Thanks to Whitney from I Wore Yoga Pants to Work for the awesome t-shirt!
Instead of doing a bucket list with things I have yet to do, I want to make a list of things I have accomplished in my short time here in the world. I feel like this sort of reflection is good every once in a while.
Here’s 23 things I’ve done within my 23 years.
Lived abroad for a year.
Stood on the ruins of the land where my ancestors once lived.
Seen the live birth of a precious baby.
Run a 5k.
Graduated from college (with honors and no loans!)
Saved a life.
Learned more than one language.
Been to the Taj Mahal.
Climbed a volcano.
Seen 3 oceans and stood on the beaches to smell the sea air.
Been snorkeling with dolphins and turtles.
I got a tattoo! And then another…
Played in a waterfall in Hawaii.
Rode an elephant in India.
Had my water bottle stolen by a monkey.
Fallen in love.
Lived in a convent.
Ridden in/ driven a race car.
Dyed my hair purple.
Had a baby named after me in Uganda.
Backpacked through Europe.
Bought a pet.
Met Betty White.
I still have a lot to do this life, but I don’t think I’m doing too bad so far!
What have been your greatest accomplishments thus far?
A lot of the time I think and write about travel, I tend to only focus on the international travel I’ve done. The traveling I’ve done overseas has been great to me and is a huge part of who I am. However, I think that I am doing myself (and you, my readers) a sort of disservice by not also acknowledging and talking about travel within the borders of our own country. This travel has had an equally huge impact on me and has allowed me to grow and change just as much.
To begin talking about this travel, I think it is best to talk about where I’ve lived and the influence moving across the country (a few times) has had on me.
I am an Atlantan. When people ask me where I live I automatically answer with Atlanta. This is my home and where I’ve spent my adult years. This is where I’ve loved and lost and learned and worked the most. However, when I think of home, this isn’t the only place that flashes in my mind.
My story began in Idaho. In some ways, my story is still continuing there through my family. They are my life-blood and biggest supporters (hi Mom!). I lived in Idaho until I was 18, minus the one year I spent in Mexico during high school. Idaho shaped me and raised me and have me the foundation upon which I’ve built my life. I am an Idahoan.
Moving to Atlanta was quite possibly the best decision I ever made. I became who I am here. However, this is not where I’m from and in a lot of ways, I think living far away from where you grew up makes you a little different than those who’ve stayed close to where they were raised. Not better or worse, just different.
It makes you 2 different people, all at the same time. I am the small town girl who is probably a little too trusting of the world and sees life in a simple way with an open heart. But I am also the woman in the city who knows how to navigate her way with the awareness, confidence, and speed required for life around here. I am the Northern girl with a love for the beauty of snow and the hills and fresh air, and I am the Southern woman who doesn’t like the cold and prefers to sit by the pool in the sun after a day at the office in a suit.
You get the picture. They are both parts of who I am. I’ve been able to pick what works best and feels best to me based upon how I was raised and how I’ve adjusted as I’ve grown.
In this same light, I know that Chicago will change me in some ways as well. I will be learning the culture of a new city, and growing as a person learning to navigate this world.
Soon I will call Chicago home.
Though I’m not from there and won’t claim to be, my transplant status gives me a unique view of home. I see home as a feeling, not a place. It’s a feeling I had with my host family in Mexico, playing Wii with my host in France, cooking dinner with my Nun Mother in Uganda, etc. It is a feeling of peace, of calm, of home.
I feel like I’ve gotten to a point of rambling with this post, but I’m interested to know what you all think. Where have you found home? Did you stay in one place all your life or move around? What place do you consider to really be your home?
If you’ve met me, you know I love me a good brunch. I mean, what’s not to love? Breakfast food? I don’t have to wake up early for it on the weekend? Eating with people I love? Yes, yes, and yes!
Last night I had dinner and drinks with some of my best ladies here in Atlanta to celebrate life- this is different for us, because we’re usually a brunch crowd!
From top to bottom, on left- Barret, Laura, Victoria, Megan. Right- Lola, Adrienne, Me, Tempie!
So, here are my top 5 fav brunch places in Atlanta!
These are in no particular order; they’re all pretty equally delicious!
– Flying Biscuit! Ohmygoodness. One of my favorite places in Atlanta. I have never been disappointed here and we always leave full. Their french toast with orange and raspberry glaze is to die for.
– Cafe 640. A small little place off Highland Ave. with a tiny parking lot but if you’re there on Sunday the street parking is free! Everything there is delish but if you’re being really bad the chicken biscuits = YUM.
–10th and Piedmont. Cute little modern-y place with live music on Sunday afternoon. Their chicken and waffles are corn dog style, salads are HUGE, and the gravy they put over their biscuits is right on point.
-Pastries a Go-Go. Located in cute little downtown Decatur. For the longest time I walked right by thinking it was always closed, but it was so worth it when I decided to venture in. It’s a small and intimate place and the meals are HUGE so you will have plenty of leftovers for later.
– Mama’s kitchen. Nope, not a restaurant and not in Atlanta, so I’m cheating, but it’s my most favorite of all places ever. My Mama makes the best french toast you will ever eat and if you’re lucky on a Sunday my Daddy might have made some hash browns and bacon or sausage. Mmm. If you’re ever in Idaho….
Sometimes you just need to channel James Bond at the Eiffel Tower
After traveling around for a bit, you tend to learn a thing or two about this world of ours. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to travel and learn and grow and become who you really are.
For those of you who are new to this space, I began traveling when I was about 12, first with a short trip of a few weeks to Mexico. After that, I was hooked. Read more about my travels here.
I’ve decided for today’s Travel Tuesday post I’m going to share my top 13 things I’ve learned from International Travel.
1. There’s a difference between travelers and tourists. Tourists are there for the pictures and the attractions. Travelers are there for the experience and to learn. That doesn’t mean that travelers don’t have their tourist moments, of course.
2. Moving slower and taking things down a notch won’t negatively impact you, or your work. Working faster does not always mean working better. It’s ok to slow life down a little.
3. Most people in the world are basically kind. In every country. It’s not difficult to find a nice person anywhere in the world.
4. Other countries don’t hate America. Or Americans. They probably don’t care. And no, you don’t have to tell them you’re from Canada.
5. Mean people are generally unhappy. Happy people are kind.
6. You don’t actually need a 50 pound suitcase. Travel backpacks are the best. “Things” and 30 changes of clothes are entirely overrated. A few staple items can go a long way.
7. Homesickness is ok sometimes. It happens. Your heart will get spread all over the world as you travel, and sometimes the place you feel homesick for the most won’t be where you came from.
8. Flexibility when it comes to plans and hand signals will get you a lot further than a set itinerary and not attempting to communicate with someone because of their language
9. Learn more languages. At least learn a few phrases in the language of the place you are spending time in.
10. An open mind goes further than an open wallet.
11. Don’t be afraid to go it alone. Solo travel will allow you to have complete spontaneity with your plans and learn a lot about yourself. I could write a post all in itself about this point. In fact, maybe I will.
12. You are capable of so much more than you think. Little by little, push yourself out of your comfort zone.
13. “This too shall pass” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. As bad as things may seem, or as grand as they may seem, they will pass. You will get through. Always. Be grateful for the good times.
2008 and 2011. Your friends will be there through growth and change.
(I know it’s Wednesday, but I couldn’t get all the pictures I wanted just right until today, so forgive me for being a day late!)
India is one of my favorite places to talk about. It is a country where I’ve certainly learned a lot about both the world and myself. Much of my time in India was spent in the city of Pune, where I volunteered in a daycare and after school program that also worked to educate the mother’s of the children we cared for. I was so inspired by these women and strive every day to work hard with thoughts of their work ethic. Of course, at the end of my time in India, I took a few days to do the tourist things- see the Taj Mahal, the streets of Delhi and Agra.
I’ve been to India twice now, and 100% loved the country more each day I spent there. It’s a country in which I’ve grown immensely, I’ve learned and loved deeply, made life long friends who I cherish, and had my world opened to a new way of living. My first trip was in high school, and my second was in college, so it was a different experience each time. Similarly, each time my whole world was changed and and I had went through great transformations as a person there.
One thing that stayed the same was this woman, one of my other mothers, a good friend and mentor throughout the years. I’m so blessed to have her in my life.
And now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. A country full of beauty, culture, and contradictions.
Today I’m excited to share one of my favorite places with you. I lived in Uganda for a bit after I graduated high school but before I went to college. It had been a dream of mine to go there so when the opportunity came up for me to go stay with the sister of a family friend, I jumped on it. This was one of my trips that I just picked up and went on without speaking the language or knowing who I’d be staying with.
Note: Yes, I realize the photography here isn’t the best. The camera I had there was sub-par, as were my editing skills in 2009. Heck, they aren’t much better now, cameras and technology just make it look that way.
My Ugandan sister and Nun Mother
The women pictured above are (who I called) Bibi, who became like a sister to me, and Sr. Noel, the nun who housed me and gave me work and welcomed me as a daughter into her world. I worked at a small clinic in the tiny village surrounding the convent, and on my off days there I helped teach 7th grade at the school Sr. Noel ran.
The one room of our clinic for in-patients.
My 7th grade classroom
Living in Mwera-Mityana, Uganda was one of those life-changing experiences that I really wish everyone would be able to have. I struggled at times. Oh, I struggled. But learning, on my own and with Sr. Noel’s help, how to overcome those struggles and deal with problems in a whole new way forced me to grow my own independence and get to know myself as a young woman and helped me realize what I really wanted and what was important to me.
My 7th grade class. Smiling for pictures isn’t a concept we had quite grasped at that time.
I also was lucky enough to be able to see the tourist attractions toward the end of my stay there, though most of my time was spent actually living in a village where I was widely known as the “muso muzungu” or “white nurse.” I could write for days about my time in Uganda, but for today I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures of the sweet children I taught, as their experiences will speak louder than any words. Each of these kids went on to pass all of their English exams and pass into high school, something no class has ever done before. Their hard work paid off, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. Their success will always be my success.
Time for another installment of Traveling Tuesday around here! Stick around for more posts in the weeks to come or see my previous post on Mexico and how I got started traveling.
Today, I’m bundling an entire continent into one post!
I thought about separating it out, but it was such a great trip and done at one time with one friend, I think it makes more sense to talk about it all at once!
A friend and I from my exchange student days met up at her home in Germany a couple years after our respective student exchange years. We made up our itinerary as we went so our trip was completely modifiable, and ended up seeing 5 different countries in 4 weeks! Thank you Europass! (This, of course, happened before the movie Taken came out and we realized we should have been more careful. Oops. You live and you learn.)
We spent our first week exploring around the German cities of Cologne, Berlin, Bremen, and Bremerhaven. We walked through cathedrals and monuments, experienced history at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, and drank coffee in the little street cafes.
Our next stop was The Netherlands! We only spent a day there and saw the city of Amsterdam, which was beautiful in it’s own way and definitely interesting. No, we didn’t partake in any of the more controversial activities there, but there was plenty to see other than that!
Next stop, France. We spent a few days with another exchange friend in Lille, then took the train tunnel over to London, England. We spent another day exploring the city and taking in the sites, taking pictures and laughing as we went.
My friend stayed an additional day in Lille, while I took a solo mini trip to Tournai to meet up with yet another friend from my days as an exchange student! It had been years since I’d seen her, but being back together felt like we were never apart. The city of Tournai was having a festival that day, and we were able to observe a parade and catch up under the shade of an umbrella with a cup of tea in the cutest cafe.
Returning to France, I picked up my friend and we hopped on a train to Paris!
The Moulin Rouge!
We spent a few days in Paris, but I don’t think we could have seen everything even if we stayed a weeks! We did our best to briefly see as much as possible all the while catching up with- you guessed it- yet another exchange student friend!
We spent time being Princesses at Château de Fontainebleau, danced at the Moulin Rouge, picnicked at the Eiffel Tower, and prayed at the Sacre Coeur. It was a wonderful trip full or reunions and time spent exploring with friends.
Looking back through these pictures make me miss my exchange friends something fierce. It may be years in between the times we see each other but it’s always fun when we do. I am so blessed to have made these friends in my travels and I can’t wait to get back to see them again!
These people made this trip on of my all time favorites (then again, I might say that about every place). What’s the greatest place you’ve ever been? Why? Let me know!
Today I’m introducing a new travel series here on the blog- Travel Tuesday! Once a week I’m going to begin sharing some of my favorite destinations around the world. I’ve traveled around but I definitely haven’t been everywhere I want to go yet! Have you been to a super awesome place that you want to share about? Shoot me and email and we can work out some guest posting details!
Without further ado–
Mexico was my first trip abroad, and the place I’ve returned to most. I first visited on a vacation with my family when I was in my pre-teen years, but really returned and lived for the first time as an exchange student in my sophomore year of high school.
At 15 years old, I packed my life into 2 suitcases and went to live with strangers.
Strangers who, even after all these years, I still consider family.
Just look at these faces! The sweet woman in the middle is Mama Luz, my grandmother who just celebrated her 88th birthday!
As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student, I met other students from around the world that all took part in a year-long exchange. Though we were spread out throughout the year, every few months Rotary would throw us an event so we could all get together and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from shared experiences. The ladies in the picture below were all a part of that group and are still close friends of mine. I’ve visited a few in their home countries since we’ve all returned!
Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Poland, France, and the USA
In addition to that I was also lucky enough to be able to do quite a bit of traveling throughout the country and ended up seeing some incredible sights. These of course included the pristine, goldenrod, beaches of Acapulco and Cancun, among others.
I was able to visit the ruins of where my own ancestors once lived and thrived many, many years ago.
Ruins at Palenque, where history tells us my family came from. Fun fact, the girl with me, Sarah, just got married this past weekend! (Congrats, Sarah!)
Throughout the year, I lived with 3 different families, each giving me a unique perspective into culture and life in the city of Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. My own mother was also able to visit in the Spring, and we were able to travel around a bit because I had already visited several places with my host families!
My first host family had children with whom I speak with on a regular basis and love with my whole heart. My youngest sister just had her Quinceañera this past weekend, which just seems like she’s growing too fast! Isn’t she supposed to stay 7 forever?
The whole family 🙂 My youngest sister is the second one from the left. How in the world has she grown so much?
My final host family consisted of only my host mother and myself. I still call her quite often and call her “Mama” because we really connected during my time there. It was just us on our own (her biological daughter was on exchange in Brazil while I was there) so we would adventure out every Saturday morning to a new place. Because of her, I was able to see more places around where we lived that I didn’t even realize existed!
On one of the trips Mama Sofie took me on.
My third host mother, Mama Sofie
It was also because of her that I learned to make killer guacamole, among other foods.
My time in Mexico saw my change from little girl into young woman, and really solidified my love of travel. After my exchange year, my whole life would change as I continued to have that travel bug and explored new places. More on that in the coming weeks!
Have you ever been out of the country? What was the first place you traveled that really grabbed your heart and gave you the desire to not only return, but continue traveling and learning about other places?
Today, I’m linking up with The Expat Diaries! This link up is done once a month and is a place for travelers to share stories about their time abroad. It can be travel tips, photos, awkward moments, whatever!
Even though I’m no longer living abroad, (darn) sometimes living 2,500 miles from home feels like being abroad. I’m going to share one of the less glamorous parts of living and traveling abroad or for long periods of time. Packing.
Oh, Packing. One of the least thought about and yet most frustrating parts of travel.
Over the years, I’ve pretty much named myself as a master packer. I can make everything I own fit into my car, everything for a year fit into a 50 pound suitcase, and month’s worth of clothing fit into a carry on bag. Like magic.
I’m also a chronic over-packer. The question of “what if I need this?” is always at the back of my mind. Did I really need my hair straightener in India? Nope. Do I need more than one nice dress any time I’m abroad? Not at all. However, knowing how to pack effectively means that sometimes I can slide the straightener into the edge of my suitcase and fold that dress into the bottom of my purse.
Let me share 5 of my best packing tips with you!
Roll those clothes! Rolling them makes clothes take up less space. If you have space bags, use those too! They are super helpful for making more things fit. You can also use gallon Ziploc bags to put clothes in and then squeeze the air out and seal them! They work great!
For your flight: Baby/face wipes are a must have! They can be used to clean things or freshen up your face and body when you’ve been on a plane for hours. You’d be amazed at how much better you’ll feel with a clean face! Note- For your ziplock bag of liquids- lotion, eye drops, contact solution (if you wear them) hand sanitizer. Tried and true needed things.
Check the baggage rules in EVERY country you will be stopping in. Even if your plane is just touching down somewhere make sure you check the limits. You don’t want to get stuck halfway to your destination having to pay hundreds of dollars to get your bags the rest of the way there! It will suck, and you will cry.
You need less shoes than you think you do. I promise. Take a couple of pairs out of your bag and you’ll still be fine.
Don’t be afraid to wash your clothes on your trip! Learn to hand wash your clothes in a bathtub or sink and you won’t need to bring as much.
What are your best travel tips? How do you make sure you don’t over pack or under pack? How do you make it fit?
Want to join in on The Expat Diaries? Link up over here.