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We wake up in a cottage on the banks of a river that flows through a valley out of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. In a lot of ways, it’s a typical day in our lives as traveling freelancers. The October mornings are gray, with mist hanging over the river. Leaves fall steadily from the maples on the bank, sounding like the pages of a novel being turned. I look out the window or open the door to check the temperature based on how heavily my breath fogs.

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I drink multiple glasses of water and make coffee and check the day’s headlines on my phone. Then I prepare breakfast, which we’ve honed and crafted over the past year of traveling: multigrain muesli with dried fruits, walnuts, flax meal, bananas, and seasonal fruit. In October, that’s succulent pear and crisp apples. In Poland, it was berries. How I miss them.img_7118

Then we set out for the morning adventure. In Samovodene, we walk through the town to the train tracks to enter a trail leading to a monastery set into the cliffs of the valley. Or on another day, we climb up to the plateau. The red, purple, orange, green, and yellow forest carpets the valley below, leading out to the bare, harvested, brown fields.img_7039

Or on another day we take a bus to Veliko Tarnovo itself, and walk through the medieval fortress, imagining we’re villagers looking out for invading Ottomans. It’d be a super place for kids – we can imagine Aaron’s nephews tearing around that place with foam swords and cardboard helmets.

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Cool, crossbow!

I check my watch to estimate how much time we’d need to get home by 1 pm, which is when I make lunch, usually leftover dinner and whole grain bread and some kind of spread. In our river cottage, I roast a head of garlic and then smash that up with a little sunflower oil. We usually enjoy our sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, but they’re beginning to peter out.

Aaron has dish duty. I begin working. It’s pretty funny to report on municipal finance in the United States from a tiny river cottage on the banks of a river in Bulgaria. I write reports for institutional investors about, say, Connecticut’s deficit, or Flint lawsuits, or Atlantic City’s financial crisis, as the sun begins not so much to set, as to fade away into the October chill.

I take tea in the afternoon, Aaron has coffee, and in our river cottage, he builds a fire in the wood stove, so it gets really cozy in there. I cook dinner, and it’s pretty much the exact same recipe every single day (but it’s really delicious so we aren’t sick of it yet). I cook lentils with onions, carrots, garlic, cabbage, bell pepper, spices, and goodies like squash or potatoes, in a tomato-based sauce. In Bulgaria they’re into this delicious roasted red pepper sauce, which I throw in there. We eat the stew with pasta or rice or potatoes. After dinner we finish our work, I meditate, and then bed time.

On Saturdays we take long treks, like to another monastery with an old painted church, and then through the woods along the valley to Veliko Tarnovo for dinner at a restaurant and a stroll around town. Sunday is travel day to the next destination. We always stay at Airbnb apartments.

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Magical woods near the monastery, with shrine.

So life has its routines, and ours follows the same pattern, down to the same darn recipe for dinner every day – I’m surprised we don’t hate it yet, but instead I’ve perfected it, like the painter at the monastery church who keeps painting the same simple iconographic flowers and saints to beautiful effect.img_7159

Well, maybe not quite at that level.

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Bulgaria is magic.

Walks to explore in the mornings, work in the afternoons and evenings. Epic hikes on Saturdays, and travel to the next destination on Sunday. It’s a pretty sweet life.

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Written by Ada Kase (Kulesza)

Ada Kase is a freelance journalist and photographer from Philadelphia. AJKTravels is her personal travel blog documenting her adventures with her husband, journalist Aaron Kase.

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