Business Launch Coming Soon

Man oh man, have I been busy! The last couple weeks have been jam packed as I’ve been trying to develop my very first business: Alexis Rose Photography! I’m super close to launching my website (hopefully today!!) and from there I’ll be able to start booking clients for real.

I’ve never been someone who’s interested in the business…in fact, I remember in college saying that being a business major would probably be my LAST choice, but now I’m having to learn all of this new stuff and let me tell you, it takes a lot of work! And, if learning the business side of things wasn’t enough, my biggest hurdle in the last couple weeks has been the wedding photography website I’ve been working on. If you know anything about me, you know that I’m in no way tech savvy, so every little thing I want to add to the website has required me to first learn what it is and how to add it. Grid elements and spans and child themes? Ugh. It’s been a struggle. BUT now that it’s nearly ready to launch, I’m feeling much better about it and just excited to get it out there.

I know I’m all over the place with my careers…archaeologist, journalist, teacher…but I think that’s what your 20s are for, right? Discovering what you love? I also think that through all of my crazy career choices, two things have been constant: my love of travel and my love of photography. Everything I’ve done in life since I was 14 years old has been working towards the goal of world travel. I’m hopeful that this new photography business will allow me to galavant around the world with the happiest of lovebirds on the best day of their lives. Sounds like a pretty awesome life to me.

Ironically, getting this destination wedding photography business set up has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time here in Bansko indoors NOT exploring the destination I’m in. This is our last weekend in Bulgaria and I just cannot believe how fast this month flew by! We really fell in love with Bulgaria during our month here…this place is such a hidden gem. There’s everything you could want in nature around here: dense pine tree forests with snow-melt rivers and arid vineyards on rolling hills, all within a mile of each other. David’s recently gotten into his head the idea of owning a vineyard someday and it seems like Bulgaria would be such a great place to make that happen! Much cheaper than Italy and just as gorgeous. Someday when we’re rich, I want to come back to Bulgaria for a legit vacation where, instead of working all day, we can just focus on traveling and seeing everything this gorgeous place has to offer.

We’ve got just a couple more days here and once I get my site launched, we’re going to spend our last days in Bulgaria riding our bikes, attending the Bansko Bohemi music festival in the city center, and on Sunday we’ve got a date night planned at one of the zillion adorable outdoor restaurants here. Then on Wednesday we’re off to Germany! Sad to leave Bulgaria so soon, but can’t say I’m not looking forward to seeing our home in Bad Urach, Deutschland!

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First Thoughts on Bulgaria

Up until about a month ago, I had never really even thought about Bulgaria. Sure, I knew it existed, but it’s not a political powerhouse or tourist hotspot, so it just…slipped by me. But then we were forced to make a quick change of plans, and ended up in Bulgaria for a few reasons:

  1. Bulgaria has free visa access for Americans and it is not part of the Schengen Agreement (which limits how much time you can spend in Europe…we’re using up our allotted 90 days in Germany, Italy, and Spain).
  2. Bulgaria was accessible using our American Airlines credit card miles and it has relatively cheap flights to Germany, our monthly country home for July.
  3. Bulgaria’s cost of living is within our monthly country budget.

We ruled out southeast Asia and the Middle East, we couldn’t choose western Europe for visa reasons, and finally Africa and Australia were just too expensive for us to get to Germany in July. So that left us: eastern Europe or eastern Asia.  And now here we are! Sitting in a comfy apartment in Bansko, central Bulgaria. We’ve been here for a full week now and so far this place has exceeded our (previously non-existent) expectations.

Mountains and river in Bansko, Bulgaria

Tree lined street in Bansko, Bulgaria

Colorful house and car in Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

First of all, it is so beautiful here! I might even go so far as to say it’s a cheaper Switzerland. And if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love Switzerland, so that’s saying something. We’re surprised at how many varying, beautiful landscapes there are here. Along with Swiss-style mountains, there’s also rolling Italian-style vineyards, and open Austrian-style fields. Bulgaria feels like the Europe we’ve been craving after a year in, I’ll say it, dirty smelly SE Asia. Things are just clean here. When we first stepped out of the taxi when we got to Bansko (a two hour drive from the capital city, Sofia, costing about $60 USD) the driver gestured for us to breathe in deep and smell the fresh mountain air.

I also don’t think we could have been here at a better time of year. I mentioned before how, because it’s springtime, there are birds chirping and everything is in bloom. The place is just begging people to picnic. And fittingly for us, Bulgaria is the “land of roses” and some of the rose bushes in bloom outside average homes are seriously stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous. I’ve had to get up close and inspect some of them to make sure they’re real!

Pine trees, mountains, and cobblestone streets in Bansko, Bulgaria

Town center and mountains in Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

Old clock tower in Bansko, Bulgaria

David in a field in spring in Bansko, Bulgaria

Town center and mountains in Bansko, Bulgaria

Brick house with vines in Bansko, Bulgaria

The city itself felt pretty deserted at first. It’s mostly a winter resort town, especially in our apartment’s neighborhood near the ski gondola, so a majority of the stores are closed and streets are mostly empty of people or cars. But last weekend, we went for a stroll around town towards the city park and came across a bustling market! Tons of fresh fruits and veggies! We bought a backpack full of cherries, strawberries, onions, mushrooms, raspberry jam, tomatoes, and potatoes all for about $2 USD! That’s SE Asia cheap!

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

Market in Bansko, Bulgaria

Market vendor in Bansko, Bulgaria

Town center and mountains in Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

Then, just as we were about to leave the market, we perfectly timed stumbling upon a performance of Bulgarian folk singing and dancing! The Bulgarian traditional outfits are so gorgeous. I am *going* to get a pair of those socks before we leave.

Traditional Bulgarian outfits and dancers in Bansko, Bulgaria

Performance of traditional Bulgarian songs in Bansko, Bulgaria town square

Traditional socks in Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

Traditional Bulgarian outfits and dancing in Bansko, Bulgaria

The people here have been a lot nicer than anticipated. I visited Russia when I was a junior in high school and I was expecting Bulgarians to be similarly stoic and…eastern European, if you know what I mean. People are kind of intimidating on the street, but once you get talking to people, everyone’s been so nice! I’ve been trying to learn a couple Bulgarian words and find myself getting mixed up a lot, but it’s just so fun speaking the slavic sounds and trying to read the cyrillic alphabet again! So satisfying when you sound a word out and it’s just an English word written in their alphabet… “Pectopaht” for example is just pronounced “Reh-sto-rant.” Easy peasy!

Bansko Bulgaria Collage

Old car pulling a cart in Bansko, Bulgaria

Alexis in front of river and mountains in Bansko, Bulgaria

I’d say the English proficiency of folks in Bansko is average. Our cab driver from Sofia to Bansko spoke a pidgin mix of English, German, Russian, and Spanish, using words like “grande” and “mädchen” in the same breath. English isn’t used widely on signs or food labels or menus, but it’s certainly not impossible to get around. Speaking of getting around…

We actually did something kind of crazy yesterday…we bought bicycles! I haven’t owned a bike since I was probably nine years old! Spending such a big chunk of change wasn’t easy, but it just feels right in a town like Bansko. The mountains here are unreal. We can’t wait to explore on our new rides! We’re planning to sell them back to the shop owner, our new buddy Mario, at the end of the month and hopefully get some of the expense back.

David and his bicycle in springtime in Bansko, Bulgaria

One Year.

By Alexis

May 30 is a big day for us Roses. It was the day we got engaged in Switzerland in 2013. It was the day we got married in Hawaii in 2014. And this year, May 30 is our first wedding anniversary AND our first full day in Europe after living in Asia for a year!

Big day 🙂

We actually cheated and celebrated our anniversary two days early this year so that we could take advantage of cheap hotel prices in Bali and afford a fancy treehouse-style villa overlooking the jungle. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Pictures coming soon! We’re in Bulgaria now after a long two-day journey, so we’re spending our actual anniversary just relaxing, soaking in the fast wifi (lightning compared to Indonesia), and cooking up a storm since it’s the first time we’ve had a kitchen since our wedding (homemade french toast for breakfast, yes!)

And for now, I’m just gonna go hug my husband and giggle about being married for a year ♡

 

Photo by Kpix Photography

Konichiwa From Japan!

By Alexis

Konichiwa from Japan! David and I made it to Sendai last night and are loving it here so far! It’s so refreshing to be in a place with clean, stink-free, stray dog-free, streets again. And there are rules here! Rules! It feels like the complete opposite of Thailand, and to be honest, that’s been amazing. Here are a few of my first impressions….

Things I Noticed Right Away…

  • It’s so developed. Everything runs smoothly. The streets look freshly painted. People are dressed well (really well) and look generally satisfied. It feels like a complete, self-sufficient world that’s entirely separate from the west. In Thailand, I had more than one person tell me they’ve always wanted to go to America. And I felt that from people, a desire to get out. In Japan, I don’t get that sense at all here. They have everything they need already; there’s nothing for them in America that they don’t have here.
  • Japanese people do not speak any English. The rumors are true. The place is not built for English speakers. But that’s okay with me. For some reason, that actually makes it less stressful to communicate. No pressure for me to speak English to them (which can sometimes makes me worry that I look entitled), and no pressure for me to speak perfect Japanese. If I try to get the point across through gestures and they are open to listening, that’s good enough.
  • People don’t stare. We walked all around the outskirts of Sendai today and never felt like people were watching or judging us. Everyone was doing their own thing. We did have one little girl point to us in the train station yesterday, but it didn’t feel like, “Hey, look at that crazy foreigner over there, intruding on our city” but more of a, “Hey, that person looks different than me.” So far, I don’t feel like I’m a “tourist to be tolerated” here, which is how I felt in Thailand almost daily. I’m just a person.

Highlights of the trip so far…

  • We made our flight connection between Bangkok and Seoul. We only had an hour for our conection, so when we arrived in Bangkok, we strapped on our packs and ran like the wind. In our hurry, we quickly glanced at the departures list and saw a flight to Seoul at gate E6. We were gasping for air and covered in sweat when we finally arrived at the gate just moments after our flight was set to depart. But then the attendants explained our mistake: We had not just ran to the wrong gate but the completely wrong terminal. Ugh. So, defeated, we slowly made our way back through the airport, past a seemingly endless stretch of identical duty-free shops, toward our correct gate: A3. Our departure time was long gone, but when we got to the gate, we saw a line of people! Hooray! The flight had been delayed a perfect 40 minutes, allowing us enough time to cool down and board with everyone else. So so lucky.

    Alexis and David in Seoul Airport and screenshot of Footprints in Bankok airport

    Happy to be in the Seoul airport. And a screenshot my mom sent me, perfectly showing our unwanted running tour of the Bangkok airport.

  • Bidets everywhere! It took a good half hour and a few minutes of embarrassing internet research before we figured out how to flush the fancy Japanese toilet in our hotel, haha. I now know far too much about Japanese toilets, but appreciate them all the more.
  • There’s a karaoke machine and slot machine in our hotel room. I mean, what else would you expect?
  • Friendly locals. Everyone we’ve seen on the street has been incredibly friendly and unintrusive when we needed them to be. We had to ask for help in buying our train tickets at the airport and the attendant was perfectly nice about it. Then at dinner, we stood at the vending machine where you’re supposed to order food for a solid five minutes (yes, a vending machine), trying to figure it out and laughing to ourselves at our own tourist-ness. No one was staring or pressuring us. When we finally gave up and asked for help (relevant important phrase: sumimasen means “excuse me”), they were so nice, showing us how it worked even though they didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Japanese.
  • So much delicious Japanese food! Seriously guys, it’s so good. We’ve had three meals so far and none have been a dissappointment. It’s also been surprisingly affordable! Our first dinner was three shared entrees for 800 yen (about $7 USD)!

    Dinner at a vending machine in Sendai, Japan

    The aforementioned vending machine where we ordered dinner. And then the amazing food! We inhaled it all in about 2 minutes.

  • It’s fun to practice Japanese! I now know the basics: PleasesorryDo you speak English?… All the things I need to get by. For some reason, Japanese sounds are so fun to imitate.

    Alexis and David in Sendai, Japan

    Cold. Really cold. And the telling “favorite” phrases in my phone’s language app.

Lowlights of the trip so far…

  • David poured salt into his coffee thinking it was sugar. Oops! Still drank it.
  • It’s cold! Like, really really cold. It was also raining last night, which made it freakin’ freezing outside, but today is much better! Sunny with just a cold nip in the air when the wind hits you.
  • My carry-on bag is breaking. The one I had been planning to use for the next 9 months of travel. Yeah, that one. The strap is tearing. Hopefully it lasts through Japan at least, and I can pick up a cheap one in Indonesia.

Not many lowlights to share so far! Overall, Japan is a breath of fresh air compared to Thailand. David’s dad and step-mom arrive from Hawaii tomorrow and his brothers will get here in the couple days after that. So excited to see more of this place!

Our “Monthly Country” Travel Budget (plus a $25 Airbnb Credit!)

By Alexis

Starting in just a few short days (eep!), David and I will begin a new adventure, where we will be moving to one new country every month. A lot of people have asked us how we can afford to travel like this, so I figured we should do a quick post outlining our budget.

Until the end of 2015, here’s what our monthly budget will look like… Continue reading