Lessons of turning tragedy into triumph 

from a military widow

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EUROPE! Here we go.

7 countries. 2 months. 3 kids + 2 nannies. We leave for Europe in less than two weeks. TWO WEEKS! Agh here we go.


Many of you have asked about our upcoming trip to Europe so I wanted to take a minute to explain what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, where we’re going and who all is joining the kids and I on this adventure.


This past year has been fraught with the highest highs and lowest lows you can imagine. In May 2018 I lost the love of my life in a terrible scuba diving accident, and two months later I clutched a photo of him in my hands as I gave birth to our daughter. The daughter he’d never get to meet. It took an incredible amount of determination, resiliency and minute by minute perseverance to get through those first few months, but I did it, we did it, and now we’re here.


So, how does any of that translate to a two month, seven country trip throughout the continent of Europe?


I will save the particulars for a later blog post, but in simple terms, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out of my depression after losing Brian. I needed something to look forward to, to plan for, to encourage and motivate myself that I could do this. I’ve always loved traveling, having spent my twenty’s traveling solo throughout Europe, seeing 6 of the 7 continents before I was thirty. This didn’t slow down when Brian and I got married and brought our kids into the world. Instead, we made a decision very early on that we wouldn’t change our way of life to accommodate our kids, instead we’d incorporate them into our way of life, which included extensive traveling. Izzy and Hudson had been to 5 countries before Hudson’s 2nd birthday and we are/were so proud and thankful to be able to expose them to these types of experiences and education. I was terrified I wouldn’t have the confidence to continue this way of life without Brian here, so I needed to push myself and prove to myself that I could do it. I told myself nobody else could do this for me, so I just needed to do it and I knew if I said I was going to do something, I would do it, so I started planning. Three kids is a lot of kids to take to the grocery store, let alone across a continent, but I needed something big, something that would get me excited and that would motivate me to keep going to help get me out of my depression. I looked at Google.com/flights and started typing in destinations and dates and soon had a rough plan. I know Europe, I’m comfortable with Europe and it’s ease of traveling which was important to me with such young kids in tow. We’ll spend approximately two weeks in each country and I chose the following destinations, some for specific reasons, some because it was inexpensive to get to and would be a cool experience.

We leave Portland, OR headed for New York City where we’ll spend a few days with my baby brother and his family and wait for Kasey to wrap up a few engagements here in Portland before she fly’s over to meet up with us to join us on the trip. The rest of our trip looks like this:


Amsterdam, Netherlands. This is one of the places I have no real reason for selecting, except that it was an inexpensive jumping off point from New York and I’ve never been. The only thing planned while here so far is to take Izzy to see the Anne Frank house and let her experience something she’ll soon be reading about in school.


Oslo, Norway. Outside of the Oregon Coast, this was Brian’s favorite place on earth. He has family roots here (he actually tracked down the Bugge café last time he was in town) and he was excited to do some diving here in the future. He’d had the opportunity to spend some time here for work on a couple of occasions and was really excited to bring the kids and I over to show us why he loved it so much, so although he won’t be here to join us, I want to take the kids to see it and experience why he loved it so much. We’ll scatter some of his ashes here.


Warsaw, Poland. I was a history major in college and have always been drawn to WWII history. I’ve visted Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, but have always wanted to see Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. I’m not one for bucket lists, but if I were, this would be on it. It’s a strange thing to admit, but this is the experience I’m most looking forward to of our entire trip and while the kids are too young to probably remember the emotions of going to a place like this by the time they’re in school learning about WWII, I’ll be able to show them photos and talk about our experience here. This one will be a life changing experience.


Zurich/Zermatt, Switzerland. I chose this place solely because I want to hike through the Swiss Alps and be able to say, “I hiked through the Swiss Alps.” Vain? Yes. I also plan on eating a lot of Swiss chocolate after hiking through said Alps. Prepare for some Matterhorn selfies.


Athens/Santorini, Greece. Greece has always been a place I know I’d get to at some point, but without any real urgency to see it ‘right now.’ The trip was evolving into something more than just a few weeks overseas, so I decided now would be the time. I’m looking forward to experiencing Athens for all of the iconic reasons any tourist goes to Athens for; to see the Acropolis and eat a TON of hummus. We’re then flying over to Santorini for a few days to experience the white washed walls and blue rooftops that have made this one of the most beautiful islands in the world. My videographer friend, Brae Hunziker, will be joining us for this leg of the trip to capture some film of our adventures which will be a treasure for the kids and I as we grow old together.


Dublin, Ireland. Outside of the Oregon Coast, this is hands down my favorite place on earth. I spent a week here in 2010 on a backpacking trip with my little brother, Benny, and even with all of the traveling I’ve done since then, I’ve never experienced a place like it. Music flowing from the open doors of bars as you walk down the street, beautiful faces with matching Irish accents offering G’mornings, the lush green countryside which reminded me of home, the feeling of vastness felt while standing on the cliffs of Moher, staring out at the open ocean. I just loved every minute of being here and can’t wait to get back.


Reykjavik, Iceland. This is the final stop of our trip and will be my third visit to the country. I spent a week here by myself in 2011, knowing nothing of the country or what to expect, yet was incredibly surprised by how beautiful it was. I knew I’d return some day, which I did in 2017, this time with Izzy and Hudson in tow. It was surreal standing in the same places I had six years prior, only this time with my two children in tow (Brian couldn’t join us on this trip because he was getting Stay Gold ready to sail across the Pacific.) We could have flown home from Dublin and had an incredible two month trip, but something about Iceland makes me feel nostalgic and I wanted to experience those same places with Adeline too. I’ve spent time in this country during incredibly different stages of my life; a single solo backpacker, a wife and mom of two out on a cool adventure with her kids, and now a widow with three kids, returning for a moment of healing.


So, there you have it. The lineup of our Euro trip! Now, the final question I get asked. Is anyone coming with us to help me with the kids? Yes. Of course. Haha. I might be a little crazy for spending two months abroad with three young kids, but I’m not insane enough to think I could do it on my own. I asked two very special friends to join us on this trip and am grateful they’ve both cleared their schedule to be a part of it – I mean really though, who in their right mind would turn down a two month trip across Europe with the kids and I?


Kayla VanFossen: You’d probably recognize Kayla as the beautiful blonde who recently accompanied us to Hawaii a few weeks ago. Oh, you didn’t notice she was young, blonde, tan and gorgeous? Yeah, right. I met Kayla through a nanny service when I was pregnant with Adeline. I had made the decision to move off the island of Oahu to have Addy and we were heading for Boise. I had it in my head that I’d have Adeline and stay in Boise for a year or two while I sorted through my thoughts and feelings, figuring out our new way of life with two young kids and a newborn baby. I had a phone interview with Kayla as I was sorting through things in our home, and had to apologize again and again for how scatterbrained I was. I didn’t let her know why we were moving, just that we’d be arriving in the next week and I wanted to meet her when we got there. We flew to Boise on a Thursday night. I had a doctor appointment Friday morning and I met with Kayla Monday. She showed up to Nikki’s house and was confronted right away with the fact that I was a mess. I cried during her interview as I told her why I had moved off the island. That I was about to give birth. That I was living in this house with my sister and brother in law for the time being, with my two kids, their two kids and our combined three dogs. She smiled and said, ok. I loved her from the very beginning and offered her the job on the spot if she was willing to take it. She started two weeks later and has been a part of my family ever since. Kayla is one of the sweetest, funniest and fun people I know. She can find the humor in any situation and although she’s a terrible co-pilot when it comes to road trips, she’s a blast to spend time with. She thinks it’s funny to call me “mom” in public to embarrass me, so I fully plan on leaving her at a train station in Poland to find her way home if she tries to do that while overseas. ;) Follow her here: @kay_van23


Kasey Curtin: Kasey is my non-blood-related sister. We met in 2009 when I was living on SW 18th & Taylor in downtown Portland, across the street from the Cheerful Bullpen bar where Kasey worked. She had just moved to Portland from Alaska, so when she approached me while I was at the bar doing homework one afternoon to introduce herself – as my waitress – and then as Kasey, 23, a recently transplant to Portland without any friends, I was quickly smitten and invited her out with my sister, Jessica and I for a night of vegan corndogs and debauchery. She was loud, funny, crazy, ridiculous and very emotional. Jessica thought she was nuts. I thought she was hilarious. Jessica came around at some point to start liking her and I came around to recognize that she really is nuts. ;) Kasey has been a part of my life during the highest of highs and now the lowest of lows and although we share no DNA, I consider her part of my family. She’s Izzy’s godmother, she has my name tattooed on her wrist, and we’ve cried more tears and laughed more laughs together than most friends will in a lifetime. Kasey will be in my life and that of my kids until we’re all no longer here to post about how thankful I am for this fact on the internet anymore. I’ve invited her on almost every trip I’ve taken across Europe, but she’s never been able to go, until now. This is a healing journey for the kids and I, but also for her. Kasey has experienced a lot of loss in her own life, her mom in a drunk driving accident when she was 4, her brother in a choking accident when she was 19 and her dad to a heart attack when she was 28. She has literally had to say goodbye to her entire family and I know she feels a special bond with Izzy, not only as her godmother, but as someone who experienced profound loss at such a young age and wants to help guide her through some of the harder moments. Kasey might be my most emotional friend, but she is an inspiration to me, someone who has suffered through such pain in such little time, but still has the ability to love relentlessly, to embrace friendships and relationships and to not just tell but show us all how much she cares about us. If you ever get the opportunity to meet Kasey, consider yourself lucky. She’s unlike anybody else you’ll ever know and a treasure. She’s also an incredible hairstylist if you’re ever in the Portland area – and she’s not traveling across Europe with us. Follow her here: @kasec


So, there you have it! Our plans, our destinations, our travel companions! You can follow our journey here on Instagram: @7countries2months my personal instagram @ashley.bugge or through this facebook page: www.facebook.com/ashleybuggexo




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