Two years ago today I arrived in the city of Portland. Sitting at home by myself isn’t quite the anniversary celebration that I expected, though I question whether I would have acknowledged the date if my normal life hadn’t come crashing to a halt in the past few weeks. Thinking back on my beginnings in this city almost feels like looking into a strange, alternate universe. I spent those first three months sleeping on an air mattress in a tiny studio apartment, my only other furniture a cardboard box turned upside down. I was out every day- finding my way around, discovering bars & restaurants, exploring the outdoors, trying to meet new friends. Two lightning fast years later and I’m staying inside my lovely apartment all day, sneaking out for solo walks and a breath of fresh air, but spending long parts of my day connecting online with friends near and far. The world has flipped upside down, yet somehow I think my feet are still on the ground.
Would I rather relive my first three months in Portland or the next three or four or who knows how long? If we could just remove this pandemic and the death and misery it’s caused, then I would choose the latter in a heartbeat. In this current period of isolation I’m connected, whereas before I was just alone. It simply comes down to my friends: good or bad, I don’t want to relive a time when they were strangers.
The story of how I ended up in Portland is largely a solo act. I quit my job without a backup and booked a one-way flight to Chile. This remains the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. When I tell my story, people usually remark that I’m brave and fearless, that they would never have the courage to travel solo in a foreign country or move to a city where they don’t know anyone. In these moments I smile and awkwardly say thank you (did they even mean it as a compliment?) because I don’t know how to explain that the brave part happened before all that. By the time I boarded that one-way flight actions had already been set in motion and I was just going along with them. There is nothing fearless about going with the flow. The true moments of courage were the times leading up to decision points: the number of minutes that the curser hovered over the confirm button before I bought the flight, the days I spent agonizing over my notice letter. But fortune favors the bold, as the saying goes, and in compensation for my bravery fate rewarded me with a job offer the day before my flight to Chile. After that, everything was easy. I left, I returned, I moved.
Now, as I reflect on the past two years I realize that while my time in Portland might have started off as a solo experience it has turned into something very different. The Pacific Northwest memories that I’m most grateful for happened with and because of friends. So here are some of my highlights from my life in Portland so far, listed in no particular order.
Mount St. Helens (almost) Summit – one year ago today!
On the last day of March in 2019 I attempted to reach the summit of Mount St. Helens with two friends. It was a failed attempt at the summit but a win in terms of experience and Type 2 fun. While I had been hiking regularly I didn’t do much training in advance, so for me it was also a significant physical accomplishment to get as far as we did. I was hoping to make another attempt in May or June of this year, but given current events this is probably unlikely. Hopefully I’m wrong, but if not then it gives me more time to train for next year.
Goat Rocks Backpacking – Labor Day Weekend 2019
Over Labor Day weekend last year I went on my first real backpacking trip in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience- the weather was nice (no rain!), the scenery was stunning, and the company was fantastic. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to get into the wilderness again soon.
NW Coffee Beer Invitational – January 2019 & 2020
There are so many beer events in Portland. In a normal year it can feel like there is a beer fest happening every weekend. I haven’t been to all of them, but so far my favorite is the Northwest Coffee Beer Invitational held in Januarys. It’s a smaller, more low-key event compared to some of the popular beer fests, and most importantly it combines two of my favorite beverages: coffee and beer. My friends and I have gone the past two years, and I’m hoping this can be an annual tradition.
Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl – December 2018
One of my friends plans the best bar crawls. He’s really great at picking fun places to go and keeping everyone on a schedule. My favorite that he has planned was an ugly sweater crawl during my first December in Portland. It was a fun night in general, but it’s extra special to me because that was the first night that I met many people in our friend group.
Mt. Rainier Weekends – Fall 2018 & August 2019
Another friend and I have gone on a few weekend hiking trips together. My favorite destination (so far) has been Mt. Rainier National Park. We went for the first time in the fall of 2018, and again last summer during wildflower season. The scenery was beautiful, and it was great to see how the landscape changed throughout the year. On our last trip we came across a group of marmots which felt like a special treat!
Concerts, Opera, and Plays – Fall 2019
There was a period last fall where I found myself attending a bunch of music & cultural events in a short period of time. There were a couple of firsts: my first opera, Madama Butterfly, and my first symphony experience, a Beethoven vs. Coldplay fusion event. There was a rock concert during which Gavin Rossdale basically serenaded my friend from the row of seats in front of us. There was the 10-Minute Play festival, which I thought was hysterical in the most puntastic way. And mixed in throughout all of this were a bunch of local comedy nights where I started to get more familiar with the Portland comedy scene.
My Birthday Happy Hour – August 2019
For my birthday last year I planned a happy hour and invited all of my Portland friends. It was a very relaxing night and nothing really significant happened, but it was special to me because that was the first time my different friend groups crossed and it was lovely to see how my circle in the city had expanded in just over a year.
Putting this small list together is bittersweet- I don’t know when I’ll see most of these people again, or when (if?) these places will be open or accessible anytime in the near future. The best thing I can do is hope for that day to come sooner rather than later and do my part to keep myself, my friends, and my city safe- stay home.