority owned by fans (supposed to have a 51% majority even with other investors). Leipzig are owned by Red Bull and have quickly risen through the German football ladder which makes them quite unpopular amongst football “purists”.
Their quick rise in football also means they’re relatively inexperienced on the big stage so my hope was, with a manager familiar with the “dark arts”, that overturning a first leg defeat in London wasn’t impossible. However so it proved, we were comfortably well beaten by a really good footballing team. It was hard to be bitter about a team beating us that played the kind of football I could only dream of watching us play.
Before the week was even out pretty much most European football had been suspended so this was the last game I’ve been able to watch out here. Although as I alluded to above, now on a winless run of six I feel blessed that the football has been placed on hold. I don’t know what the solution is for the remainder of the season to be completed but Tottenham’s season essentially ended at this defeat anyway. Removing this season from the history books would actually be welcomed by me haha.
Moving away from the football, I decided I’d go out on Thursday too. I think signs of the panic setting in were really starting to show by this point. It only seemed a matter of time before Washington followed measures being placed elsewhere in the world and in the States. Likewise the signs of hoarding was already clear to see on shopping trips.
As usual I visited Mason’s Place to kick off my day however with the uniqueness of some in-house entertainment. One of the customers was sat with a guitar and practicing a few tunes which created a really nice atmosphere whilst I sat down and read for a little while.
I decided to go and check out somewhere different in town today for lunch. I’d not really noticed it until recently but this little building, that looked like a bar, was placed across the street from Safeway and having looked it up online actually looked bigger than it’s outside appearance suggested. I made my way over to “The Ripple Tavern” and sat down at the bar.
I was really surprised to see how busy it was. There was no sign of any fear amongst the locals here but more importantly, I was just surprised at how busy it was for a Thursday afternoon. I’d go as far as saying this is the busiest place I’ve been to during the day in Moses Lake across multiple trips here and just multiple weeks on this trip alone.
It seemed largely full of regulars but it was still a surprise to me. I ordered myself a beer and some food, the beer I wanted was this mango-flavoured delicious beer that I got a small taste of but seemingly they ran out of so I ended up with something else. The food was good, the staff were friendly enough and it was nice to discover a new spot in town. That said, I didn’t really see it as a regular haunt.
Not that it mattered too much, that proved to be my last outing in Washington for the foreseeable future. Before heading home I popped in to Safeway, I knew we needed a couple of bits so thought I’d pick up some stuff for breakfast and things. I also knew we were running low on toilet rolls so I was hoping a daytime afternoon trip might be a good opportunity to get some. The aisle was inevitably sparse but I at the very least managed to grab a pack of four which I figured would keep us going without a need to start getting creative! It’s just as well because we would have run out before we were next able to find any!
Earlier in the week, I’d said to Haleigh not all of our dates had to be about going out and spending a tonnes of money so we agreed to have an “at-home” date on Friday night. With the benefit of hindsight maybe we’d have done this Friday night differently but we decided to stay in, get some food (pizza I think) and just hang out with a couple of movies. Haleigh introduced me to ‘The Great Race’ which was a fun little comedy released back in the 60’s. It wasn’t a film I was familiar with but one I enjoyed nonetheless.
It snowed overnight on Friday so we didn’t really do anything over the rest of the weekend. They announced school closures in Washington on Friday which meant, after Monday, Haleigh would be off work for the next few weeks. We were both excited at the prospect of more time together, ultimately the reason I’d come here in the first place.
However on Sunday night the governor of Washington imposed further measures and ordered the closure of most, non-essential, businesses. Restaurants and bars could only operate a take-out or delivery service whilst most other retail and leisure businesses shut down. Those measures would take effect immediately for King County (the Seattle area) with further detail announced on Monday morning for the rest of the state (us!).
Being honest, I was hoping the lack of clarity in Sunday’s statement might mean I could squeeze in one more lunchtime outing on Monday. I don’t think everywhere in the town actually closed but the ones I’d intended to drop in on had made it clear on social media channels that they’d be closing immediately so it scuppered any hope of going anywhere on Monday. I just stayed at home and prepared myself for “the new normal”.
Washington’s closures were for an initial period of two weeks to help “flatten the curve”, so I apologise if weeks seven and eight feel a little boring in comparison to the previous six but I guess we’re all in the same boat right now. Although there were still memorable moments of course. Just spending more time with Haleigh was nice enough and we’ve been able to do more at home together.
The week was plodding along nicely before reaching Friday – date night! Obviously this was another one spent at home but wouldn’t go forgotten! We had dinner together whilst watching whatever on the TV. Following on from dinner we tidied up a little and I made a point of heading outside to dispose of the trash – on somewhat of a secret mission!
After ridding myself of the rubbish I took a little detour and swung by our mailbox we’d neglected over the past few days, anticipating a little package inside that I’d had confirmation had been delivered. I’d ordered it under very different circumstances, expecting Haleigh to be working and also under the premise that we’d be free to do as we pleased but the restraints and closures scuppered my plans somewhat.
After collecting my little box I returned to a confused Haleigh, pondering why it had taken me so long to walk to the skip and back. I was expecting this to come so had pre-planned my excuses!
I mean, obviously, I’d just wanted a little fresh air and walked to the skip all the way on the other side of the complex to stretch my legs.
“Alright, you weirdo..” – buahaha! My secret mission had gone without too much suspicion!
I got myself back in to a relaxed state, returning to the pyjamas that myself and Haleigh had been wearing all day before conversation led to the fact today marked exactly two and a half years together – a nice little landmark in our relationship. Of course there was cause for this direction in the conversation, that little package I’d gone to collect was an engagement ring.
I can’t say I’d pictured any engagement being in our pyjamas on the sofa during a quarantine of sorts but it felt like a meaningful date to do it and just so happened to be the date the ring arrived too – I was so pleased they’d not come to the door to deliver it and spoil any sense of surprise.
I shamefully didn’t go down on one knee, as I said nothing about the scenario really went quite as pictured but even in the circumstances I think it came across as sweet and more importantly came as a surprise to Haleigh who, even with my lengthy trash-taking outing, hadn’t anticipated a proposal was coming. I’m pleased to say the proposal was met with a yes so some good news to share with the world during these extraordinary times!
The next day we took a daytrip to Haleigh’s home town to share the news, and show off the ring, with some of the family. We did restrict who we visited because of the measures in place and made it as socially-distant a trip as we could. There was obviously nothing to do in Walla Walla either but it was still nice to briefly see the family and share the happy occasion in person. Breaking the news to family and friends back home went down equally well, although was obviously something we weren’t able to do in person. It rounded off our first socially-distanced week nicely though.
Further sanctions were imposed going in to week eight. On Monday the UK government advised all nationals currently abroad to head home at the earliest possibility, which was somewhat ironic because on the same day the governor of Washington added further measures and placed a “Stay At Home” order on all of Washington’s inhabitants for the next two weeks.
With no mention of restrictions entering the UK, nor any sign of my flight being cancelled I’ve been a little reluctant to cut this trip short. Ultimately does it matter too much where I’m isolating? I’ve largely adopted a “wait and see” policy to this trip.
So this week kicked off as relatively normal as possible in the circumstances. We really needed supplies for the week. I think a week earlier we’d tried to do a meal plan for the week and found we couldn’t actually find half of the stuff we wanted so it was a bit of a redundant shopping trip. So going in to this week we decided we’d wing it and just shop dependent on what was available.
Surprisingly this was a rather successful shopping trip. It seemed the crazy had balanced out a little and we were able to actually get much of what we wanted. The most encouraging sign for us was seeing other shoppers with toilet rolls in their trolleys – “does that mean..?” – after weeks of looking we found a store with toilet roll in stock! Not much admittedly but enough that we even have a very limited choice of which brand of toilet roll we wanted. We grabbed a pack of 12 and rejoiced in a successful shopping trip!
Friday’s proposal was undoubtedly a highlight of my time here but perhaps, in the circumstances, this could be considered a close second! No need to find dodgy toilet-roll-sellers on the black market!
After shopping I Skyped with the parents for a bit to have a post Mother’s Day and post-engagement catch up. It was nice to have a proper chat.
The rest of week eight has been largely non-eventful – which was disappointing because it was probably set to be one of my more sociable weeks here. I’d agreed to co-host a little Twitter-based chat on Wednesday with a friend (Eric) based in nearby Union Gap.
We’d also agreed to meet up so he could show me the local area and some of the ‘sights’ so I was going to head over there on Tuesday. The aim of the chat is to spread and promote tourism, plus engage with other travelers and Twitter users, so it’s always fun and I was quite excited at the prospect of meeting up. Eric had even set up a radio chat for us on the Wednesday morning which was both exciting and nerve-wrecking haha.
Thursday was then going to be the opening day of the baseball season so myself, Maddie and Cassie were going to head over to Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners. I figured I could spend Tuesday night in Union Gap, see some of Union Gap (and maybe Yakima), do the chat, spend Wednesday night in Ellensburg and then drive out to Seattle with Maddie and Cassie on Thursday.
I already knew the baseball had been cancelled but then myself and Eric sensibly agreed to postpone meeting up, which was prior to the “stay at home” order which would have taken the decision out of our hands anyway. With nothing open it just didn’t seem worthwhile.
So Tuesday was uneventful before doing our little chat from our respective homes on Wednesday. It was quite fun and certainly kept me busy for a good hour or two in responding to all of the different people engaging on Twitter.
Not content with just one day of Twitter engagement, another friend (Ian from England), asked if I’d submit a little recording for his podcast. He was doing an episode on people who specifically traveled for sporting events and I, unsurprisingly, sprung to mind. We’d met up in England just shortly before my trip to Madrid in June so I was one of a few people that sprung to mind. It was only a short piece, one of several to contribute, but Ian’s episode went live over the weekend. For anyone interested in my podcast debut, you can listen here!
Then on Friday I’d also been invited to co-host another day-long Twitter chat which gets a hell of a lot more traffic than the one earlier in the week. It was also a lot of fun but rounded off a really blog and Twitter heavy week. Aside from being fun to engage with other travelers, one of the perks is it helps promote your own profile and it’s of no surprise that my Twitter and blog traffic soared this week.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve spent all of my time on the internet and neglected Haleigh but I promise we’ve still been enjoying eachother’s company too haha. We’ve made small and early steps towards wedding planning, continued watching Disney movies and binge-watching Supernatural, read and just generally basked in all of the time together. The circumstances certainly aren’t ideal and we’re probably suffering a little cabin-fever but there’s nobody I’d rather spend this quarantine era with haha.
Sadly it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. On Sunday Trump did a press conference which suggested these social-distancing and stay-at-home measures would be extended until April 30th which has made me a little more wary.
I was due to fly home on May 1st which felt just a little too close for my liking. I’d personally have no issue about staying here longer but I’m here on a 90 day visa and I’d pushed this trip to the limits. I think May 1st is something like 88 days in the country so a last minute flight cancellation would really cause some problems.
As I said, I’m not personally opposed to staying longer but unfortunately the USA don’t treat visa breaches with the same attitude. I’ve seen suggestions you can be banned from returning to the country for up to 10 years which would bring a host of new problems.
I planned on phoning the British embassy in San Francisco on Tuesday to see what my options were. Unfortunately they’d seemingly decided to close! I was on the phone with this automated message telling me what the opening hours are but they’d closed irrespective of those opening hours. On the 14th of March Trump banned all Brits from visiting the country so I don’t know if that played a part in the closure, perhaps they thought nobody would require assistance if nobody was visiting but it scuppered any hope I had of extending my visa a little longer.
It did make me chuckle somewhat though, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt the need to phone the British embassy on my travels and they weren’t available! That’s encouraging for the future!
I did a little further online research but nothing that suggested it’d be easy for me to stay any longer so I reluctantly phoned my airline (Virgin Atlantic) to see if they could change my flight for me. They were able to but they didn’t have a single direct flight for the entirety of April, I didn’t particularly fancy transiting anywhere, certainly if somewhere like New York City was going to be my best option.
Annoyingly Virgin weren’t able to offer me a refund either, I’m guessing I’ll have to wait and see if that flight is cancelled to claim a refund. They did suggest they’d be able to offer me flight credit so at worst I might take them up on that or move the flight to later in the year and re-use it as I’ll certainly be returning to Washington at some point.
However my more immediate concern was getting a flight home with their competitor, British Airways, who still seemed to be offering direct flights. I succeeded so it’s with a heavy heart that there will be no post on month three in Washington.
I’ve made the difficult decision to fly back to England early and I fly home on Sunday evening. I wouldn’t change anything about the whole experience, I’m so pleased I came out here but of course I’m also sad that my trip has been shortened due to circumstances completely out of my control.
It wasn’t how this trip was supposed to end, I feel like I still have a bit of unfinished business here. I’m very much a laid-back individual with a “go-with-the-flow” attitude but this stings a bit. Yet that’s the unpredictable nature of travel I suppose, even as somewhat of an experienced traveler sometimes things don’t go as planned.
On a more positive note it will be nice to go home and see familiar faces from a socially acceptable distance. I’m also optimistic that my flight home will be largely empty, I’m crossing my fingers for an upgrade (are you reading BA?) given there will presumably be space on board!
Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed month two in spite of the difficult circumstances. Fortunately the coming posts will feature much more to talk about as I’ll be kicking off my big summer trip of 2018. If you want a little taster of what’s to come, here’s a pathetic summary of that trip.
I’ll be sharing a day by day telling of “The Big 3-0” trip to the USA. 30 days celebrating my 30th birthday in 2018. Next up is day one of that trip! Stay tuned!