Wake Up Ali. We're Going On An Airplane.


"Wake up Ali. We're going on an airplane."

That's what I heard as Katie & Peter came walking into my bedroom last Friday morning at about 3:50am.

But let me back up.

I've known that Katie was up to something for the last week or two. About a month ago she put a Portland planning day on the calendar for Friday. There's nothing suspicious about that as we like to drive up there (we live about 2 hours away) from time to time and talk business and get inspiration and get out of the office for the day.

It became a bit suspicious when I got an email from Anna's soccer coach about their end of the year banquet which was scheduled for that same Friday evening. "You can't go." Katie told me. "You're going to have to see if they can move the date. You're not going to be back from Portland by then. And we can't change the day."

At that point I knew for sure something was up.

I thought maybe there was a concert in Portland or something along those lines that she was going to surprise me with.

So last Thursday morning started as usual. I went for a walk, came back and Katie was here to start the day. We did a bit of work and then I went to take a shower. When I came back into the office after taking a shower and getting ready for the day my dear friend Paolo was sitting at my desk.



That was an awesome surprise, especially given that I'd just sent him a text the day before seeing if he could fly down in the next couple of weeks to do some creative brainstorming with me on a project we are working on. If you didn't know, Paolo works for Alaska Airlines which is what gives him lots of travel opportunities.

At this point I'm thinking - awesome - Paolo is coming with us to Portland for the day. That's the story they stuck with most of the day but I was still suspicious and thought maybe we were going to head up to Portland that night and got to a concert or other event. Earlier in the week Katie had told me to invite Aaron to come over on Thursday night and we'd have pizza and watch a movie. She's been wanting me to watch About Time since she saw it months ago.


We did a bit more work and then went to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant and then they said we were going back to my house for brainstorming. I was waiting for them, at any moment, to say "surprise" we are doing this but they stuck with the pizza and movie plan.

After lunch we brainstormed.

Around 5pm Katie left for the day to take Charlotte (her dog) home and said she'd be back with pizza around 6:30pm. Paolo and I started cocktail hour and talked more in the way we usually do - about business and life and fun with lots of reminiscing thrown in (we've know each other for 24 years).


Around 6pm Aaron showed up and he didn't have Woody (his dog) with him so I figured for sure we were going somewhere on Thursday night. Katie brought the pizza over around 6:30pm and her husband Peter arrived around 7pm. We ate and drank and had a few more drinks and sat outside in my backyard and around 11pm decided we'd watch the movie. By this point I thought to myself that this has been an awesome night and going to Portland tomorrow will be fun.


We finish the movie around 1am (awesome movie about celebrating everyday life and the moments we are in right now). Katie and Peter head home. Paolo heads to the guest room and Aaron and I climb in bed upstairs. We decide we'll meet at 8:30am to drive to Portland.

At 3:45am Aaron's phone alarm goes off and I'm totally asleep and trying to figure out why in the heck his alarm is going off. He's not usually an early riser and it was still dark outside and I was in that early morning haze where nothing makes sense. I asked him what time it was and why in the world his alarm was going off. He barely responded. I hear something downstairs and just figure Paolo must have gotten up to go to the bathroom.

Instead, Katie and Peter come walking into my room and say, "Wake up Ali. We're going on an airplane."

Some of you might remember that I've done this sort of surprise with my kids a couple times. I love doing it to them.

These guys totally got me.

"Are you kidding? Really? Really? Are we really going somewhere?"

"Yep. Get up."

"Do I need to pack anything?"

"Nope. We are just going for the day."

I look over at Aaron and I say, "Are you coming too?" and he tells me that he has to go to work which wasn't a surprise because he's nearing the end of a big project and I knew he had a lot on his plate. Even in the middle of the awesome surprise it was hard not to feel disappointed that he wouldn't be coming too. I gave him a long hug and a kiss and lingered there for a few moments as I collected myself.


And then I got up. I put my clothes on. I walked downstairs. I gave Katie a big hug. I gave Peter a big hug. I gave Paolo a big hug. There was lots of laughing and giggling and head shaking. Lots of "didn't we just go to bed?" and "OMG" and that kind of stuff. We were all really tired but I was so game for this adventure.

I didn't ask where we were going. I figured they'd tell me when it was time for me to know.

I heard the shower turn on upstairs. I thought to myself that there's no way Aaron would be taking a shower at 4am if he wasn't actually going with us because he is not an early morning person unless there's a really good reason and he didn't need to be at work until later. I'm still not sure what exactly is happening and the other three are not giving me any information.

We stand around in the kitchen for a bit and at that point I'm wondering why we aren't leaving since I already said goodbye to Aaron (even though I continue thinking and hoping to myself that he might be coming). Then they tell me that Aaron is going to drive us to the airport. I'm still skeptical because it just wasn't all lining up in my head.

I sit down at the table to wait for whatever is next. At this point Paolo looks over at me and I'm pretty sure he could tell I was starting to feel a little anxious and/or unsure. He knows me well enough to know that even though I love adventure and travel and surprises I have a hard time letting go of control. Not knowing is being out of control. He comes over to me and whispers, "Aaron's coming too."

I hug him. Tight.

Aaron comes downstairs all showered and ready, still pretending that he's not coming with us wherever it is that we are going. "You guys ready to go to the airport?" he asks. We all grab our stuff (it is seriously so fun to get to travel without any luggage) and head out the door. I've got a big smile at this point and as Aaron starts to get in his car I get in with him knowing that he was going to drive to the airport too.

On the drive over I tell him how happy I am that he is coming too.

I live about 12 minutes from the local airport. On the way I have start feeling a little anxiety realizing that I'm about to get on an airplane for an unknown destination and in the excitment of the morning I forgot to bring my Xanax which is something I don't usually fly without. I used to have intense airplane anxiety many years ago which lead me to having a talk with my doctor who prescribed xanax for this type of anxiety. It actually went away for a number of years as I traveled more and more but it's recently become an issue again the last few times I've flown (to China, Kauai and to Houston). I like to have it just in case I need it because the anxiety can come on fast and it's really, really hard for me to control without the medication (I usually try deep breathing/mediation/visualization). Because this was all a surprise I wasn't in my regular "prepare for travel" mode I didn't even think to pack it.

I tell myself that I'll be fine.

We park and walk in.

Paolo gets our boarding passes and our first stop is Seattle.

I think it was at this point that they told me that we were hoping to head to San Francisco but we might end up somewhere else depending on the flight loads. We were flying stand-by with passes the Paolo is able to acquire as an employee of Alaska Airlines.

Love this idea so, so much.

We make our way through security and find a place to sit. At this point I start feeling a little panicky and sick to my stomach. I know some of you are reading this and thinking, but you travel really regularly. I know! And I love it. But there's something about it that gives me anxiety and you add that to being really excited for the surprise and unsure of what's to come and you get me in a bit of a panic with an upset stomach (which is where my anxiety often ends up).

After a short group discussion about my increasing anxiety we do the risky thing and Aaron and I drive back to my house (about a 24 min round trip) to get the Xanax because I'm not sure I can make it through four flights in one day without it. I knew I'd feel better if I had it and if we missed this first flight there was another we could take not too long after.

What I love about my friends is that they love me and my little bit of crazy regardless.

Aaron drove as safely as he could in a time crunch back to my house. I jumped out of his car, came inside, grabbed my medication, locked the door and got back in his car.

Very long story short, we made it back in time to catch that first flight to Seattle (they had just started boarding and there was no line in security).


Walking out to the plane there was a lot of excitement, a couple of high-5's and lots of joy.

We landed in Seattle and then took a second flight to San Francisco.



We rode BART into the city and headed to the waterfront first thing. We walked through the Ferry Building and grabbed some empenadas and walked towards Fisherman's Warf. We ate lunch at Boudin and then continued walking down around the corner and out onto a pier so we could see the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance.








It was a beautiful clear day.


We walked back up the hill to ride the trolley until we found out it was more than an hour wait. There was a limo driver there who told us he'd take us to Union Square for the same price as the trolley. When he told us his name was Rufus there was no way we could say no - this is because we'd had a whole discussion earlier in the day about that name and some friends who were considering and/or joking about it as name for their baby. When he told us his name we all burst out laughing and just knew we needed to get a ride with him. Rufus for the win.

We hung out in the park for a bit, walked through Anthropologie and Zara and then headed back to the airport on BART.


I've never done a day trip flight like this and it was so, so cool.


We were able to get on our flight back to Seattle but weren't able to get on our stand by flight back to Eugene (filled up due to an earlier flight cancellation) so our day trip ended up including an overnight (note to self - whenever you find yourself on a "day trip" that includes flying you should always just stash a change of clothes in your bag - I did have a toothbrush at least). Our back up plan included staying the night at Cedarbrook Lodge which is a lovely hotel right near the airport.


Early Saturday morning we headed back over to the airport and boarded a plane to Eugene. Paolo ended up staying the night - the original plan was that he would have flown back to Seattle on Saturday morning if we would have made it back on Friday night.

This meant BONUS fun day.

Aaron headed off to work for a few hours and Paolo and Katie and Peter and I decided to stop at our houses for a shower and a bit of work and then agreed to meet up for brunch and then hit some garage sales. Aaron ended up finishing his work earlier than expected so he met up with us at the restaurant.



And then had an awesome sunny day of garage sales, thrifting, and an antique store.

After lots of looking and walking around we went to a local outdoor restaurants for cocktail hour and then decided to cook shabu shabu for dinner at my house. Shabu shabu is a Japanese meal - a little like a hot pot - that usually includes (at least the way my family makes it) thinly sliced beef, sweet onions, shitake mushrooms, bok choy, green onions, and tofu. It's something my Dad has made for years and I like to make from time to time for friends. I need to do a post on it one of these days. I've made it for Katie and Peter and Aaron before and Paolo has been around when my Dad was in charge. I love it because it's a cook at the table meal and it's slow and social.


Deciding to cook that meant a quick trip across town to the Asian food store which is almost always a good idea. I also made a quick call to my parents while we were in the store to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.


While I prepped ingredients the other four sat at the table. Paolo taught the boys how to play cribbage (or started to teach them) and Katie had a glass of Prosecco. I love having people over to dinner like this - such a fun way to spend the weekend. There was so much laughter around my table - just the way I like it.


Early Sunday morning I took Paolo to the airport and made plans to connect again soon. I love that he masterminded this whole adventure. I love his generous spirit. I love that he's been my friend for 24 years. I love how well he knows me. I love how easy his friendship is and I love that he loves to go to garage sales and thrift stores and brainstorm creative stuff along the way. We are pretty sure he got the best finds yesterday including a Pendleton hat, a big old radio, some suspenders and a wool sport coat (among a few other things).


It was a crazy, unexpected fun few days and I'm so full of gratitude for all the magic.

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95 thoughts

  1. Robyn says…

    Ali I absolutely loved this story! Warmed my heart to hear how generous your friends are and how much they care about you. I admit it brought tears to my eyes on the anxiety issue. Like many I suffer from anxiety (social) and it was PRICELESS how you described how the people closest to you understand. Like a couple others...I thought for sure there was a marriage proposal.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Leanne in CA says…

    How fun! Wow, what a day. I thought it might be a birthday thing or something. Sounds so fun to spend all that time with such great friends!! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Trisha Harrison says…

    Ali, I love this!! What an amazing adventure and journey with your super awesome group of friends! Loved hearing this story unfold & happy to hear that Aaron was able to adventure with you too!

    I am the same way I love travel and going places but have anxiety, I need to check with my Doctor as well for what I should take. Wonderful story & so happy that you have these great people in your life that make this kind of magic happen for you!!

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  4. tara says…

    enjoyed reading this awesome story!

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Kristie W says…

    I had so much fun following your adventure on IG. You are blessed with a wonderful group of friends!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Mandi R says…

    Sounds like such a fun weekend. Just a note though.. the name is actually Rufus. I've known several awesome and wonderful men named Rufus. Great name although not use much anymore.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Ali says…

      You are so right Mandi - fixing that now - thank you.

  7. Hannah L says…

    How very fabulous! Love you and love that you have friends like that. I expect you will float through this week on a high of love and laughter! Xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Patti L says…

    This was an awesome story. The writing was impeccable. Loved reading. You have the most fun friends! Can totally relate to airport anxiety, never took medicine, but I know the feeling. After much trial and error, I never leave on a day trip without at least packing an extra pair of undergarments! Can't wait to see the layout you make from this story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Stephanie George says…

    Love, love, love that you got this story told (especially since it was a long one). Often I find that recapping a special event is the hardest part of memory keeping. Also love the last two "closing" pictures. All was back to calm and normal and good after a very fun filled couple of days. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  10. Mikki says…

    You've got a fantastic group of friends there, and what an outstanding adventure!

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Sally says…

    What an amazing weekend you had. It's nice to have such fantastic friends.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Shannon P. says…

    Super, super, fun! I was hyperventilating a little at the thought of a surprise flight. You inspire me to be bolder and more adventurous. You were definitely thriving this weekend!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Taylor says…

    What an awesome and fun adventure!!! I'm the same way with traveling; it's kind of a love hate relationship. Traveling is awesome and exciting, but after a 15-year battle with anxiety, the only time it arises anymore is when traveling is involved (ESPECIALLY flying!) I'm glad you worked through it and had a blast! It's always such an accomplishment when you fight through the "I can't do this and I'm leaving right now before my stomach explodes with anxiety" and get to enjoy the day!


    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Kelly Jo says…

    Simply. Amazing!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Debbie says…

    I am one who doesn't do well with surprises, yet in the hands of such good friends, it seems awesome. So glad for you to have these days free!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Kristin A. says…

    What a blessing sweet friends are and you surely are blessed! Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Please do share more about shabu shabu. I spy a fondue pot! Mind surely doesn't get used enough.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Cele Schaffer says…

    You have the MOST fun!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Doris says…

    What a great adventure - it would have been cool to run into you at the Ferry Building! Love that place, especially Acme Bread. The street car is crowded all the time but a fun way to get to Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Leslie S. says…

    Sounds like an awesome weekend! Good for you.


    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Julie Finch says…

    what a super fun surprise for you!!! :) :) :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Lisa says…

    this was such a fun post! I've done this for my husband and my kids (separately) but no one has ever done for me. Not that I think they can pull something over on me, I don't think they can but I'd love for them to try!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Allison says…

    This is so awesome! Nodding my head along to this part: 'even though I love adventure and travel and surprises I have a hard time letting go of control.'

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Hailey Mann says…

    this just makes me smile.

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Olivia says…

    I love this story! And that photo in the back of the limo is a classic xx

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Jen D says…

    This is amazing! How I would love to just fly somewhere unexpectedly but totally fun filled for a day (or two)! Glad you had an amazing time. You have great friends! =)

    Reply 0 Replies

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