Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trading Manolos for Merrells

If you've been following me on Facebook and/or Twitter (asmartt1), then you already know that Greg & I decided to live in Portland from 01FEB-01APR. After spending the holidays in Nashville and visiting with family & friends (which we thoroughly enjoyed), we quickly realized (not for the first time) that living in TN is not conducive to our overall well-being. The weather at this time of year isn't accommodating to walkers; we have to drive everywhere; we do not have a place of our own; we have to go out of our way to recycle (which we are more than happy to do but it's still ridiculous how much people throw away every day); I could go on & on. So we revisited our list of cities that do meet our criteria and again decided to take advantage of Greg's ability to work remotely. The only other city we were seriously considering at this time of year was New Orleans. Ultimately we were not sure about committing two months there (somewhere neither of us have ever been but want to go), and finding a short term furnished rental within our budget was a bit more challenging. We had no hesitations about coming to Portland for two months, partially because we were here for a weekend last August. With the help of Craigslist I was able to find a nice furnished one bedroom apartment near Lloyd Center within the free public transport zone. We are walking distance to Safeway (grocery store), every fast food restaurant you can name (which we avoid!), Walgreens, The Dollar Store, the mall, and many interesting, locally owned neighborhood establishments. We have been here just over two weeks now and I already know I would be happy to stay indefinitely. I spend a lot of my time researching the local goings-on, particularly related to beer and food. It's amazing how quickly the hours go by when you're doing something you really enjoy! Greg & I also enjoy exploring the diverse Portland neighborhoods, some walking distance (a few miles) from where we live, and others a short rail/bus ride away. I borrowed "Portland City Walks" by Laura Foster from the library to help me research the areas we want to visit. We both purchased new waterproof/windproof rain jackets from REI so we'd be more comfortable walking without umbrellas. We have made a conscious effort to eat healthier, partially due to the recent revelation that Greg's bad cholesterol level is borderline high. I like to cook (plus I'm teaching Greg the fundamentals of cooking) and it's easy to avoid "bad" foods when we eat at home. We also use the gym in our building daily, taking one day off on the weekend. We alternate days for cardio/aerobic versus weights/toning. We've already noted that if we decided to settle here in the future, we would definitely get bikes. This is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country and that's just another way to get around, explore, and get exercise. One of the reasons it's critical that we do this, besides just for overall long term health, is that we LOVE beer! And there's probably no better city in the world to drink locally made beer than Portland! In fact, we often plan our neighborhood explorations around some version of a pub crawl or beer tasting. Even with all the exercise (gym + walking everywhere), we aren't breaking even on the caloric intake but at least we're offsetting it somewhat! In addition, Portland has the best happy hour scene of anywhere I've been or lived. I even bought a book, "Portland Happy Hour Guidebook 2010 edition" by Cindy Anderson, to help us take advantage of all the offerings. Most Portland businesses are very much involved in social media, so it's also easy to keep up with the latest news as related to pretty much anything on Twitter & Facebook. On a more personal note, Greg & I are fast approaching our one year anniversary (2/26). It's hard to believe we've already been together that long but when you look back at all that we've done, it's certainly been one of the most interesting first years with anyone I've ever had. We've had our challenges, mostly related to our living situation in Nashville, but also concerning our plans for the immediate future. As most of you know, the main reason I quit my job at Nokia was to have time to travel around the world. To some extent, it's what I've been working for my whole life. I never expected to re-meet Greg when I did, much less embark on a long term relationship. But as anyone who has ever been married or committed to someone knows, sometimes you have to modify your dreams to better align with the life you & your partner want to have together. This is where Greg & I are at now, trying to find a "middle ground" that makes both of us happy. One very effective way we are doing this, as well as learning more about each other, is via twice weekly meetings. I call them "Sunday School" and "Wednesday School." We set aside an hour on those two days at home, with no distractions, to talk about anything & everything that is on our minds. In the past we have had "lessons" where we prepare to discuss specific topics. The idea for this came from "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman. I highly recommend this book to anyone, no matter how great you think your marriage/relationship is. As for the title of this post, for the uninitiated, Manolo Blahnik is a shoe designer, making often very high-heeled, ornate shoes (preferred by Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex in the City") that retail for about $650. Merrell's are performance shoes for active outdoor pursuits that retail for about $100. While I never owned a pair of Manolo's, I did have some expensive high-heeled shoes that were not exactly conducive to walking on the sidewalks of New York City, but looked pretty hot for going to bars, fancy restaurants & clubs. And while there are plenty of places that high heels would be appropriate here in Portland, the standard & accepted dress code is much more casual. Plus my Merrell's are much more multipurpose than a high-heeled shoe could ever be! "Life lies in diversity, not in monotony." M.K. Soni