When you travel with your sister

When you travel with your sister, you argue, you make up, and you come back stronger than ever.

I couldn’t imagine a better travel buddy than my sister. Although, I’m still surprised by how well we travel together. With two years between us, my sister and I have always been pretty close. Growing up, I would follow her every move, trying to be just like her — I can distinctively remember her rolling her eyes when I tried to convince her to wear a matching outfit. She has always been there for me, teaching me the ways of middle and high school, taking the brunt of responsibility, and being the person I could run to when things went wrong. Despite our different personalities, we are always there for each other.
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Our personalities perfectly balance out each other. She is a planner. She likes to know what time we’re leaving, where we’re going, how we’re getting there. I’m more impulsive. I see something interesting and its all I can keep my mind on, I just want to go… do. She is organized, and has all of our travel details written down, always available. I’m easy going and will go along with any plans that are made. I calm her down when we’re running a bit late, and she always knows what to say to cheer me up.

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We share an appreciation of experiencing a city like a local, and would rather get a coffee in a local cafe than get sucked into all of the tourist traps of a particular location. We know what each other like, and make sure that we both get what we want out of our trip. I know that she collects shot glasses, and I collect playing cards, and we have both accepted the fact that we will not leave a country until we have added to our collections.

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After traveling for two summers with my sister, I can say that we have never been closer. I understand and appreciate her more deeply that I ever have. I’ve learned to love all of the little things that used to annoy me, like how she hates going into grocery stores alone, or how silly and touchy-feely she gets with a few drinks in her. Together we’ve learned how to navigate in foreign countries, tried all sorts of local cuisine, and seen some incredible sights. These experiences, both good and bad, have pushed us together as we learned and figured things out with each other.

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Together we are a stronger travel team, and I’m so glad that I have her by my side, whether we’re rushing to catch a connecting flight, exploring a city for the first time, or shopping at the Albert Heijn in Boxtel. When you travel with your sister, you are reminded just how much you love her.

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Here’s to Strong Women

This post was meant to go up yesterday, but a little bit of prolonged International Women’s Day celebration wont hurt anyone, right! I am so proud to live in a time when more and more women are stepping into the spotlight and breaking down barriers hundreds of years tall. I also feel incredibly lucky to know so many of these strong women.

I have been surrounded by wonderful and powerful women my whole life, and so many of these women have shaped me into who I am today. They have shown me that I can be anything I want to be and that I can do anything that I set my mind to. They have taught me that real women don’t drag each other down, but rather build each other up. They have taught me that there is no shame in standing up for myself or my beliefs, and that I should always be proud of the woman I am.

My Mom

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So much of who I am, I can thank my mother for. I don’t even know where to begin with how she has inspired me as a woman. She always pushed me to be the best I could be and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. She has shown me the power of an open mind and an open heart, and taught me to always lend a hand when I had a hand to lend. She has changed so many lives, and her passion for literacy has inspired me greatly. Thank you mom for being such an incredible, strong, independent, and compassionate female role model. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.

Diana King

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Diana King has been like a second grandmother to me. She is a powerhouse and all around bad ass. At 89 years old, she is still chugging away like steam engine, doing crazy shenanigans like parasailing in Costa Rica and getting full shoulder tattoos. She has taught me to fearlessly pursue my passions, and always take time to enjoy the little things like the sounds of the birds singing, or the last few moments of a glorious sunrise. She has taught me that I can climb any mountain I have the nerve to climb.

My Oma

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My Oma has taught me how to be gentle and kind. She has taught me how to love unconditionally and to treat even the smallest of creatures with respect and care. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I’m thankful to have a heart like hers in my life.

My Girls

I’ve got such an amazing group of girls in my life that have inspired me and continue to inspire me every day. They are all so passionate about their interests and always have the best advice, even when they may know its not what I want to hear. They all share such a love for life that is infectious, and I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today without you all by my side. (Special shout out to Jasmin G., Sandra H., Hannah M., Michelle L., Keikichi L., Kaela R., and Marianna V.)

J Ro

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When I think of strong, inspiring women, JRo is one of the first women I think of. She was so much more than an art teacher to me and I am so thankful for this teacher-turned-friend. She always encouraged me and supported me not only in my projects, but in my life as well. She has taught me to live without fear of other’s opinions, and to always be myself. She has shown me the power of an open mind and that our differences only make us stronger.

Ishani

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I have met Ishani quite recently, but already, her bubbly personality, and unmatchable love for life has inspired me greatly. In the year that I have known her, she has already taught me to be myself unapologetically and to never be ashamed of the things that excite me. She has shown me that you are only as old as you feel. Her simple love for the little things in life is infectious, and I couldn’t imagine a better partner for Roan Mountain sunrises.

Ellen

Ellen DeGeneres is someone that I have been watching for years, and she never fails to bring a smile to my face. She has such an incredible and kind heart and her motto, “Be kind to one another” has played a huge role in my life. She is definitely making a difference for women everywhere, and showing all of us how to lift each other up and live a life full of empathy. (Maybe one day I’ll have a photo with her.)

This is just a short list of all of the incredible women that inspire me each and every day. I hope that one day I will be as strong and independent as all of these women. I encourage you to take some time to think about all of the women who have had an impact on your life and thank them for being fearlessly themselves.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May be them. May we raise them.”

The Person I Want to Be

When I look back over the last few years, I feel a sense of pride for who I have become. But I still find it so easy to fall in the trap of comparing myself to others. Comparing my accomplishments, my dreams, my work, myself, to those around me. I focus so much on the progress that I still have to make that I fail to see how far I’ve come, and how much I have grown.

The problem is, I don’t exactly know where I want to go, or who I want to be. So, I thought I would take this time to answer the question for myself:

“Who is the woman that I want to be?”

The woman I want to be is kind. She lends a hand without a second thought when she sees someone in need. She knows that everyone is going through their own troubles, and doesn’t let hers hinder her ability to spread her kindness. She starts every day with open arms and an open mind.

She is honest: with herself, with her friends, and with her future. She speaks the truth even if it makes her voice shake. She doesn’t let herself get away with the half-ass. She goes after things with full force, or not at all.

She is confident. She believes in the person she is and doesn’t let other’s influence her opinion of herself. She carries herself with a grace that is contagious. She doesn’t waste her time with those who undervalue her.

The woman I want to be chases her dreams without reservation. She asks for help when she needs it, but knows that she is capable of anything.

She is thoughtful. She lives her life with intent. Every relationship she forms adds value to her life. When she loves, she loves deeply, but she isn’t afraid to walk away from those who cross her.

She is fierce. She lets nothing stand in the way of of what she wants. She doesn’t lose sleep over opinions that do not matter. There is a warrior within her.

The woman I want to be is brave. She looks at the things that scare her in the face and says, “I see you. Move aside, you’re in my way.” She doesn’t let her fear stop her.

She is strong in her convictions. She speaks out for the things that she believes in, even when its tiresome, because its the right thing to do. She stands up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves, and encourages others to do the same.

She is unapologetically herself. She does not dare to dim her light in order to make others feel more comfortable. She is aware of the fact that she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but refuses to water herself down to please people.

The woman I want to be is happy. She dances in her kitchen, in the grocery store, on mountain tops. She celebrates every triumph no matter how small. She takes life day by day and is thankful for all of the little things in life.

She is in love with the world around her. She makes a point to wake up before the world and watches the sun light up the mountain peaks. She walks… runs… drives up mountains past midnight just to feel closer to the stars. She treats the world with the respect that it has treated her with.

The woman I want to be is warrior, and I am working hard to become more like her every day.

Comfort

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m. I find myself in the 12 foot diving well of my university’s pool with my head under the water, doing what they call “drown-proofing”.

I’ve always been decently comfortable in the water. I’ve never felt like I would be at risk of drowning and find swimming incredibly relaxing. As a trained lifeguard I feel as though I know water safety pretty well. So when signing up for classes this semester, I said “what the heck” and enrolled in a class called survival swimming. While I am learning very valuable survival skills, I am learning far more about myself. Every day my teacher gives us a break from the water and has us sit on the pool deck as he gives us life advice. These little life lessons apply not only in our survival swim class, but also in our daily lives. One of my favorite messages that he preaches often is learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This message has really stuck with me throughout the semester. No one likes to live outside of their comfort zone. There is reason that it is called a “comfort zone”. We, as humans, strive to exist in a bubble where we feel safe. Where we cannot be hurt or disappointed. We find routine and stick to that. Its just part of our psychological makeup. And while everyone’s comfort is different, we all look for those places.

The truth of the matter is, we need to live outside of zone, or at least venture out there every once in a while. Putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations is where we learn the most about who we are and what makes us tick. Its where we discover the true strength and power of our being. We realize that we are far more capable than we think we are and we can endure far more discomfort than we think we can. You may not think you can climb that mountain, or sail that ship, or succeed in that career, but you would be surprised how far you are actually able to go.

Here’s the thing about comfort. Being comfortable never lead to life changing experiences or priceless memories. If you never put yourself in moments of discomfort, when the moment arises that forces you to become uncomfortable, you won’t know how to respond. You will break down and be defeated with ease. A smooth sea never made for a skilled sailor. So, go on that trip that you’ve been dreaming about for months, chase after your dream job even if it isn’t as stable or well paying, take the leap of faith either in or out of a relationship or friendship. Those short moments of discomfort make the successes even greater.

I’m such a “Look at the moon” person

I’ve lived my whole life tucked away in a small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent my childhood knee deep in rivers and creeks, hands covered in mud, and head full of imaginary creatures such as fairies and unicorns. More often than not you could find me in the small patch of woods at the back corner of our home building fairy houses out of twigs, soft green moss, and delicate flowers. I had a wild imagination that took me on magical adventures everyday. But, somewhere along the way of growing up, I lost that imagination in the jumble of school, friends, and technology.

For a good portion of my middle school and high school years I was sucked into the teenage lifestyle. I was much more interested in messaging my friends and playing Farmville on Facebook than building fairy houses or playing pirates in our tree house. I grew out of my imagination “phase” and let the current of social media consume my life. I was obsessed with likes and my online presence. I felt lost without my phone in my right hand, awaiting the ding of text messages, followers, and snaps. My biggest dream was moving to a far off city surrounded my noise and lights and being consumed by the hurry of people.

Then two summers ago, I went on an overnight camping trip with the senior campers at Camp Spring Creek and my life was changed. When offered a chance to go on the trip I was a bit hesitant, but at the last minute I agreed and packed my backpack. I figured I was comfortable in the wilderness and viewed it as a time to bond with some of the senior campers. Little did I know that in those two and a half days spent dirty and cold in the Black Mountain Range I would regained my desire to explore and my imagination would come back to life.

Now I live in a far off city surrounded by noise and light and a hurry of people (sure, Raleigh is no NYC or LA, but its definitely bigger than my hometown) and all I can think about is going back to the mountains. I yearn for even the shortest of breaks from school to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and find peace on the curvy roads surrounded by trees and rivers and dirt and mud. I spend almost every free minute at home driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, awing at the marvelous Appalachian Mountains. I now feel so connected to the place that I live and the feeling of clean fresh air, winding country roads, and high mountain peaks. I would rather spend my evenings enjoying a beautiful sunset than at a party with some friends or trapped behind my computer screen.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still often find me with my phone in my hand or back pocket, but the urgency to view and reply to messages has since dissipated. My camera roll is now filled with photos from the stunning places I’ve been and my mind is filled with places I wish to go. The gratification I receive from likes and comments on my photos is now a happiness I am able to share the beauty that I find in the world with my friends and family. I want to be able to share those moments when I reach the top of a mountain and can just stare in pure amazement at the wonderful world that we live in.

So yes, I do get overly excited at the sight of stars and I will most definitely pull over on the side of the road to just take a minute to enjoy the color of the changing leaves. If you spend time with me you will definitely hear me say “Look at the moon!” more than once, and you’ll have to be patient with me as I take a few extra minutes to awe at the color of distant mountains or rolling waves. I like the feeling of grass between my toes and cold river water rushing on my hands and you would find me clutching a salamander or toad before you would find me using a clutch. I would gladly wear the smell of a campfire over expensive perfume and I am more comfortable in a t-shirt than I will ever be in designer clothing.

I will never underestimate the power of adventure any longer. Because if one trip could help me re-establish my connection with nature, who knows what the rest of my life will bring.

 

Write About It Wednesdays: Kindness

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Ellen DeGeneres is one of my biggest idols. The kindness that she brings to the world is one of the reasons that I love her so much. She really is trying to make the world a better place, and is doing everything in her power to make that happen. At the end of every show, she concludes by saying, “Be kind to one another.” I think we could all take a lesson from Ellen and truly be kind and respectful of everyone.

The truth of the matter is, that we never know what is going on in other people’s lives. Even the people we are closest to are experiencing things that they don’t want to share with us. The girl starting rumors about you could be suffering from insecurity or depression. That person being a jerk while walking across the street could have just lost the job that supports his family. 

It is truly amazing what a little bit of kindness can do… how it can instantly brighten someone’s day. Not only can kindness change someone else’s day, but it can also make your day shine a little brighter too. Being kind makes us feel good about ourselves. Plus, when you show kindness to someone, they often spread that kindness. 

At the end of the day, we need more kindness in this world. We spend too many hours of the day hating things and being selfish, and not enough enjoying and sharing the wonderful moments in life. So make it your goal to perform a random act of kindness every day. Smile at everyone you see walking down the street. Just be nice, be kind, and make the world a better place. 

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure.

Write About It Wednesdays: Laughing

 

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I fully believe, and stand behind the quote that “laughter is the best medicine”. It can cure nearly anything, even if just for a moment. It makes us forget about the horrible things in the world and escape to a happier place. But, when I was thinking about laughter, something unsettling hit me. I don’t know when the last time I had a good, honest, heartbreak-curing laugh. A can’t breathe, tears rolling down my face laugh. The fact that I can’t remember means it has been far too long.

The routine and stress of everyday life has consumed my thoughts and has kept my mind focused on the more serious side to life. Now, don’t get me wrong. The serious stuff is important too. The world is filled with challenges and risks and peril. The news is littered with heartbreaking stories of tragedy. The positive stories get pushed to the side and will never be reported. Being constantly exposed to all of the negativity in the world makes it hard to see the positive side to life. When we are being spoon fed the bad, we forget what the good tastes like.

Thats why I think laughter is important. Why its the fireworks of our soul. It lights us up and shows us the good in the world. And thats why I think we should laugh more. Smile more. Enjoy the good things in life. Look for the positive articles on the news or in the paper. When your out in the business of your day, take a second to look around and take in the wonder of the world. Find something that will make you laugh and share it with the world. Laugh at yourself. Loosen up and have a good chuckle about all the little quirks that make you who you are.

I mean, have you ever felt worse after laughing?

 

Write About It Wednesday: Impossibility

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Currently in my Intro to Philosophy class we are discussing the philosophy of religion. More so, we are learning the different arguments for and against the existence of a traditional western God. A few of the arguments seem a bit far fetched to me, but nevertheless have really made me think about life. I leave that class feeling very confused about my purpose and the purpose of humans in general. I leave with questions like “What if this is all a dream?” or “What if there is another planet out there in our forever expanding universe that is the parallel to our life on earth?”.

I started thinking about the universe and how infinitely small our little planet is. Sure, in comparison to our physical beings it is absolutely ginormous. There is far too much to explore in a single life time, however it is minuscule in comparison to the universe. The universe is a scary yet wildly intriguing topic in my mind. Scary because we don’t know what is out there, but intriguing for the same reason.

It really is a miracle, this life of ours. Whether you believe that some being created this world of ours thousands of years ago or if you believe that some chemicals reacted in space and boom here we are, it is a real life miracle (that is, if this life is actually real). Most times I think that fact is taken for granted. We tend to focus on the things that in the long run won’t matter. I am guilty of this just as much as anyone. I spend far too long worrying about people and things that don’t deserve my time. I get stressed and flustered over the little things and waste way too much time trying to impress people who don’t want to be impressed.

I guess what I am trying to say that ultimately, we are just tiny little pieces of matter floating around somewhere in an endless space. Our time here is limited, so there is no reason to waste it on worrying about the little things. We should make the best of our time here, and enjoy every second of this incredibly impossible life that we were given. We have the freewill to make whatever out of this life that we want to, so why not make the best of it.

Okay. There is my philosophical little spiel on life and what not. I hope you are all having an absolutely amazing day and maybe I’ve inspired you to let go of the little things.

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure.

Write About It Wednesday: Scatterbrained

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I have the attention span of a 5 year old, with the worldly wonder of a newborn, and the responsibilities of a college student. My mind (and my life for that matter) is all over the place. There are so many different thoughts going on up there that I don’t even know what to do with them anymore. My head is starting to directly resemble my creatively cluttered desk.

I am the kind of person who has two settings when it comes to my ability to focus, and I have not quite figured out how to control the settings. I am either hyper focused on a single task at hand, or focused on everything, everywhere, at all times. And most of the time, it is the latter. It is during these moments of lost focus that my to-do lists get made, but nothing gets crossed off. Its when my brain starts opening a million tabs ranging from Etsy, to cars, to homework, to travel plans, to questioning the meaning of life. There are so many things going on up there, but I cant zero in on a single thought.

Does anyone else have this problem? Feeling like the whole world comes at you all at once and you are able to only halfway pay attention to anything because everything is so interesting? I guess I should try to focus and close out some of those tabs. Making a list always helps me (even though I sometimes lose the list).

Alright. I don’t know if I can focus much longer to write any more. This was a pretty lame blog post, but I hope some of you can relate.

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure.

 

Write About It Wednesdays: Adventure

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What’s up dreamers!

Recently, I have been in love with the idea of adventure. I’ve always been intrigued by going somewhere I’ve never been, but in the past few months this intrigue has grown to desire. Its most evident on my Pinterest boards where I have pinned hundreds of photos of mountains, road trip ideas, and ideal locations to explore. I mostly do it so that I can feel like I am exploring while I avoid studying (sorry mom, but I eventually get all my work done). Its my late night obsession and looking back on these boards gets me all excited for the future. 

As I shared with you this weekend, my sister and I are traveling in Europe again this summer. I am so excited, but I feel like I cant wait that long to go out and see new things. I’m getting antsy to explore. Honestly, I should have taken advantage of my long winter break to go out and do something. I had planned on going to Nashville to visit an old friend, but that never worked out. Anyway, I want to go out and do something. I have a million ideas for spring break, but I can’t decide on anything. All I know is that I want to do something I have never done.

My first idea is to do a road trip along the whole Blue Ridge Parkway. I would stop at as many outlooks as I possibly could and do some of the hikes along the way. I think it would also be fun to stop in the little towns and explore a bit. I’ve lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains my whole life, and I never get tired of the vast expanse of mountains. Also, I feel like it would be fun to be a tourist in my own neck of the woods. I haven’t really explored much of the parkway because I always forget it is there. This would be my chance to do the whole thing.

My second idea is to go on a short backpacking trip on the Appalachian trail. One of my friends is planning on hiking the North Carolina section of the Appalachian trial this summer, so I was thinking about going with her. She could have a week long trial run, and I could join along. Now, I haven’t actually spoken to her about this yet… (Kaela if you’re reading, are you interested?) so I should probably get on that. After my camping trip this summer, I’ve had the itch to get back on the trails. Plus, I got an Eno hammock for Christmas, and I am dying to use it.

My third idea was to do a road trip out west. This is the most exciting, yet most unlikely of my three favorite plans. Partly because I would want someone to go with me, and I don’t exactly know who that person would be, and partly because I don’t know if I will have enough time to do a lot of exploring out there. I also don’t know if I have the expenses to do that as I really need to save my money for Europe this summer. Ideally, I would want to drive out to Glacier National Park and do some exploring there. There is this lake, Pebble Shore Lake to be more precise, that I really want to visit. This probably wont happen, at least not this year, but I want to go. 

Anyway, I thought I would just write all of this down so I will remember. But its a goal of mine to have more “firsts” in 2016… more adventures. Comment down below which, if any, of my ideas sound most interesting to you. And I encourage you to do something for the first time this week. Whether it be large or small.

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure!

Write About It Wednesdays: The Happy Life

I feel like it has been forever since I have done a Write About It Wednesday. I decided to take a mini break from my blog over my winter break. It was not planned at all, and I have no real excuse for it, I just didn’t feel particularly inspired to write. Now that I am back at school, I feel more motivation and I’m ready to get back on the blogging horse, so to speak.

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This week I thought I would talk about the happy life. I think this quote is so important, and it always makes me feel inspired when I read it. It reminds me that we are in charge of our own lives, and if there is something that is keeping us down, we don’t have to let it persist. We can change our lives at any point in our existence. If I chose to move to Argentina tomorrow, I could. Our life can be anything we want it to be, but we have to put in the work to make it possible.

One way that I am trying to make my happy life right now is by pursuing a formal education in graphic design. When I was thinking about applying to colleges and researching endless majors that I thought I might be interested in, there was only one main priority for me. I did not want to work in a dead end job doing something I didn’t enjoy for the rest of my life. Someone told me to try to make a living out of what you do in your free time, and that is when it hit me. I’m into typography. I could just about name every typeface in a standard word-processing application and got very good at recreating these fonts by hand. Thats when I chose graphic design. 

Now that I am in a nationally ranked design school I feel like I have made a good choice. Everyday I get to be creative and push my mind to think differently. I get to work with my hands, use all the pretty colors, and express myself on a daily basis. I know that with this degree, I won’t be sitting at a desk all day doing repetitive, mindless work, and that is the happy life for me. 

How are you making your happy life?

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure.

Write About It Wednesdays: Thankfulness

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In honor of Thanksgiving being TOMORROW I thought I would jot down a little list of all the things I am thankful for. Some may be considered unconventional, but none the less, I’m still thankful for them.

  1. My family, by blood, my marriage, and by choice. Those who are always by my side, through thick and thin.
  2. My education. It may be stressful, hardwork, and sometimes defeating, but the rewards are great, and I am insanely lucky to recieve the education that I have thus far recieved.
  3. Color. Because I couldn’t imagine a life without color, it truly beautifies life.
  4. Smiles. And laughs… and hugs for that matter. Nothing spreads joy quite like those three things.
  5. Water. I mean, without it we wouldn’t even have the ability to be grateful for anything.
  6. Airplanes. Without these magestic flying beasts, I wouldn’t be able to see the majority of my family… ever. And that, frankly would suck.
  7. My mountains. Those beautiful Blue Ridge peaks make me so happy that I live where I do.
  8. Bean Boots. My poor feet get cold so easily, and they keep me warm when I most need it.
  9. Seasons. All four of those great beauties. I could not fathom living in a place that didn’t experience all of the seasons.
  10. People who do the “dirty jobs”. The sanitation workers, the trash|collectors, the people who do the things that no one else want to do.
  11. Stars. For me, they’re a reminder of everything else that is out there. They put life in perspective.
  12. Bonfires. Friends, hot cocoa, blankets, smores, sparklers, and glow stick fights.
  13. Wildflowers. Because they’re like the paint splatters in the woods.
  14. My lungs. They keep me going man.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, spending time with the people you love. What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments!

Peace out, enjoy life, and live the adventure!