Category Archives: Travel

2017: A Year in Review || 2018: A Year of Goals

Oh, 2017. What can I say about this year that other’s haven’t already? It was a year of ups and downs and lots of in-betweens. This year gave me incredible community and friendships. It also taught me lessons that I loved and dreaded, sometimes at the same exact time.

Dear ones, we cried, marched, laughed, protested, and resisted, and most of all, we persisted.  

In 2017, I:

  • Started teaching online at a job that has made me a morning person. I get to teach and touch lives on the other side of the globe from the corner of my apartment. AKA I talk and sing and laugh with some of the cutest kids ever- at 4am every day
  • Was chosen to teach for a pilot program bringing English language classes to the most remote and rural schools in China. My class of 53 smiling faces squished in a room make Mondays and Tuesdays my favorite days.
  • Fell in love with China
  • Stood beside one of my best friends as she married the man of her dreams
  • Traveled to San Diego to celebrate a friend of over 20 years getting married as well
  • Traveled to New Orleans to visit my college roommate and solo explored the incredible city
  • Attended White Sox, Cubs, Bears, and Bulls games! Go Chicago!
  • Watched my sweet Mama graduate from college this year. I could not be more proud.
  • Traveled to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Macedonia
  • Met some incredible people and went to fun events thanks to the blogging and Instagram communities that I found
  • Lost my sweet baby Sylvester and mourned and grieved and hurt in ways I didn’t know were possible. He was truly my companion, support, and child
  • Spent a weekend surrounded by friends celebrating a friend’s birthday and each other
  • Ended my 3rd and started my 4th year of teaching at the same school I was hired in for TFA. Being able to watch my kids grow over the years is an honor. I love my job and my amazing kids.
  • Coached a winning season of volleyball.

This year, in 2018 I plan to:

  • Dance more, sing more, move more, laugh more
  • Stay consistent and commit to improvements
  • Step back- on things that no longer bring me joy, take too much time, or make me overly stressed
  • Travel to Alaska
  • Travel to Canada
  • Begin saving for a trip to China in 2019
  • Focus on the things that I can change, let go of those that I can’t
  • Make my house a home this year – decorate, enjoy, personalize
  • Take a weekend trip or two to somewhere fun
  • Cultivate community and truly invest in the friendships I have made
  • Focus on my word of the year (that post coming soon!)

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that each year I choose a word to focus on for the year. This year will be no different. I’ve already decided on my word for this year, and I am SO excited to share it with you all soon!

It’s been a heck of a year, and I’m excited to see what 2018 will bring!

7 Phrases That Have Different Meanings in Chicago

Phrases Different Meaning Chicago

“Oh no! You got a boo boo?” I said on my 2nd day of teaching in Chicago. A student had just come up to me with a scratched knee from falling on the grass. I was so surprised when he gave me a weird look and said “NO!” before running to the other teacher and asking for a Band-Aid.


Turns out, I had asked the kid if he had poop. Here in Chicago, “boo boo” doesn’t mean a small injury to a little kid. It only took me one extra day to figure that one out.

Here are 6 more phrases that mean something different here in Chicago than they do anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

“Push the door up” – Close the door

“I gotta use it” – I need to use the bathroom

“That’s high” – That’s expensive!

“Washroom” – Bathroom

“LSD” – Not a drug. “Riding down LSD” does not actually mean you’re on some type of drug trip. It just means you’re on Lakeshore Drive, a main road along the lake here.

“You’re stupid!” – Does not actually mean someone is questioning your intelligence. Just means “Oh you’re funny!”

Have you hear these in your area of the country? What are some other phrases that mean different things depending on where you live?

This is Not the Life I Planned

This is not the life I planned

I’m not where I thought I’d be by now.

But that’s ok with me.

Throughout my teenage years, I had a few different versions of where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.

There was option A:  The one where I get married young.
I’d stay home with the kids for a few years. This one is what is common where I grew up in small town Idaho and it works out great for some people.

Option B: The one where I traveled.
See, at 18, I didn’t know what it meant to stay in the United States for more than a year at a time. Post-college, I saw myself continuing this pattern.

Option C: The one with the fancy job.
I’d be working at a big important job by now as a leader in some big industry.

Along with each of these options came a similar timelines. Get a job, get married by 27, baby by 30. Stable. Secure. Settled. 

The thing is though, I didn’t plan for setbacks or mistakes. I didn’t plan for life to get in the way. I didn’t plan on learning more and having my eyes and heart opened to new possibilities. It’s funny, because we can plan and plan as much as we want. In the end, the universe gives us what we need and takes us down paths we never imagined.

I never saw myself where I am now. I never thought I’d be single for over a year, much less by choice (another post for another day).

I never saw myself feeling so fulfilled by my work that seems so simple from an outside perspective, but means so much and matters in this world so much to those of us involved.

I never saw myself living in Chicago. Alone.

I never knew I’d be this content with NOT knowing what comes next. And that’s the thing I’m learning most- it’s ok. Not too long ago, I would have been terrified of not knowing what comes next. Now, though, I know that things will turn out as they are meant to. I know my life will go down the path it is supposed to, because I will continue to grow and learn just what it is I need to get down that path.

This isn’t the life I planned.

This isn’t where I thought I’d be by now.

But this is exactly where I’m meant to be.

And it is good. So good.

8 Years On | Travel Tuesday

life is adventure travel tuesday

This week marks 8 years since I studied abroad in Mexico. Timehop so lovingly informed me of the statuses I posted about my homecoming after a year away and the roller coaster of emotions that I broadcasted on Facebook because, hello, I was a teenager.

It got me thinking though, about how that was what really got me started with being comfortable traveling alone and made me so much more confident in myself. At 16 and didn’t know a whole lot of anything, but I knew more about myself then and had more confidence than ever. This was before a lot of insecurities about the future had set in (college? five year plans? marriage? TEN year plans?) and my only real focus was getting through high school, spending time with friends, and figuring out what it all meant.

After my year abroad, a year has hardly gone by that my passport hasn’t gotten some use. And I am so grateful and so blessed to have had so many opportunities and people in my corner helping me make so many travel dreams a reality. Thanks Mom and Dad, you guys especially! These past couple of years, though I’ve largely stayed in the States, a couple cross-country moves had taken place, I’ve started and quit perfectly good jobs because another city and another opportunity called out to me. That need for newness and adventure never left.

This week, after reliving the days of my international travels through pictures and talking to a few friends from those days, I couldn’t help but realize that I’m not exactly about to move to another country any time soon. But what happened to the girl who was always scheduled on some kind of adventure? When did I become so… normal? Which brings me to a change in mindset.

life is adventure quote

This whole life is a journey to be explored, regardless of where I am. It may be in the United States, but my goodness does it feel like a different world sometimes. This is still where I feel called to be, and I still feel like I am making a difference here for others, and I know I’m growing and helping myself. My point being, just because I’m not on living abroad or jaunting around now doesn’t mean my life and what I are doing is any less- any less worthy or important or valuable.

And this goes for anyone who may be wistfully reading travel blogs or wishing that that life was your own. Where you are right now is important too. Normal isn’t boring or bad. And really, there’s something different, exciting, and completely not-normal in each of our lives that keeps us all going. This life is so good, right here, every day.

This isn’t to say that I’m done traveling. I’m still breaking out my passport later this summer and plan to more next summer, but where I am right this minute is perfectly great too.

What do you think? What adventure are you on right now? Every day life is pretty cool, isn’t it?


Travel Tuesday

Coffee Date | On my heart

coffee date

Join me for a bit, won’t you? I suppose it’s time for a coffee date to do some explaining and some chatting. As I sit in this airport on my way from Atlanta to Idaho, I could use a good cup of coffee and some time sitting comfortably, so let’s just imagine we’re there instead, ok?

If you follow me on social media, you know I’m on Spring Break right now (teacher perks!) and I took some time to travel to Atlanta to visit friends and today I’m heading home to Idaho to see my family for the rest of the week. Then I’ll be heading back to Chicago to finish out the school year! This trip has already been a whirlwind, and it has been the most healing, healthy thing in the world for me. After being sick for almost a month, I’m finally feeling like I’m on my way to healing and feeling better.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that being busy is nothing new for me. I thrive off of being busy, but maybe I’ve taken on a little too much lately. I’m now working 6 days a week teaching. I absolutely love teaching and working with all my kids, but of course, this is a job that doesn’t end when the time clock officially says it does. It begins at least an hour beforehand and usually allows me to leave about an hour after- only to go home and continue the planning and preparation there. It is the best job, and I know I am lucky to have it, but oh, it is exhausting. Pile all of this on top of grad school classes and attempting to keep up with that, and I’m wiped.

If we were having coffee, I’d admit that I’m feeling like it’s all a bit much. Emotionally, it is tiring because as much as I do and as much as I feel like I am working as much as I can, there is so much more to be done and so much that I simply can’t do. There is a certain type of guilt that comes along with that that I try to ignore and logically know shouldn’t be there. Then again, we all know that sometimes feelings don’t follow logic.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that being in Atlanta these past few days has left everything in me pulling me back toward this city. From the climate to the culture, this is my city. This is where I became an adult and while I am grateful for the opportunity to be living in Chicago now, I’m just not convinced that Chicago is for me long term.

If we were having coffee, I’d let you in on the fact that I’ve been thinking a lot about the different relationships in my life lately. I’ve been in my element with my people here in Atlanta, and it has been beautiful. These are the people that I can skip the small talk with and get straight down to what’s on my heart and what I need to talk through. These are the people that get it, and get me on every level. Of course I have good friends in Chicago that I love dearly, but it’s not quite the same. My Chicago friends are some of the best people I’ve ever met and I am lucky to have them, but again, it’s just a little different.

Now, it’s important for me to know what’s going on in your life as well. How are you, really? What’s been on your heart lately?

Travel Tuesday | Why I Travel

Why I Travel

I talk about travel a lot in this space- both traveling that I’ve already done and the places I’m still dreaming about going. I haven’t yet, though, talked about why I travel and why I just love it so much. So that’s what I’m going to do today. These are just a few of the many, many reasons I travel.

It changes me. My perspectives, my thoughts, my world view. Sometimes I visit a city and the way of thinking so different that it makes me see the whole world differently. I come back with new thoughts and feelings that I never would have had without travel. I learn about myself. Who I really am and what I want and need in this world without local society telling the answers to me. I have to find the answers on my own. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I meet so many people. Seriously. Especially with solo travel. You would think it would be more lonely but it’s the exact opposite! People are almost always willing to help out, have a conversation, and teach and learn a little more about this world we live in. Sometimes those conversations are almost purely hand motions and broken language, but those are always fun anyway.

It’s hard. Yes. It poses a challenge to me that I thrive off of. A challenge in the best ways. Travel forces you to be a stronger, more confident, and even more independent, person. There is no way to prepare yourself fully for the experience but to do it. It’s so worth it!

I feel the most free while traveling. There’s something about a long plane flight and new place on the other end that makes me feel like I’m free. Free to explore, to dream, to learn, and to be.

I grow so much. Every time I go on a trip, I come back a different person. I mature in ways that are impossible when you stay in one place. Travel forces you to become more yourself and come into your own. There is so much to be said for people who have lived and loved in multiple places. I know I’ve learned so much responsibility and flexibility on my trips. It’s just what needs to be done.

It makes me appreciate more. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given. The work that others have put in to get me where I am and the work that I’ve put in. It makes me more appreciative on this time on Earth. It’s short, but it’s long. Travel also shows me what’s really important. Money and physical things mean so much less after some experience.

Why else do I travel? WHY NOT?

I have no reason to NOT want to see more of the world. Quite simply, I enjoy it and it makes me a better person. Now, where to go next?

Reverse Culture Shock | Travel Tuesday

Reverse Culture Shock

One of my most precious memories. That first hug from my Daddy after my first year abroad!

Last week I wrote about culture shock and some things that go along with that. This week, I want to talk about reverse culture shock- a very real, very shocking experience.

As a returned from my first time living abroad, I felt so different and out of place. It was hard to figure out why I felt like it because here I was, back in my childhood home, where everything and everyone I knew was, but I felt like I didn’t quite fit. Everything felt almost right, but still felt a little… off.

Things had changed during my year abroad. I had changed, too.

During my “re-entry” retreat with other exchange students, someone voiced my feelings so simply and so well I couldn’t help but just say YES and feel understood. Finally. They said that coming home was like moving to a new host family’s house, only you already knew what drawer the silverware was in.

This hit me as such truth because it was- the family here was familiar, of course, but also new. They way we interacted was new. The culture was new again- not what I’d been living for the past year and what I was used to. English? Pshh, at that point I was thinking and speaking in Spanish. Translating every thought and word to English was now almost as exhausting as my first couple months in Mexico. I was lonely- something I wasn’t used to feeling anymore.

I was confused- I was home, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I supposed to come back in and feel like I belonged here? This is where I grew up, after all. This town, this house, this language, and this culture. It was mine, right?

Right. But also wrong. Both myself, and the home and community I came from had grown and changed in the year I’d been away. It was a whole new version of culture shock to adjust back to living in the US, and in my little town in Idaho.

This seems to happen almost every time I come back from another country, but most stands out to me this first time, and when returning from Uganda.

My stomach wasn’t used to this food- I hardly ate, and when I did, hardly kept it down. Tea and dry toast became my foods of choice. My heart longed for the forests and dirt roads and children and nuns that I loved with. Speaking in American English was, again, strange to speak as my mouth struggled to remember how to form the words and thoughts I needed. I remember my first (of quite a few) public crying spells. My sweet mama went shopping with me to get a few new things before I headed off to college. I began crying in the middle of the shirts as I realized that- while reasonably priced for the USA- one shirt could pay for a year of several of my kids’ education. I felt guilty for wanting more when I already had so much in this life.

Of course, with time, I adjusted back to life in the USA, and accepted that a part of each culture I’ve lived in will be a part of me. A piece of my heart was left behind, and that’s ok. I am a better person for the traveling and living I’ve done- each place changes me and I grow. Acknowledging and recognizing this helps me to be able to love traveling and learning just that much more.

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock? How did it effect you?

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Culture Shock | Travel Tuesday

Culture Shock

Culture shock is quite possibly one of the hardest and yet, best parts of traveling. It turns your whole world upside down and makes you think in a brand new way. You learn that everything you’ve ever known is not necessarily “right” but it’s not wrong either. It’s just different. And that’s ok.

The term “culture shock” is often used to describe how we deal with cultural differences in a new place and things we first notice when entering a new country or area. As many expats and long-term travelers know, there are many stages to culture shock and some don’t fully develop until after spending a few months in a new culture. It sometimes takes reflection and a realization that the emotions and exhaustion you feel can be attributed to culture shock.

I’m going to talk about 2 of the most common stages of culture shock. The first will seem obvious to those that have traveled to a place with a different culture, the second may seem a bit strange or unexpected!

The Honeymoon Phase

AKA- “Everything is great! I love this country! There are so many new things to learn/eat/speak/see and my new friends are so nice helping me try to speak the language and I love it!”

You really are learning and taking in so much at one time. Everything seems new and exciting as you experience a new way of life, new foods, a new language, new clothes, etc. You’re super happy and in noticing all the different things around you- and they are the coolest and best things ever.

On the other hand, you may also be looking at the culture immediately as “Why would they do it this way when we know it’s better like _____.” This is so different, and not in a good way. Those feeling usually pass though if you really try to integrate yourself into the culture and put yourself out there with an attitude to learn, not judge.

As these feelings fade and you get into a new routine, you’ll start to notice some different things…

The Adjustment/Exhaustion Phase

“I can’t keep up. I feel like no matter how hard I try I can’t fully grasp the language- no one can really understand me here. I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster lately and I just want to sleep and speak English for ONE DAY!”

My first time living abroad at 15- I didn’t recognize my symptoms as culture shock. This all manifested itself at about month 3- October, my birthday, my first bus trip to a new city alone- I just thought I was having a rough time and everything started falling apart and I wasn’t good at this whole traveling thing.

What I didn’t realize what the my Spanish was actually getting quite good. I could get around on my own, have conversations and had begun making friends that 8 years later I still keep in touch with. My main problem? I was tired. My mind and spirit and body just couldn’t keep up with the pace I had set.

The thing is- I didn’t recognize this part of culture shock and didn’t know about it, until a wise exchange student counselor handed my a book that explained it all to me.

My brain was tired from translating literally everything I was saying or listening to. My body was tired from running around trying to keep up appearances. And my spirit was missing family and friends back home. I soon learned that all of this is part of the process- making the rest of the process so much smoother. Everything about life was different than what I had grown up with. I was dressing differently, acting differently in accordance with culture, and processing everything around me.

So how do you deal with it?

Sleep more. This helped in almost every aspect. I gave myself time to adjust more and learn more of the language. I found time to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but not too much- still immersing myself in my new life and culture.

I went out more. More time with friends, more travel within the country, more time with other exchange students, just keeping myself even more busy. Counter-intuitive? A little. But it works. Immerse yourself in the culture!

Acknowledge what you’re going through- it’s not totally all in your head. You’re not weird or wrong for feeling this way. It will pass, it will get better. I promise.

I’ve experience culture shock in the form of fear, anger, exhaustion, and complete joy. It’s definitely a unique experience but totally worth it to be able to travel and really learn and be a part of a new culture.

What about you? Where have you experienced the most culture shock? How do you deal?

Travel Tuesday

6 AirBnB locations in Chicago to try! | Travel Tuesday

where to stay in chicago

Sometimes travel just means getting out of your regular routine and trying something new and fun- even if it’s in your own city! Especially since I’m new to the area, there are still so many exciting places to see and experience here in Chicago. I’ve been doing some day dreaming on AirBnB lately, and here are my top 6 picks for where I’d like to stay in the Chicago area.

Weekend trip, anyone?

6) This is a yacht. I don’t really feel like I need to say anything else, but have you seen that float thing? Perfection. Sign me up!

5) This is just for you and your 11 closest friends. No big deal or anything. You HAVE to look at that bathroom.

4) Want a getaway on a budget that still feels luxurious and like you’re somewhere else? Then this Moroccan themed room is perfect for you. Ahem, me!

3) I love this one because it’s actually in the neighborhood I live in now- which is perfect. This is just much higher up, and has a balcony… and a pool…

2) THIS IS A CASTLE. I don’t know about you but I was once a little girl who wanted to be a princess. Come to think of it, I still want to be a princess so this place would BLOW MY MIND.

1) This tree house getaway. Yep, A TREE HOUSE. If that’s not the coolest thing around then I just don’t know what is.

So far I’ve loved exploring this city I’m living in. What’s your favorite thing to do/see in your city?

Travel Tuesday

Top 3 Next Travel Destinations | Travel Tuesday!


Vietnam- Looking into doing this in 2015! Or maybe 2016. I’m waiting to see how this year goes and how I settle into life in Chicago before doing any hard planning. I’m not sure where in the country I want to see/stay, so I’ll be doing more research here in the coming weeks!


Istanbul, Turkey- This one is also in the running for 2015-2016. I keep going back and forth and can’t decide! We’ll see what happens in the coming year to really make a decision. I can only imagine the beauty that I’d find here and how fun it would be to experience.


Greece- Greece has been on my list for as long as I can remember. This is a trip I must take with my mother. I know it’s been her dream and I couldn’t imagine going there with anyone else. The blue and white buildings are something I feel the need to see in my lifetime.

There we have it! The next 3 places on my travel list. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to get planning on one of them!

Where else should I add to my list? Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever been? I’m always looking for more places to experience and see!

Travel Tuesday