Another Year, Another Reflection

2014 was another great and successful year for me. While there were no cross-country moves this year, I did have two epic adventures – an excursion to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, as well as a hop across the pond – and continued to explore Seattle and become comfortable living on the west coast.

It can often be difficult to make friends as an adult, and I think this is especially true if you pack up and move thousands of miles. Now that I have lived in Seattle for a year and a half, I’ve started to establish more life-long friendships and relationships with people in my new city. Even though that wasn’t a goal that I listed at the beginning of the year, I consider this one of my top accomplishments.

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Castles & Guinness: My Trip to Ireland & Scotland

I packed up my bags and went on yet another adventure this year. This time, the destination was Ireland and Scotland!

We split our time up pretty evenly between the two countries and had approximately three days in each location. This allowed for a bit of time for exploring in Dublin and Edinburgh, as well as day trips to Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.

First Leg: Ireland
Dublin is an awesome city and I surely wouldn’t mind traveling back someday. I even managed to get out to Phoenix Park for a few runs, which was necessary since I was in the midst of training for a marathon.

Phoenix Park(Of course, a stop in Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Guinness brew house and a few Irish pubs as well!) Continue reading

Las Vegas & Arizona Adventure

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so of course I’ve decided to write a blog post about my experience. Unfortunately (fortunately?), nothing that crazy happened while vacationing in Sin City so I don’t have any hesitations about sharing details to the internet…

What do you get when you bring together friends from all over the country? A weekend full of memories.

First, a bit of back story. Now that we’ve all graduated from college and have started our careers, my friends live all over the United States. The posse for this trip was comprised of friends from Boston, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Seattle. Half of the group are accountants. Conveniently, our trip occurred the weekend after April 15th – it was meant as 1) a celebration of the end of tax season, and 2) a quarter life crisis trip (most of us are turning 25 at some point this year).

Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada

Las Vegas – Blue Man Group & Casinos, Casinos, Casinos. And a bunch of old ladies handing out stripper cards.

The Las Vegas part of the trip started for me on a Thursday evening. Tym & I flew in fairly late, and everybody else were all pretty worn out since they had arrived from the east coast. I spent some time witnessing the Las Vegas nightlife, and my takeaways from the first night were as follows:

1) Nevada is very flat.

2) There are a lot of bright, flashy lights in Vegas.

3) Old women like to hang out on every street corner, trying to give passersby stripper cards of women that are definitely much younger than them (and who are definitely wearing much less clothing).

The Vegas adventure truly kicked off on Friday. While half of the group spent the day traveling in Utah, the rest of us explored the various casinos and made a bit of cash.

What? You *made* money while you were in Vegas?! Impossible.

Yep, we made cash on our first day in the city! While walking down one of the sidewalks along the Vegas strip, we were stopped by an affiliate of NBC collecting feedback from various individuals regarding potential new TV shows coming this fall. I was whisked away to a creepy, secluded location, where I watched the pilot for Old Soul and pocketed $20. Not a bad deal.

Blue Man Group Performance

The highlight of Friday (and one of the main highlights of the entire trip) was attending a Blue Man Group performance that evening. I hadn’t known much about the show beforehand, and it was definitely a memorable time. They even let us photograph and record the last five minutes, which ended up being a giant party with floating balls and toilet paper.

Saturday & Sunday were additional days in Vegas and included more sightseeing (specifically, Fremont, the Stratsosphere, and the Las Vegas Sign), and of course a bit more drinking and gambling. I crossed another item from my bucket list and played live blackjack in a casino. Sadly, I did not profit over the weekend.

Hoover Dam, Route 66, and the Grand Canyon

If there’s one takeaway that you get from reading this blog post, let it be this:

Do NOT try to fit in the Hoover Dam, Route 66, and the Grand Canyon all in one day.

Monday was the last full day of the trip and so we had approximately 16 hours to tour the Hoover Dam, drive on Route 66, visit the Grand Canyon, and travel the 4+ hours back to the hotel in Vegas.

The Hoover Dam was magnificent, and I was in awe that something so large was completely man-made. You can explore the outside of the dam for free, so I would definitely recommend just doing that and skipping the tour if you are a bit pressed for time.

Hoover Dam

The drive through Arizona was relatively boring, but I did learn that tumbleweeds actually do exist. I always thought that they were just placed in cartoons and movies for exaggeration, but in reality the tumbleweeds that I saw in Arizona were probably the most movement I saw out there all day. We did find a cool diner while traveling on Route 66, though.

Unfortunately, the one negative to this part of our trip was that we did not arrive to the Grand Canyon until after 5:30pm. The sun set just after 7pm, so we had very little time to explore the canyon. We managed to stop at two different points, but there were several other points that we missed.

However, we did get to witness one hell of a sunset.

Grand Canyon Sunset

I’ll definitely be making a trip back to the Grand Canyon in a year or two. One could easily spend multiple days hiking the canyon and sightseeing. It is truly one of the most beautiful wonders of the world that I have ever experienced.

Where’s my next adventure?

I’ve certainly had a travel bug lately. You may have read about my adventure in Europe last summer, and I definitely want to head back that way soon. I don’t have anything specific planned yet, but Italy and Croatia are the top two contenders at the moment – potentially later this summer or fall!

Any recommendations?

– Robert

EuroTrip 2013: Amsterdam, Southern England, & London

At the end of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe – specifically, Amsterdam, Southern England, & London! It really pays off having a best friend who loves to travel (and also loves doing all of the planning).

The 9-day adventure was full of amazing sights with awesome friends. Each location was incredible in its own way, and the three destinations were so different that it’s hard to pick which one was my favorite.

Amsterdam Highlights

The adventure started on a Friday afternoon, though it took us until the afternoon of the following day to finally reach Amsterdam. We immediately started to explore the city, even though we were all a bit jetlagged. Saturday was the day for drinking tours, as we made stops at both Heineken and the House of Bols.

My favorite part of Amsterdam was definitely the architecture – every house is so different, and many of them have their own coat of arms. A lot of the buildings are older, with narrow staircases, and have hooks at the top of their roofs to help pulley furniture to the higher floors.

One of the characteristics that stuck out to me the most was that almost everybody bikes in Amsterdam, and you’d better get out of the way if you ever find yourself in the middle of a bike lane. Because of the number of number of walking paths and canals, it was also easy to navigate your way around the city. All of the canals are constructed in circles surrounding the city, making it difficult to get lost.

Europe 2013 - Amsterdam & Anne Frank House

The second day of the trip was full of more tours, rides on the canal, and exploring the city. We made stops at the Anne Frank House, Brouwerijtij, and the Red Light District of course. I also highly recommend getting a pancake while visiting the Netherlands – my vote is for the banana and Nutella pancake!

On the third and final full day in the Netherlands, we had a private tour guide take us to view the windmills and to explore the city of Rotterdam, among many other places.

Europe 2013 - Netherland's Windmills

Southern England Highlights

The second leg of the trip took us to southern England, near the shore and right smack in the middle of the English countryside. The views here were gorgeous, and we were very lucky to stay with a former pastor of a church from my hometown in Pennsylvania. We toured the area where the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, and it was a nice change of pace from the hustle of the city life.

Europe 2013 - Southern England

London Highlights

The final stop of our journey was London, a complete opposite experience from the previous days of exploring the country. While London was too far spread out for me to ever want to live there, I loved doing all of the touristy things such as riding the London Eye and looking for the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Another highlight for me was touring the Belfast ship.

Europe 2013 - London

My favorite part of the London segment was definitely watching the Lion King performance. We went all out for this show and had front row seats overlooking the orchestra pit. It was amazing to me how well they stuck to the original movie, and the production of it all was phenomenal.

We also had the opportunity to tour Parliament, and the nerd in me convinced everybody to take a short detour to King’s Cross station as well!

Europe 2013 - Platform 9 & 3/4As always, any trip planned by Curtis is a great one, and I’m looking forward to the Las Vegas and Grand Canyon adventure in April. I may not post a recap about that one, though, because you know what they say about what happens in Vegas…

– Robert

A Whirlwind of a Year: 2013

With a cross-country move and a 9-day excursion in Europe (blog post coming soon!), I think I can safely say that 2013 was a crazy year! I thought now would be a great time to reflect on some of 2013’s other events and review the resolutions that I set for myself. I also have new goals for 2014 (including being more active on this blog…)

THON 2013

THON 2013One of the most memorable experiences of 2013 occurred back in February, when I had the opportunity to experience Penn State University’s annual THON event. This event is a 48 hour dance marathon and the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. 2013’s THON raised over $12.37 million dollars for pediatric cancer research.

Many thousands of PSU students experience the dance marathon every year but only a few hundred dancers are chosen to partake in the entire event on the dance floor. As an outsider of the PSU community, I felt very lucky to be able to go on the dance floor with a special guest pass to give one of my friends encouragement during the early morning hours of the last night. I also had the opportunity to meet a THON family, who were some of the most optimistic and upbeat people I’ve ever met.

The year of the comedians

I saw more comedians last year than I think I’ve ever seen. In early 2013, Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation) performed at the University of Rochester. Later in the year, I saw Daniel Tosh in Seattle and Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood at RIT’s Brick City Homecoming. I also met Aisha Tyler at a book signing event in Seattle. Aisha plays Lana on another one of my favorite shows, Archer and is the new host of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I doubt 2014 will be quite as eventful, but it’s definitely possible. I already have tickets to see more of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? regulars in February in Vancouver.

Reflections & 2014 Resolutions

Some of my goals for 2014 are very similar to my 2013 goals. This isn’t because I failed at my goals, but because I would like to continue along the same path and improve upon them.

My goals for 2014 include the following…

1) Run my 4th marathon. I successfully completed the Seattle Marathon at the beginning of December, but I would love to run a race that’s flatter.

2) Continuing reading & writing more. My focus was on reading last year, so this year I would like to improve my writing skills. I’m already reading more than I did while in college, and I expect this trend to continue.

3) Volunteer more. I did not volunteer as much in 2013 as I would have liked. I set this as a repeat goal for 2014, which I should be able to accomplish as I am already signed up to be an active participant in my company’s 1-1-1 pledge to give back to the Rochester community. I will likely write on this initiative sometime later in the year.

4) Continue learning. Now that I’m no longer in college, most of the things I’m learning have been related to my current job position. This is not a bad thing, but there’s so much more out there that I could be learning. My goal is to at least complete a handful of online courses, and I’m currently signed up for two courses on Coursera that begin later this week.

5) Improve personal web site & other web projects. Work always takes priority over my personal projects, and I’d like to set a goal for myself to devote more time to them this year. It will probably result in me wasting less time doing inconsequential things like browsing Facebook and Twitter, which wouldn’t be a tragedy by any means.

Happy 2014!

I feel like I’ve rambled quite a bit in this post, so it’s time for me to sign off and watch the rest of the Seahawks game. Until next time!

– Robert