Life Lessons From the Pacific Northwest

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Do you ever have one of those vacations where you come home and feel like you need a vacation from the vacation?

Yeah, I just had one of those.

Don’t get me wrong—I love going on vacation. But it’s still great to return home to my family and my nice, comfy bed.

Two weeks ago, I attended a work conference in Seattle, Washington. The conference was jam-packed with sessions from morning to night. I learned a lot, and it was great to see my work colleagues, but conferences can be extremely exhausting.

Anyhoo, after the conference, my work friend H and I rented a car and drove to Portland, Oregon for a girls-only vacation.

I was so proud of myself for driving a strange car through 2 states without getting lost or eaten by bears. Really, I deserve a medal for this act of bravery.

The Pacific Northwest was like a whole other world, and I picked up a few life lessons along the way.

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Put down your iPhone and enjoy nature.

Wowee, I’ve never seen so much green! Every surface of Seattle and Portland was covered with moss and leaves and life! It was beautiful, and being out in nature really made me appreciate how amazing the world is…if we’d just take a moment to really see it.

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Focus on the present, not the past.

We took a drive to Mount Hood and stopped at the famous Timberline Lodge. This impressive resort hotel is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Despite the long history of being a premiere destination for skiers, Timberline is best known as the haunted hotel from the classic horror movie, The Shining.

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You’d think that the resort would capitalize on the Hollywood connection, but there is no mention of The Shining in the brochures, on the Web site, on anywhere in the hotel. We only found a sentence about the movie in an Oregon sightseeing book.

Although the owners of Timberline could make a lot of money by attracting film buffs, they instead focus on making their sports-enthusiast customers happy. I can understand their perspective. Who wants to be stuck in the past reliving old memories? I could fill my blog with stories about my rotten childhood, but I’d rather focus on living a happy life now. All we have is this present moment.

Be silly—you’re on vacation!

The greatest Portland landmark by far has to be Voodoo Doughnuts.

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Oh my gosh, the place smelled like Heaven! They had a whole variety of vegan doughnuts. I haven’t had a doughnut in…wow, almost 20 years! Here’s a picture of the one I got.

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Yes, it’s a giant chocolate-covered cock and balls. And yes, it was cream filled.

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OK, this post is getting a little raunchy. Let’s take a look at these innocent children’s books I saw.

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Hmmm…. Well, then. Moving on!

Celebrate your culture.

There’s a lot of cultural pride in the Pacific Northwest. Check out these spirit-animal stones.

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My spirit guide is totally the skunk…or maybe the space coyote.

There’s also a large Asian population in Portland. Here’s a Chinese archway we saw downtown.

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Get over yourself already.

I wish I could say that I was the perfect vacation companion, but I was not (sorry, H!). It rained every day of the trip. Every. Single. Day. All. Week. Long. I was less than thrilled to be soaking wet and cold everywhere we went, and I certainly acted like a grumpy bitch.

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I got a bit of perspective when we visited the Japanese Gardens. The flowers and ponds were amazing and so very Zen. I could feel myself relaxing although I could feel the rain seeping in through my jacket…and my jeans…and my shoes.

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The weather situation could be a metaphor for life. Bad things happen to everyone, but so do good things. We’ll be happier if we can learn to adapt and persevere in trying times rather than complaining and focusing on how miserable we are.

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People will always surprise you.

I was thrilled by how many restaurants in Seattle and Portland had vegan items on their menus or even separate vegan menus. Here’s a delicious tofu hash I had for breakfast.

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It was so refreshing to see how open they are to other dietary needs. Way to be accommodating! (But Portland, we need to have a serious talk about all those smokers.)

Don’t believe the hype.

Sadly, there were no sparkly vampires hanging out in the woods waiting to seduce me. Maybe next time.

The only real bummer during my trip was that I had to work during the conference and vacation. I’m the “middleman” for a lot of my projects, and things tend to fall apart without me (not good, I know).

If you’re able to, I recommend leaving work behind and truly enjoying your personal time off.

When was the last time you went on vacation? What did you learn?

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  1. Josh goldfinch on June 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Glad to see the donuts made the blog cut!

    • Sage on June 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Hee hee! You know it! God, I miss those doughnuts so much…. 🙁

      Oh yeah, and Chris and I miss you and Laura too. 🙂

  2. Shybiker on June 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, what a great post. In addition to the wonderful things you enjoyed, you acquired some wisdom as well. That makes the experience richer.

    I know the relief you describe at returning home, to familiar surroundings. Sometimes we have a limit to how much adventure we can handle at one time. Welcome back.

    • Sage on June 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

      I like “staycations” too, where you just hang out around home without having anything to do. Being away from my familiar surroundings for 9 days was a bit much. I’m getting back to my normal routine now.

  3. Tinfoil Tiaras on June 4, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Vegan cock and balls doughnut- count me in! 🙂 Doing the vegan challenge has made me realize how difficult eating out can be so I’m glad you were able to find some great food! Sounds like a lovely trip (even if you did have to work for part of it) and hooray for turning off technology and enjoying nature- we don’t do that enough! I’m going to LA this weekend for work- it’s going to be 12-13 hours of conference/day- not fun!

    • Sage on June 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

      Eek, 12 hours of conference stuff a day is too much! I hope you get a chance to relax after your trip. I’ve traveled for work 4 times this year, and it really does wear you out after a while.

  4. Molly on June 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I’m insanely jealous of your trip! We haven’t been to any of the West coast yet, but really want to, although not during any of the rainy months. I prefer sunny & dry, so I totally understand your frustration!

    You’re very lucky to have tried that donut, too. I LOL’d when I saw it. Too funny!

    It looks absolutely gorgeous there and I can’t wait to take another trip someday. It won’t be for a while, but in the meantime I’ll be enjoying every day off that I can. 🙂

    • Sage on June 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      You know where you should go on vacation? San Francisco (hint, hint). It rarely rains here, there are tons of vegan restaurants, plus you’d get to hang out with me (and Skyla and Chris)! 🙂

      Wow, those doughnuts were good. I had them 3 times on this trip. There was always a super long line out the door too because everyone loves them.

  5. JamesNCleveland on June 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  6. Megan Gann on June 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Wow! Sounds like a really great trip. Vacations are always exhausting for me so I rarely travel. But it sounds like between the sights and the food you had a great one. I normally wouldn’t think so, but omgdonuts and omghash, vegan food looks pretty tasty.

    • Sage on June 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Portland really surprised me with all their vegan food choices. Three different restaurants I tried had separate vegan menus. I mean, there are a lot of vegan spots here in SF, but I wasn’t expecting that on this trip.

      I’m STILL a little burned out from my vacation…but it probably also has to do with all my work that piled up while I was away.

  7. Caralyn on June 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

    looks like you had a great time! i’ve heard so much hype about voodoo donuts! it looks amazing — and silly! 🙂 glad you had a great trip!

    • Sage on June 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Caralyn! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Voodoo Doughnuts totally lives up to the hype. You should try them if you’re ever in Portland. There are all kinds of spooky/creepy decorations, voodoo dolls, and even a coffin filled with doughnuts! As a vegan, it was really fun to be able to eat a special dessert…something besides a fruit cup.

      I just popped over to your blog–what fabulous food pictures! I’ll have to try some of your recipes.

  8. Cara Lynch on June 4, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Yay, welcome back! It looks like you had a really beautiful (and busy) time on your trip. Sadly, I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest but we’re going to be in Seattle for a hot second in August so I’m excited to check it out.

    Your vacation take-aways are totally on point! Driving to/from Yosemite last summer really forced me to put down my phone and just look at the window. It’s amazing all the gorgeous vistas you can miss if you’re constantly checking email/facebook/etc. I also love your silly section, I burst out laughing at my desk! Vacation is the time to let loose, so live it up!

    Glad to have you back 😀

    • Sage on June 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      It’s beautiful up there, so even visiting for a day or 2 is worth it. Thanks again for your help with my wardrobe. I managed to remix my outfits for 9 days and still have room in my suitcase for souvenirs. Also, thanks for the idea of doing a post on the fear of missing out. I promise I’m working on it now! I felt some FOMO on this trip, but I felt better when I stopped checking my email all the time.

      I’ve decided that now I will only eat desserts if they’re shaped inappropriately. 🙂

  9. xvavaveganx on June 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Welcome back Sage! It seems like you had a really fun, silly 😉 and enlightening trip! How amazing is the Northwest? I went to grad school in Seattle and it is such an amazing city with a lot of spirit and personality, and I really wish I could have enjoyed it more.

    I love all of the messages that you’ve come back with! I think traveling can be very enlightening. I completely agree with you about putting away the technology and living in the moment. It is so important to enjoy moments and live in the moment and being “plugged in” really takes away from that. It is a lesson I’m still working on, I’m a tech junkie.

    You being silly section made me laugh so hard! You are a sassy lady 😉

    In my year and a half living in Seattle I was in Portland for a total of one day and I could kick myself for not spending more time there. However, in the one day I was there I spent some time in the Japanese Gardens. They are so beautiful and peaceful and I’m so glad that I was there. If only I had known better (I was only vegetarian back then) I would have checked out all of the vegan awesomeness they have there. I guess that is what next trip will be for!

    Really great post Sage! Rest up!

    • Sage on June 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      I’m getting better at putting down my phone and enjoying the people and places around me. I’m working on a post about the fear of missing out…how we don’t want to miss something so we’re always plugged in.

      Oh my gosh, those doughnuts were so amazing! I wish they had them in San Francisco, but I’d probably eat them every day. There are Japanese Gardens in SF too, but I haven’t gone yet. Now I know I should!