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An armchair travel story about my Russian spa treatment, UK door locks, and homesickness.

“Please have seat here and warm up,” the Russian spa therapist told me.

I obeyed and entered a large sauna. There were three levels of deep steps you could choose to sit on. I wasn’t a sauna noob. I knew that the higher up you go, the hotter the air, so I plopped myself down on the middle stair and immediately started sweating from every pore on my body.

Shelby had given me this “Birch Treatment” at a Russian spa located in the affluent London neighborhood of Chelsea as my birthday present. I had no idea what to expect other than birch trees were likely to be involved.

At first, I was alone in the sauna, but a few minutes into my sit, when I was dripping sweat and could smell the garlic from my dinner the night before emanating off my skin and into the sticky air, two women entered whispering to each other in Russian.

I glanced up and was surprised to see two girls who could have passed as supermodels. They were tall and slender, but while their bodies appeared natural in their spaghetti-string bikinis, their faces were covered with makeup and their lips were abnormally large. They lounged on the top step, using towels as pillows...

About This Chapter

The two months we lived in London at the beginning of 2022 were a roller coaster ride. We arrived in the UK eager to explore one of our favorite cities, but halfway through made the difficult choice to rework our trip and come home early. Skutull underwent an unexpected surgery, I suffered from a collapse in travel stamina, and Shelby had to shred the itinerary she'd spent years perfecting.

In many ways, this was the climax of our nomadic adventure. It was the point where we realized that our travels had been enriching, but they'd served their purpose and it was time to come home. This transition to the next chapter in our lives was difficult, but I think it forced us to grow a lot both as individuals and as partners. 

As I promised in the last issue, I made an effort to write this chapter from a more comedic angle. I hope you enjoy this wide-ranging hodgepodge of stories from our time in London.

Message from Zack

Happy Midsummer! We'll be spending the longest day of the year (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) on an evening hike culminating in angel food cake and fresh berries. I hope our picnic doesn't attract any bears! How are you utilizing the sunlight today? 

We've spent the last month living about an hour outside of Boulder into the mountains. The seclusion and proximity to nature have been nurturing. When we leave, I'm going to miss having a hiking trail right out of my backyard where I rarely see other people.
This meadow is a ten-minute hike from our house and has been our happy place that we visit a few times per day.
Skutull found a tree infested with large, black ants. It's difficult to see in the picture, but the stick coming out of the trunk near the base was covered with ants who were burrowing into the tree, then dumping small chunks of sawdust onto the ground. 
Mussels and cheddar cheese for dinner! The mussels are supposed to be good for his joints. 
Skutull underwent his second unexpected surgery of the year two weeks ago. On the night we pulled into my parents' house after a year and a half on the road, Skutull broke one of his front teeth playing with a toy.

I typically play "The Find Game" with Skutull twice per day, which is a game we invented when he was a puppy where I hide his toys, he finds them, then he celebrates his success by shaking and killing them. He hasn't been able to play with his toys at all because of the stitches in his mouth, but he just got back from a checkup appointment at the vet where they gave him the green light to play with toys again. I expect tonight will be quite the bloodbath as he takes out weeks of frustration on his favorite owl toy, Hedwig.

Enjoy the journey,

P.S. Here are my favorite stories and resources since last time

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Zack Thoutt
9450 SW Gemini Drive
Beaverton, OR 97008

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