Reichart Ramblings
The Thoughts & Travels of Shane & Amanda Reichart

Read This Before Stressing About Christmas

Nov 27, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

Things just shifted! Did you feel it too?! Suddenly the busyness of Christmas is upon us! Buying Christmas presents, going to parties, trying to fit work in before a visit to see family, and eating and watching ALL the Christmassy things before they’re gone! Less than a month is all we have left to take in this season before the start of a fresh new year claims our attention.

Our busyness doesn’t always leave a lot of time for reflection or even enjoyment this time of year and amongst all the parties and holiday cheer there can also be a lot of pain, stress and striving. Things from our past we miss or regret, unhealthy family members you feel the need to interact with, things you’ve been waiting for that have yet to come or finding the perfect present for everyone on your list. While Christmas time can be fun and exciting, it can also be overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the doing and forget about just being present in the moment.

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This topic seems to be coming up a lot for me lately. God is much more concerned about who we are becoming and much less concerned about what we are doing. Our whole culture, however, is results oriented! We want tangible proof of success, whether that be the number in our bank account, on the tag in our jeans or a title or position affixed to a door. And while none of these are bad things to work towards, it’s all too easy to place all our focus on them and neglect the most important things in life.

There’s one sentence in the story of Jesus’ birth that has captivated me for years. Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” How overwhelmed Mary must have been! She had just given birth for the first time away from family, away from her home, and lying in a barn! This is not where she saw her life going! Her whole world was forever changed. THE WHOLE WORLD was forever changed! I imagine her wrapping up her tiny child. Holding him close and then just staring down into his newborn face taking mental pictures in her mind of each movement he made, of every noise that escaped his little lips. Trying to grasp the magnitude of everything that had taken place over the last nine months to culminate in this moment. How often did she go back through these treasured memories? How many more did she accumulate over the years as Jesus grew up? Were those the thoughts that bubbled up as she watched her son endure the cross? Did they somehow carry her through the days after his burial before his resurrection? Did the moments she spent just being with, just reflecting on her son and her LORD carry her through the darkest parts of her life? Did they help her with her waiting, with her grieving?

I have no doubt Mary was changed by her time spent with Jesus. In her waiting for Him. By waiting on him and being with him Mary became like Him. Because when you interact with Christ you can’t help but walk away changed.

This Christmas season I hope you will take time to stop and reflect. To gather up memories in the presence of Christ like treasures. Set the doing aside and instead spend some time just being. Be with your family. Be with your friends. Be with Jesus. Set your work, your phone, your stress aside and focus for a moment on who you are becoming. Not what you’re giving or getting. Because he is in the waiting.


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spain and andorra

Oct 31, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

We arrived once again at our intended destination well after midnight. This time to our Airbnb in Madrid and so had a late start to our exploring the next day. We began at a Peruvian restaurant that Shane was excited to take me to as he remembered his trip Peru. We ordered ceviche. It had a wonderful flavor, but the sight and texture of the fish made me more than a little squeamish. We then spent the day wandering around Parque El Retiro, a huge park filled with walking paths, fountains, gardens, peacocks and beautiful architecture. Honestly, this park has it all!

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The next day we found ourselves at my favorite palace so far on our adventures! The Royal Palace of Madrid was stunningly beautiful with room after room of ornate art, a royal armory, fine china and of course a throne room. Unfortunately, many of the more ornate rooms did not allow photography. So, you will have to picture in your mind the crown molding, the floors with hand-placed tiny marble

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Royal Palace of Madrid

designs so intricate it must have taken hours upon hours to lay them, the velvet wallpaper in black and white flowers, and the gold detailing throughout. Every ceiling is painted with scenes of angels and gods and goddesses clothed in flowing robes, or more often barely clothed at all.

While our day included an incredible palace and walking the streets of Madrid, it also included the more mundane: like finally finding travel-sized shaving cream and mousse! And even better yet, stumbling across my favorite gelato ever! Violet gelato. Suffice it to say, anytime I find violet gelato I will be indulging in it!

If only every day could be royal palaces and violet gelato! But the following day found us on a train to Barcelona. On the way Shane’s computer completely crashed and he got the black screen of death! He had now lost a Nintendo Switch and his computer on this trip, he was not happy. And neither was I.

We were about to stay at our first hostel and because it had been last minute, we also would have to stay in separate rooms. I was not looking forward to it! As we both grieved in our own ways, Shane for his electronics and me for upcoming accommodations our train ride ended and we began walking to the dreaded hostel. On our trip we encountered an outdoor elevator that unfortunately was not running because it was after 11 pm, so we then had to tackle at least one hundred stairs to make it to our accommodations with our bags! Arriving at the hostel did not alleviate any of my fears! Except that we did manage to be put in the same room. Still, it was awful. It smelled gross, people were sleeping in one of the beds that was supposed to be ours, and most of the curtains were at leastWild_goose_chase.jpg partly falling down on the beds. After having a sufficient cry, we managed to find beds that were not occupied, get our belongings into one locker and get a fair amount of sleep under the circumstances. ( I do have to interject that my experience at a hostel is not typical if you get a good one. At least this is what Shane has told me many times and I believe him. Just do your research beforehand. I would hate for someone to not travel because they’re scared of the hostel experience but don’t feel they can afford to travel another way based on my experience with this particular hostel!)

Shane and I did get out and explore beautiful Barcelona the next day but not before discovering his computer could be resurrected! We took the time to praise God for His kindness and goodness! It felt like a huge thing to us but we recognize that the problems we found ourselves in were very privileged problems to have! We are traveling the world together and are unhappy about one of our accommodations. We had a computer crash, but I am carrying an identical one (just not with the work saved Shane had been doing) Shane would have been able to use my computer to continue working and yet God still cares. He cares about the little details of our lives and He answered our prayer by allowing Shane to find a solution to get his computer working again. And Shane managed to find a Nintendo Switch on Facebook Marketplace to buy on the last day in Spain as well!

Barcelona did not disappoint! We visited Park Güell and downtown Barcelona to see the famous and unique Guadi architecture. It was so fun visiting the park and exploring at our own pace, taking pictures and being in awe of such a unique style. We also visited Sagrada Familia. Now if you’ve ever been to Europe you no doubt have seen many cathedrals, each elaborate and beautiful. And we also have seen plenty of those! But this one really outdoes them all! It is more modern and still incomplete as they continue to add towers with plans to finally complete it in 2026 after it has been worked on since 1882. It has a forest theme and the soft light from the stain glass gives it a peaceful natural feeling. I have always felt closer to God in nature and wonder if this was why the architect chose this theme bringing nature into this place of worship.

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While staying in Barcelona we took a day trip to Andorra. I know it sounds made up, but it’s a real country! Tucked between Spain and France we had the most spectacular mountain views as they seemingly soared above us on the bus ride through North Eastern Spain. When we arrived at the bus station to begin our journey I suddenly realized I hadn’t brought my passport! Shane was unconcerned since we would still technically be in the EU and didn’t think we would need it. However, when we pulled up to Andorra’s border and two uniformed border control officers stepped onto our bus I again began to panic. I thought I might be seeing those spectacular mountain views again more quickly than expected! Thankfully as I sent up a prayer and handed the officer my license, he glanced at it and moved right along!

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Andorra is indeed a tiny country and aside from the beautiful river that flows through the center and some beautiful mountains surrounding it there was not much to do! A day trip was certainly enough time for us to explore and still be left with some time to relax with some ice cream and wait for the bus back. And after all the highs and lows Spain held, we welcomed the rest. We are, after all, only a month into our journeys! So much more exploring to do!


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The wedding

Oct 12, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

I slipped on my black dress hoping I hadn’t made a huge cultural mistake in my color choice. I reminded myself that it was the best I could find in such a short amount of time and that my research beforehand said it was perfectly acceptable to wear black to a European wedding. But still, I was headed to a wedding where I didn’t know anyone and certainly didn’t want to stand out for wearing the wrong thing.

Venue.jpgThankfully, my fears were soon set to rest as we made our way into the gorgeous cathedral and I began observing the other guests’ attire. I wasn’t sure what to expect at a Portuguese wedding, but I was very excited to find out!

The wedding was located at Basilica da Estrela in Lisbon. And what a setting for a wedding! It was beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that tourists were making their way in and out as the time for the wedding grew closer and closer. One tourist sat in our row as the wedding began until her friend noticeably signaled it was time for them to leave. With her hiking sandals and hiking pack she certainly stood out from the crowd!

The bride, Adriana, was beautiful! Her long veil and long-sleeve, lace-overlaid dress fit the space perfectly, but it was her smile and obvious joy that shone even brighter! The ceremony was a beautiful celebration of two lives coming together to serve Christ. From the music to the homily, it glorified our Savior, pointing to Him throughout. What a joy to witness two people coming together, both in love with each other and in love with God.

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The bride was Adriana, and the groom was Paulo. Adriana was lives in France and Paulo lives in Belgium. We later got to hear a bit of the back story of the difficulties of planning a wedding between three different countries with neither of them living in the country they were married in. We also got to hear of God’s provision to provide a way for them to be married in Basilica da Estrela when so many other places had refused to allow them to bring in their own pastor to be a part of the ceremony. The priest at Basilica da Estrela welcomed them and even told them he would practice English for six months in preparation of their special day. It was an answer to their prayers, and it was beautiful to watch it unfold.

Adriana and Paulo had graciously set up two charter buses for out-of-town guests to get from the wedding to the reception. We were very grateful as it was a long distance and our track record for getting around Portugal was dismal! I’m sure many others were grateful as well as there were people from Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden and many other countries in attendance! It was on our bus ride that the question arose from another guest about how we knew the couple. Shane quickly stated he had met the bride while traveling and it was left at that, but that was only a small portion of the story!

Reception.jpgThe cocktail hour was located at a vineyard and the space was perfectly staged with clusters of couches and chairs scattered throughout the space making it both cozy and romantic. There were tables of appetizers and hors d’oeuvre being brought around at regular intervals. Aside from being a bit breezy it was magical!

Cocktail hour led straight into the four-course meal. It began with a melon soup, which was special to the couple because Paulo’s last name is "Melancia" which means “melon,” and, as we learned, soup is served at most meals in Portugal. The second course was fish and potatoes, followed by the third course of duck and vegetables, and finally, the final course was dessert. While planning to attend the wedding, we were surprised to see the time of the wedding was from 4 pm to 5 am! But as our scheduled return shuttle neared, we better understood. It was nearly midnight when the final course was served! Even with all that time passing, I was beyond full. There was certainly no shortage of food! And then, after all that food, wedding cake was served! The couple celebrated with their first dance, which was beautifully choreographed.

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It's natural to ask another guest if they’re friends of the bride or groom and how you met. But our story of how we know the couple is more than a little unusual. Shane met the bride through an online dating site about four years earlier, and while traveling abroad met her, in person, in France in early 2020. They remained in touch, becoming good friends, but aside from video chats and a couple in-person dates, their relationship didn’t develop beyond that. Near the beginning of 2022, Adriana told Shane she was starting thirty-days of prayer and fasting with some other single women and that she was praying both for Shane’s spouse and for her own. It was around that same time that Shane and I met each other, and Adriana met Paulo shortly after that! So, although the beginning of our friendship is certainly unusual, she has become a dear sister in Christ, and someone who interceded in prayer on our behalf! Shane and I are so grateful for her prayers and were so honored to have the chance to witness hers and Paulo's marriage!

Champagne_toast.jpgIt was also an honor to meet so many of their friends! It was truly a wonderful group of people, and they made me feel connected to community again even though they all began as complete strangers! It was a balm to my homesick soul!

The next day, we got to spend even more time with Adriana, Paulo, and their guests as they had set up a brunch and beach day! We again got to enjoy being with these wonderful people and even made plans to meet up with some on our upcoming trip to France!

Adriana and Paulo’s wedding was one of the highlights of Portugal! How incredible that God connected us all through many answered prayers. How precious to spend time with other believers celebrating and standing in awe of how good God is. How encouraging to see another couple starting their lives in worship of Christ and intentionally living out their days together serving Him!

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Congratulations Adriana and Paulo! We believe that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion!


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Portugal

Oct 5, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

The weather during our trip has been all over the place! In England and Ireland, it was unseasonably cold while Portugal and Spain were having a record heat wave. Due to a delayed flight, we did not arrive in Lisbon until nearly 2 a.m. and were headed out the next morning to catch a train to Porto, Portugal. We arrived at the train station by bus and were unable to get a train until later in the afternoon. This was not a big problem as Shane needed to get some work done after several very busy weeks of exploring! Due to the typically moderate weather in Portugal, however, the train station did not have air conditioning and we were melting! Although Shane needed to work the heat made it nearly impossible until finally, he gave up and we joined everyone around us in eating ice cream bars.

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Squid Ink Seafood Ravioli

We boarded the train and got situated in the perfect spot. Finally, we had air conditioning and the perfect set-up to work and rest as we made our way to Porto. That is until we realized there were assigned seats and we were not in ours. So, we grabbed our very heavy bags and made our way 3-4 cars back to our seats. There only to discover that the one train car that did not have air conditioning held our designated seats! The heat was stifling with no airflow and nothing but hours of riding to go. Shane once again gave up on working, but this time there was no ice cream to distract us and temporarily cool us off. Near the end of our ride, I realized my ankles were quite swollen. It felt as though it was past discomfort and becoming dangerous. Someone finally came and opened the windows but this provided little relief. When we found we had passed the train stop we needed, a kind person helped us buy the tickets we needed, but then we passed our stop a second time! We were overtired, feet swollen, but finally not hot as the temperatures had dropped with it nearing evening. We were so happy to arrive at our Airbnb but then discovered the address was not complete. Addresses in other countries are complicated and not in the same order as we are used to so we didn’t realize we were missing needed information. Shane messaged the host and then we sat outside in the courtyard of the apartment buildings and waited. It was only around ten minutes before our host came down to get us but after such a long day it felt like forever! We ended the evening with a good meal and gelato, and so ready to get some rest!

Porto is beautiful! We only spent a day and a half enjoying it, but it was time well spent. We picked aWine_Tour.jpg simple wine tour. It included a short tour of the city and a tour of the winery where we got to sample two wines. We then headed to a museum about the same winery and sampled another wine. It was interesting to see how the winery operated and a delight to indulge a little after two long travel days. After the wine tour, we wandered around the city and came upon a food market with several local cuisines to dine on including Natas, which is similar to a miniature flan but so much tastier!

Our train ride back to Lisbon was thankfully much less noteworthy. But our dinner wasn’t! We went to a restaurant just down the street from where we were staying as it had still been a long day of travel. We were pretty far out from the city center and despite them not having an English menu we were able to order via Google Translate, the little English our waiter knew, and pointing to the items we wanted. We ordered a meal for two that came with three different types of meat and French fries. We then ordered a carafe of champagne to share. Olives were brought to the table, and then bread. Shane looked at me and said, “I think this is going to be a very expensive meal. I forgot that in some countries if you don’t refuse something they are bringing they will charge you for it.” We were already this far in so with some concern for what the bill would bring we continued enjoying our meal. When we finally called for the check, it only totaled twenty-four euros! We couldn’t believe it!

The train ride to Lisbon turned out to be more noteworthy than it first appeared when Shane realized he had left his Nintendo Switch in the pocket of the seat in front of him. He sent an email to the train station immediately in hopes that either someone had turned it in, or so they could check the seat pocket. It seemed possible it was still there since the color was very similar and the Switch blended in with the seat pocket fabric; part of why he forgot to grab it when leaving the train. And the next day we went to the train station to check with them in person. The language barrier was difficulty to overcome, and it seemed the attendant who “helped us” hoped if he stared off into space for long enough, we would just give up. This meant a long time of wait and much frustration as Shane tried to communicate our situation. The attendant finally got a manager to talk with us and while we doubted the Switch would be found, Shane was satisfied that he had at least conveyed his point and the train car would be checked. That left us with our other goal for the day: finding a cocktail attire dress for the wedding we would attend in Lisbon.

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Lisbon’s streets and sidewalks are beautiful! They are made of mosaic tiles in many different patterns. While they are very pretty and unique to look at, the steep hills make them slick and incredibly difficult to walk on! I kept making Shane hold onto me so I wouldn’t slip. Thankfully there were beautiful views and we made our way on foot to find a dress using Google as our means of finding a suitable store. It was comical trying to explain what “cocktail attire” meant to Shane. He was so sweet to help me look for dresses and would even point some out and patiently wait as I tried them on. But as it got later and later in the day I could see he was fading. I think most women can relate that when you are looking for something specific you can never find it and when you are broke you can’t stop finding things that look perfect on you. With this in mind and wishing I would have used the space in my travel bag for an appropriate dress, we headed to one more store. Thankfully it had what I needed! And then we quickly found a pair of shoes that not only went with the dress but were actually comfortable heels. It felt like a miracle. And so, on our six-month anniversary, we spent the day in sacrifice for each other. I had patience while Shane tried and track down something important to him and he had patience while I tried to find something important to me. It actually is a pretty good picture of marriage. Exploring together, laughing together, and sacrificing for one another.

And Lisbon was full of adventures and misadventures most often involving travel. You may be noticing a trend! Trying to catch the metro so we wouldn’t have to wait for the next one we hopped on looking everywhere for somewhere to pay, but we didn’t see a place to buy tickets. On arrival, we realized we couldn’t exit the metro without a ticket so walked into the police station to tell them we still needed to pay. Maybe this was the beginning of my homesickness or maybe it was due to this being the longest I had ever traveled or maybe it was due to the language barrier that was worse than any country so far. Whatever the cause, it hit me hard! We found ourselves back at that same station a couple of days later having a conversation with an attendant who told us getting to the town of Sintra was, “not possible” as we looked at a metro line named “Sintra”. I ended up breaking down. I was so frustrated as we had just had a conversation with him the previous day when he kept saying, “It is simple, you are clever.” It was not at all simple. The problem, we finally discovered, is that you can buy trips or you can put money on a card but you can’t put them on the same card. The purchases, however, are saved on the exact same card, so you have to mark which one has money and which has trips! You also have to know how many zones you need to go if putting trips on your card. All that to say… we never made it to Sintra. That day we simply went McDonalds. We were out of Euros, the local restaurants wouldn’t take American credit cards and, well, we just needed something familiar!

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There was also the time Shane and I almost got separated on a train and had to form a game plan as we realized we would have had no way of contacting each other if truly separated. And the time we tried to get into the wrong apartment and I’m sure scared the poor lady living there to death!

My favorite misadventure, though, occurred on a walk to find a grocery store. Shane and I passed a small shop and saw a man dressed in all black, with a black hoodie pulled up over his head sprint out of the shop’s door. I turned to Shane and said, “Do you think that guy just stole something?” Just after that comment the store owner came running out and pointed him in the direction of the man we had just seen. As we walked further, we came up a hill and there eating a bag of chips was the same guys we saw make a quick exist from the store. Shane walked towards him and said, “You need to take that back. The guy said, “Sorry, I don’t speak English,” in perfect English. Shane turned to me and said, “I’m not sure where we go from here.” We walked away shocked by the man’s audacity.

While our Portugal trip held travel challenges, beautiful landscape, mosaic tiles and homesickness it also held one more thing. A wedding! But that feels like it needs a post all its own.

 


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Ireland

Oct 2, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

Two countries down and I thought I was starting to get this traveling process down. But Ireland decided to prove otherwise. After our flight we headed to the busses and purchased a ticket to get us the majority of the way to our accommodations. Once on our way, however, Shane realized the bus they had told us to get on was the wrong one. We confirmed this with the bus driver and he told us which bus stop we needed to get as close as possible to our destination. After a quick lunch in downtown Dublin, we caught our next bus only to find we either needed to pay either with euros or a bus card. Thankfully the bus driver took pity on us and let us on without paying. This is not an uncommon occurrence. They don’t want to hold up the bus schedule and if they can clearly see you don’t know the process, they often just tell you to get on. In gratitude, Shane got into his bag and pulled out some euros in bills. The gentleman next to me had asked where we were from and kindly began to explain Ireland’s public transportation system. As Shane got up to take the bills to the bus driver he said, “It’s not going to work, they only take exact change.” Sure enough, Shane came back with the bills. The same gentleman then traded Shane euro coins for bills in an effort to help us out. Shane once again went to the bus driver to pay. We were trying to do the right thing! The driver still declined the money. Unfortunately our journey troubles still weren’t over. While now we had exact change needed, we missed our next bus and had to wait at the bus stop for 50 minutes! If only that was the end of our transportation troubles in Ireland…

Thankfully, our Airbnb was wonderful once we finally arrived! It was located on a college campus

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The Burren

but the room was set up exactly like a hotel room and also had a common space with couches and a kitchen for us to use as well. Even though it was a pretty good distance from they city center, for this trip it ended up being exactly what we needed!

We walked over to a local grocery store to get some food for dinner and settled in. Only then to realize we had no way to get to the next day’s excursion. We didn’t have enough coins for both of us to take the bus and hadn’t purchased a bus card. Shane was beginning to not feel well. He was really tired and didn’t want to make the twenty-minute round trip walk back to the same grocery store to buy the bus cards. But because I didn’t have data on my phone and would have no way to contact him if I had problems, he decided to come with me. Have I mentioned I married a good man?! And good thing he came, because the grocery store did not have any more bus cards! This added another ten-minute walk to our trip to where we were finally able to buy the bus cards. By the way, if anyone is going to Ireland soon let us know. The bus cards are five euros each and you can have ours!

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Giants Causeway

The bus card was well worth it as the next day it got us to our excursion at Giant’s Causeway. It was incredible! And despite still not feeling great, Shane ran all over those perfectly hexagonal rocks! How sick could he really be? Our tour guide was an Irish man who had stories to go on for days! Stories of religious persecution in Ireland like being unable to buy property in certain areas. And stories of the challenges of getting in and out of Northern Ireland. He also talked of bombings in Belfast and the IRA.

Our next day was a rest day which was perfect as Shane was still fighting something. The following day we were off to the Cliffs of Moher!

Our journey had a very interesting beginning. As our tour guide was filling us in on some general details she asked that no one talked while she was speaking. An older couple, probably their early 70’s continued talking. It appeared they spoke little English and likely did not understand much of what she was saying. The bus driver walked past them at a stop to pick up more passengers and said, “Do you understand my English? Please don’t talk while she is talking.” The husband took great offense at this and let the tour guide know. The tour guide backed up the bus driver but apparently the matter was not dropped. Shortly after the bus driver began our trip again the gentleman got up and employed physical contact to get the drivers attention. The tour guide lost it! Not only was it scary to be physically distracting the driver, it was clear from this and previous comments that he was not going to be a reasonable or safe passenger. The tour guide told him he must get off the bus which he did not do until she threatened to call the police. Thankfully it was all smooth sailing from there! The cliffs are stunning! Pictures cannot do them justice! We took pictures from so many different angles which required a lot of climbing. I was so tired and wondered how I was so out of shape! We also drove along the Burren which is a beautiful and vast rocky plane. The scenery was almost too much beauty to take in in one day! I kept telling Shane, “I’ve seen too much beauty, I need to look at some ugly things to balance it out!”

PXL_20230818_1029060361.jpg PXL_20230818_1033279491.jpg PXL_20230816_1121280611.jpg PXL_20230816_1024533291.jpg PXL_20230818_1220348881.jpg PXL_20230816_1024206641.jpg PXL_20230816_1023194891.jpg PXL_20230816_1119496911.jpg PXL_20230816_1139030701.jpg PXL_20230816_1113199741.jpg PXL_20230818_1221086331.jpg PXL_20230816_1140123211.jpg PXL_20230818_1051005601.jpg PXL_20230818_1029394891.jpg PXL_20230816_1133297021.jpg PXL_20230816_1014394991.jpg PXL_20230818_1015131931.jpg PXL_20230816_1111088461.jpg You probably all have been thinking, did you have COVID? Well, we never tested but the answer is likely yes. My mother-in-law, Annette, informed us there was a huge outbreak in Ireland. Those of you who know Shane may be thinking, “That sounds right as he also likely spread COVID throughout Europe, possibly being patient zero in several countries in 2020.” And this was the main reason I was so thankful for where we were staying! We had a king sized bed that was extra comfy and while we often stay in someone’s home in an Airbnb, thankfully we had the room and bathroom all to ourselves. We spent the rest of our time in Ireland recovering.

I do regret not being able to see my friend Hannah who had moved to Ireland and had plans to show us around. But I felt it best not to share our germs and we really needed that time to recover because Portugal was coming up next and it would have it’s own share of transportation problems. And of course so much beauty as well!


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England

Sep 9, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

We arrived in Birmingham, England long after we planned to. This is travel, as it turns out. You can plan your trip all out on Google Maps, have the flights, trains, and buses all set, but often timelines still won’t add up. I fully believe this is something God is using to prepare me for the next chapter of my life. To calm me down a bit and learn to go with the flow. Could this have been an ulterior motive of Shane’s as well?!

Gemma_and_Neale.jpgBut the important thing is we did arrive! After over 13 hours of travel from Iceland, I got to see my sweet friend Gemma and her husband Neale. It had been 10 years! They picked us up from the train station and off we went to a pub near their home. There we caught up (10 years means lots of catching up!) and learned some British ways. Like steak fries are called “chips” and you eat them with a fork. And regular fries are called “fries” and you eat them with your fingers. Also, lemonade is actually Sprite. Okay, so basically, we learned about food! But hey, that’s important!

It was such a gift to be able to stay with Gemma and Neale; they are such great hosts! We shared a cup of tea the British way, (with milk), and had a lovely conversation about the time we both lived in Jupiter, Florida. Reminiscing about how we met, and how life has changed since then was the end to a great evening!

Library.jpgThe next day we spent at the Birmingham library, per the recommendation of Gemma and Neale. I was instantly excited when they told me to visit a library but I suspected Shane might not share my enthusiasm. Gemma and Neale informed us, however, that this was no normal library and they were right! The architecture was stunning and the multiple levels of beautiful, cozy gardens overlooking the city and books as well as art made for a wonderful afternoon exploring! We then walked back into Birmingham with Gemma and Neale for a delicious meal in the city. Oh Library_of_Birmingham.jpghow I love walking so much! Except when carrying our bags, they are so heavy!!

We packed our last day in Birmingham with Winterbourne House and Garden and Cadbury World. The Winterbourne Garden made me feel like I was inside the book “The Secret Garden”! There was so much beauty everywhere, and not just flowers, though there were certainly plenty of those. One of our favorite spots was a small pond with stepping stones throughout. It was so unique I had never seen anything quite like it. I was tempted to skip Winterbourne as I thought two big excursions in one day would be too much, so even though our time was cut a bit shorter than I would have liked, it was definitely worth the trip!

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Winterbourne Garden

 

Cadbury World felt the opposite of the gardens. It was much busier and commercialized though that certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! It was cute and interesting and the three chocolate bars we each received prior to the tour were yummy!

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Stone_Henge_A_and_S.jpgBright and early Sunday morning we left for an excursion to Stonehenge and Bath. Stonehenge was windy, cold, and really cool. But my highlight of the day was driving into view of Bath… I don’t have a picture to fully show the view but I was in awe! It is the cutest town! Every building is the same hue of creamy honey making it look like a town out of a storybook. It is the perfect town for a leisurely brunch and window shopping while enjoying the beauty all around! We grabbed lunch (it was far too late for brunch by the time we arrived) and then climbed a hillBath.jpg for another view overlooking the city enjoying the trek across a cow-pie strewn, field dodging the “land mines” for the best camera angles! I can’t say enough about how pretty Bath is and while it is an expensive place to visit, I still recommend it for at least an excursion if you’re in England!

Our final day in England was spent exploring London. Oh, how I love London! Its architecture, while much more diverse than Bath, is also beautiful. Every building you see is unique and elaborate. I love this city! What I do not love is the lack of public restrooms. Anyone who knows me well also knows I have a small bladder! Trying to find a public bathroom in most European cities, I’m learning, is not easy. And I have begun to plan my day and my fluid intake around them! While Buckingham Palace is nice, its architecture is not nearly as interesting as Westminster Abbey. As the number of photos we took Big_Ben.jpgclearly represents, we could not get enough of it! After so many photos Shane’s phone died and I began panicking… I didn’t have data on my phone so we not only didn’t have our tickets for the London Eye but weren’t sure what bus we needed to get us to our Airbnb in Luton that evening. Thankfully the lady at the ticket counter was able to look up our tickets and we had the most amazing views from the London Eye just as the sun was beginning to set. I managed to use Wi-Fi from a nearby attraction to get directions and we made it to our Airbnb in time to get some sleep before our flight to our next adventure, Ireland!


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Iceland

Aug 25, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

Flying in over Iceland was underwhelming. It was mostly brown with few interesting features. Now, due to finishing up work, packing and preparing for life to change I had done very little research into where we’d be going. And I have to admit I am painfully unaware of most of the world and what it holds and was never the best at geography. I began wondering what this country called Iceland really held. Should it have been on our list? I was in for a surprise!

Iceland_country.jpgBut, before all that we first had to arrive at our Airbnb. Now, I should state the way Shane and I are traveling is a little unconventional for most people. And now that I’ve experienced it I see why! Using a travel agency or individual or booking everything through the same place would be far simpler. It is definitely a less expensive way to go but it is also incredibly time consuming and often frustrating to figure out places to stay, transportation (including flights, buses, trains, and even electric scooters) and tours or attractions to visit. Each location takes hours to plan and often just when you think you have it worked out you realize one minor thing is off and you’re back to square one. So, when we arrived in Iceland, we had several hours to kill before we were able to check into our room. Exhausted we decided to just stay in the airport, eat and rest before taking the bus from the airport to our accommodations.

After ordering some food at an airport restaurant we headed over to a table where a guy asked us to watch his bag while he went to the restroom. We, of course, said, “Yes”, not knowing we would now be stuck in conversation with him and his other new friend for the next several hours. One of these guys was from Australia the other was from Poland. They had lots of stories they were happy to share and some of them even made sense! This was likely due to the fact that at 9 AM they were already on their second beer and added several more before we left. The gentleman from Poland who was buying the beers was currently living in the airport, some of the details were fuzzy (I’d be surprised if those were his first two beers of the day) but apparently he had been working in Iceland and was getting government support as some sort of unemployment now. He was scheduled to fly out a few days later and didn’t want to stay at a hostel because he said the cheapest one was $1,500. Iceland was indeed expensive but I assure you hostels do not start at 1,500 dollars! Shane tried to assure him of this as well but he wasn’t too interested in hearing it, despite Shane pulling them up on his phone.

Thankfully, Iceland’s public transportation was easy to navigate and after getting directions from a very sweet lady at a local business we arrived at our Airbnb and were finally able to get some sleep! We spent the remainder of the day resting and beginning to decide what we would do in Iceland and found to our delight that there was a grocery store right downstairs! We were quickly surprised to find out that dinner and breakfast and a couple of containers of juice at a grocery store set us back $50! As I said, Iceland is expensive!

pizza.jpgThe next day Shane worked and I looked into more to do in Iceland and we settled on the Perlan museum which was an excellent choice! We walked the 25 minutes to get there enjoying the scenery and trying not to freeze! Iceland like many European countries has separate walking and biking paths that take completely different directions from roads which is much nicer than walking next to busy streets but a little tricky to figure out just where you need to go. When we arrived, they were about to stop serving dinner so we went up to the top floor and I was immediately captivated. It was gorgeous! The room, the plants, the view and the 360 degree windows made me feel like we were on our second honeymoon and so that’s what we decided to call our trip to Iceland! We indulged in cod tears, arugula, apricot, pesto, tomato, chili pepper, basil mozzarella pizza, later followed by creamy Kinder Bueno ice cream.

We then roamed through the museum learning all about the formation, settlement and trials of Iceland. It was in this museum I discovered a candle called Volcano that I have loved for years is based on the smell of a volcano! Seriously, the smell of volcanos is amazing! There was much more to see at the Perlan and it gave us a nice overview of many of the things we would see later on in the week. Highly recommend if you’re visiting Iceland! We were amazed as we left to walk another 25 minutes back that it was still light out! In fact, while the sun sets late in the evening it never actually gets dark which can really mess with your internal clock especially when you’re jet-lagged!

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Puffins!

Our next outing was Puffin and Whale watching! Puffins are adorable but if I’m being honest this wasn’t my favorite tour. First of all it was rainy and so cold out on the water and I get seasick in choppy water though thankfully this was brief. Also we did see some beautiful dolphins and one Minke whale very briefly but were hoping to see more. Obviously these tours are at the mercy of the whales revealing themselves!

The next day we explored Reykjavik. We took in several museums of the settlers in the area and an art museum and just walked around the city enjoying the beauty. Iceland has some incredibly hearty and beautiful flowers and quite a large bird population, at least in the summer! Our final stop was at oneHarpa_Building.jpg of the local pools. Yes, I actually put a swimsuit on and went outside in 50 degree weather! Then immediately jumped into one of the thermal heated hot tubs! There were five tubs and two pools at this location. Four of the tubs were hot and one of them was cold, I definitely steered clear of that one! It was a nice way to end the day although the process was a bit surprising. At every pool in Iceland you must first shower naked, washing certain body parts (I’ll leave this to your imagination) in a public shower before going into the pools. I had not expected this. Let’s just say Shane and I saw some things!

Our final big adventure was my favorite, The Golden Circle and Hidden Lagoon! On this trip we began at Thingvellir national park. It’s a giant fault line that is slowly growing Iceland by 2A_and_S_faultline.jpg centimeters a year. Thingvellir has amazing cliffs as the land separates that photos truly can’t capture the beauty of! We loved our time hiking there! We next went to check out some geysers, primarily Strokkur but many other hot springs in the area were also beautiful. Gullfoss Waterfall was next. Made even more beautiful by the rainbow next to it, this is the waterfall with the highest volume in Iceland. The views and sheer size that seemed to grow steadily with the fifteen-minute walk for the best views were stunning! It also comes with an incredible story. At one point in its history, it was discovered and the land was about to be bought to turn it into a hydropower plant. However, the man who owned the land had a daughter who lovedGullfoss_Waterfall.jpg the waterfall and went to visit it regularly, her name was Sigríður Tómasdóttir and she threatened to throw herself into the falls if it was turned into a hydropower plant. Thus, she saved its beauty for us to enjoy today. To top the day off we found ourselves in another hot springs, this one much older than the hot tubs we were in the previous day, and much more rustic. Actually, a little too rustic. Shane’s swim trunks were covered in algae by the time we left. But that hot water felt glorious!

Scooter_travel.jpgOur trip back to the airports was rough! The local buses did not run early enough for us to take the charter bus back to the airport so we chose to take electric scooters at 5:30 AM in the freezing, (well not quite freezing), cold. It was not a pleasant trip but we made it just in time to drop the scooters off in the appropriate zone and then run to catch our bus! We got to the airport in plenty of time for our 10 AM flight and landed in Luton, England, only to have to catch another bus that took us all the way down to London before bringing us back north past the airport we had landed in and into Birmingham all because of bus protests. We finally arrived at our destination at 7 PM. It was a long day but so worth the trip. I’m getting ahead of myself, however, that’s for another blog post!

Rainbow_Road.jpgIceland was far prettier than its drab appearance upon first inspection from the plane. It is certainly a place I would encourage anyone to visit as there is so much beauty to behold! I must say, it was a perfect second honeymoon!

 


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Travel Beginnings

Aug 7, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

Traveling is complicated! Not so much for my husband Shane maybe, as he has been doing it for years and has it down to a science. Seriously! Shane has a place for everything in his backpack, which by the way, is all he takes to travel around the world. A backpack! And which unbelievably enough, is all I am also taking. One single backpack for 3 months of traveling!

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The few clothes I could pack.
(Some "delicates" not pictured.)

At first, I told Shane there was no way that was happening: I am a woman, and women need things! We have products, outfits and shoes! I certainly would not consider myself high maintenance, but can you imagine getting all your shampoo, conditioner, hair product, face creams in one tiny bag? What about finding clothing that is comfortable enough to go hiking in, warm enough to survive Iceland, cool enough, not to mention, appropriate enough for Uganda? Then, throw in a wedding with cocktail attire for good measure! It took a lot of planning, but after realizing it would cost hundreds maybe over a thousand dollars to take a carry-on not to mention the fact that all that luggage needs to be carried around to 13 countries, I decided I could make do with just a personal item bag. So, after much research, re-packing and promises from Shane we could buy things we need along the way, I packed one single bag and off we went!

Honestly, I wish it was that simple! Because while I was packing that one bag, we were also packing up our whole apartment and selling (or forcing people to take things) that didn’t make the cut to go to North Carolina. It was stressful and emotional. We were leaving our first home together, and everything felt very unknown. I was thankful Shane has traveled many times before and that we have traveled together quite a bit already, but the roller coaster of emotions was real! In Shane’s words, “We should really keep track of your, ‘Everything is okay, everything is good.” to ‘Nothing is okay!’ ups and downs!” I’m not sure I want that comparison! Through the process there were prayers, tears, dreaming and laughter and I don’t see that changing as the trip continues.

There were two moments that were so cool to see God show up: The day we were moving out and the day before we were flying out. We had sold most of our big items, but we were left with only a week to sell everything else. Meanwhile, we were trying to time everything so we weren’t without important items like a bed long before we needed to leave. It was tricky! On the day we needed to move out of our apartment, we still had a coffee table, a bookshelf, a kitchen table with four chairs, a microwave, an air fryer and two night stands to sell! We were supposed to be out by 5pm but had a bit of a grace period until 6pm. At 4:30pm we sold the last of it when two people came at the same time to buy the coffee table and pick up the table, chairs and nightstands, which by that point we were giving away for free! We were so thankful it all disappeared that day and were amazed by God’s timing!

On the night before leaving the US, with all our belongings packed and our cars full of the many things we planned to store in there that don’t need to be temperature-controlled, we were just putting the final few things into storage when Shane realized there was moisture in his car. Because he has a convertible, his car will occasionally leak, and we didn’t want to leave things in the car with trapped moisture. So, he opened it up to dry it out, but his passenger window got stuck down and wouldn’t go back up. This is not the first time it got stuck but it was the first time that even after several attempts it completely refused to budge. Eventually, at 9pm we realized our only option was to unload his whole car, in darkness, while knowing we were going to have to wake up early to leave the next morning. Why, you may ask, is this cool? Good question. Because God still showed up! He gave us the strength to get it done and the patience with each other we needed.

Bright and early August 2nd we began our journey by leaving for Tampa International Airport, on time. As we waited for our flight, Shane worked, and I purchased travel insurance. (Better late than never, right?) And in the sleepy stillness of an airport just waking up, Shane assured me that God will continue to show up during this trip in the moments when things work out perfectly and in the moments they don’t.


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Welcome!

Aug 1, 2023 - Amanda Reichart

We are happy you’re here along for the journey with us!

I'm Amanda. I've had almost no international travel experience until now. So how did I end up on a three-month world tour? Here's how.

About four years ago, I was writing a blog called “He’s in the Waiting.” It was all about how God brings so many opportunities to teach us to wait—in ways we often don’t want, but—in ways that can grow us and strengthen us if we learn to wait well. Since the time of that blog, I met Shane and waiting in one area of my life ended! I finally met my husband whom I had prayed for so long and we married on February 26th, 2023.

People told me—no, actually warned me—that life with him would be a wild adventure and they were correct! (At least about some of it.) Shane has traveled to dozens of countries and has lived for several months in some of them. Sometimes his travels are to do ministry work and other times are just to take advantage of the fact he can work online from anywhere and enjoy new sights along the way. I had always said I would travel after paying off all my student debt, which I accomplished in November 2022—the day before I picked out my wedding dress. It was a big weekend needless to say!

And so, when Shane suggested we do some traveling for several months after we got married, it seemed like a perfect idea. I was now debt free; I had a great travel buddy, and I'd get to experience one of my husband's passions with him! And so, we began planning. And because the timing all lined up, I quit my job, we moved out of our apartment and now plan to move to North Carolina sometime after we arrive back in the States.

Our trip is not fully planned and may change some along the way, but our current travel plans include Iceland, England, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Andorra, Sweden, Poland, France, Uganda, Belgium, Germany and to Italy. We will fly back through Iceland on our way home, but I am seriously hoping this will be nothing more than a stop in and fly out. (I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not, but Iceland is COLD!)

Timing for updates on this blog will be pretty fluid as I want to make sure I am fully enjoying the trip but hoping to get one in for each country so roughly once a week. I expect the blog will morph into something totally different than a travel blog after we get back home. For now, it’s a chance to stay connected to friends and family and process all I’m seeing. But I also view it as gift to my future self, reminding me of all this experience held.

I hope you enjoy the read; feel free to comment—we’d love to hear from you. And now I’ll leave you with one of my favorite travel quotes from my dad. “Adventures aren’t always fun, but they give us something to talk about.” Though no offense dad, I think it’s also going to be fun!


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