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Europe: Week 1

It’s 10:30pm here in Switzerland. Or Austria. I’m not sure if we’ve crossed the border yet. .  . I believe this is the first time I’ve taken an overnight train ride since I was a student in Italy 10 years ago. Some friends and I went to Vienna and while I was sleeping someone came into our cabin and stole my roommate’s camera. This time we’re not lucky enough to have a cabin-  just regular seats. So I’ll probably be awake for a while.  But I just purchased the new Neko Case album on itunes and Josh stole a couple mini bottles of wine from (an empty) first class, so things are looking up.
The first of 15 weeks in Europe went by smoothly.  Despite nearly constant rain, Switzerland was wonderful. We were totally taken care of by our booking agent, Kristina, who let us stay in her gorgeous apartment in Basel all week, and escorted us to each of the 8 shows to act as manager/ interpreter. At every venue, the owners fed us a delicious home-cooked meal, and the audiences were so warm and appreciative. There’s a sense of genuine support for good music here.  
 Josh had 8 shows in the last 7 days, so it was a bit of a whirlwind, driving back and forth across the entire northern part of Switzerland a couple of times (it's only about 120 miles across). With shows in big citites like Basel, Bern, Zurich, and smaller towns like St. Gallen, Balgach and Altnau, we got to see a lot of diversity. . . well, as much diversity as there is in Switzerland, which is generally a pretty idilic place. Just like in the Netherlands, you never really see homeless people or panhandlers. . . and it feels very safe. In fact, I noticed that people don't even lock up their bicycles! Not that being American is so bad, but I feel like to be born Swiss is like winning the lottery of life. They don't really have any enemies, their government and economy is very stable, and everyone is guaranteed good health care and a good retirement pension, no matter what. However, in Zurich we did see the "red light" district. . .which is like Sesame Street compared to the RL district in Amsterdam. But it did feel slightly less sound-of-music safe than the rest of the country. 
on Langstrasse in Zurich
One of my favorite days was on Saturday when we went to St. Gallen for the second time. The sun was out for the first time all week, and an enormous market was going on downtown. There were dozens of food vendors, mainly Swiss specialties like cheese, sausage and chocolates, as well as farmers selling vegetables and home made pasta, sandwiches, etc. Also many regional wine makers were there- handing out samples of wine next to samples of local cheeses. We had a wonderful lunch for free! At 3:00, with the market going on outside, Josh played a set at the Musik Hug record store. And that night, he played again at S-ka in the nearby small town of Altnau. 
at the Market in St. Gallen
as always, more photos on Flickr!

Well, there are more stories to tell, but for now I need to sleep. Tomorrow, Austria!



On the Eve of our Departure...

Sitting at the bar in Smiley's Acoustic Cafe in Greenville, SC.  Josh is wrapping up a 3 hour show played to a crowd dominated by an 18-top table of 20-somethings who quite possibly have no idea that there's live music going on 4 feet from them. I'm being a super dork and pulling out my laptop at the bar. I have a million things running through my head right now, because we're leaving for Europe tomorrow. For 3 1/2 months. This makes me nervous, anxious and excited. Nervous and anxious because I feel like we could use a couple more weeks of planning and rest/ relaxation, but excited too of course. This will be our third trip over "the pond" together, but by far the longest. And being a generally worried person, I can't help but think of all the things that could go wrong. . .but it will be fine, right? It will be fantastic!

When we tell people about the month we just wrapped up, they think we're crazy to head to Europe right away. I think in August we added about 6,000 miles to the van and passed through 15+ states. In total this year we've put about 26,000 miles on the car and been to 38 states. Folks keep asking about our favorite places. . . there are too many to name. Yellowstone was incredible (of course). New York and Boston are always great. Arkansas was surprisingly awesome (especially the Fayetteville Roots Festival!). But when I think of places that we could actually see ourselves living. . . Well, it's no surprise that we're drawn to Madison- esque small/ medium sized college towns. Northampton (Mass), Portland (ME), Bellingham (WA), Missoula (MT), Ft. Collins (CO) and Asheville (NC) are at the top of my list. 

swimming in the river in Arkansas with Jennie & Chris
We realized recently that when we were planning this whole live-on-the-road vagabond lifestyle (which was supposed to last a year. . . it's been 13 months) we didn't plan an exit strategy. The question of where and when to "settle down" is always looming over us, and we might just put it off a bit longer. When you have nothing tying you down, the endless possibilities can be a bit overwhelming. And for now, there's only the next 15 weeks in my headlights. . . after Europe, who knows?
sitting amongst the pronghorns in Yellowstone


To see all the photos from the past year, take a look at our Flickr page!