Happy Birthday, Bethany!

One of my best friends turns 27 today, and I can’t help but reflect on our adventures together. From Kalmar to Chicago, Reykjavik to Cortez, Colorado, we always have a spectacular time together!

Bethany is always a consistent source of joy and happiness in my life, and I know she always will be. Every conversation is meaningful, every adventure is purposeful, and every laugh or inside joke is cherished. This gal is truly my best friend!

Happiest birthday to you, Bethany! You’re more than anyone could ask for 🙂

Nostalgia is Bittersweet

I’m thinking of Sweden on this Saturday morning…

A few days ago I Skyped my friend Bethany, who has been featured in several of my posts, most notably for our travel experiences together. We met in 2016 as two eager U.S. students studying in Kalmar, Sweden and we haven’t skipped a beat since! Bethany now lives in the Seattle area and I’m hoping to visit her as soon as possible. She’s truly the friend you can always rely on, no matter the distance.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been FIVE YEARS since we began our Swedish adventures. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude, but also with watery eyes. I have a love-hate relationship with looking at old photos. I reflect and feel myself in that moment again, sometimes with sweet nostalgia and other times with immense longing to be there again. But why?

1. I’m craving new adventures and memories (aren’t we all?). In all seriousness, travel is my decompression. It’s an escape from work, from people, from life at home. Those long weekend getaways with a close friend, my husband or parent, and lengthier international adventures mean more to me than any material thing.

2. I don’t love where I am right now. I believe people looking into my life (especially through photos) would want what I have: a husband, a dog, a home, a job… but I am not emotionally where I’d like to be. I know deep down that I need to rediscover myself and what’s important to me, which is why I’m in need of positive change.

3. Sometimes the past is more appreciated in the present than it was back then. Sometimes I’ll look at an old photo and think “wow, that was an awesome day!” and maybe I didn’t even realize it at the time. It’s such a shame how our minds can trick us this way.

I’m trying not to beat myself up because all of us can experience these feelings. We can all look at old photos or reflect on old memories with a multitude of emotions ranging from sadness to warm-hearted joy.

I hope we can all create new memories – be it solo, with loved ones, or even strangers – this year and for many years to come 🙂

Friends are the family we choose

Today is one of my best friend’s birthdays. Saskia and I met ten years ago, and our friendship has proven the test of time and distance. I haven’t seen Sassi in person since 2016 (which is quite depressing to think about!), but we use WhatsApp to communicate on a weekly basis. She and I are closer than some of my family and friends who live close in proximity; she truly is my family right now. Although I love hearing her voice, I can’t wait to see Saskia again and give her the big hug that she deserves! Happy birthday, Saskia 🙂💛

Thinking of my friends in D.C.

I’m seldom at a loss for words; my heart goes out to the people who live and work near the U.S. Capitol. My best friend and her husband have lived in D.C. since 2016, which has easily been the most challenging four years for my friend’s husband as he is directly employed by the city. As protests sweep the nation, I always think about the safety of my close friends and hope that he returns home after chaotic days of work ❤️

D.C. October, 2020
Morristown September, 2019
Montréal August 2019
D.C. August 2016
Paris July, 2014

“Hindsight is 2020”

Last year, one of my closest friends from a past study abroad adventure stayed with us for ten days. We visited the Niagara Falls, enjoyed some live music in Toronto and went to a roaring 20’s New Year’s Eve party hosted by one of my dearest friends. It couldn’t have been any better!

Fast forward to December 31, 2020: another beloved COVID test, watching Portlandia and snuggles on the couch…

I hope 2021 is full of more adventures, quality time with friends, reading and career advancement. I also wish for less social media/screen time and self-doubt this year.

Happy New Year 🙂

Getting Christmasy During COVID

For many of us the holidays not only feel different, but look different. I haven’t been in much of a Christmasy mood this year and have done just about everything to get myself out of this funk. It’s been wonderful to see some bright lights with my husband, dog and friends in safe ways this month.

Home

Our tree has been a much-needed focal point of our home. This will likely be my last Christmas in Michigan for the foreseeable future, which makes our tree even more meaningful. At the end of our neighborhood lies Linley’s doggy daycare, and Santa put him on the nice list this year 🙂

Campus Martius, Detroit

There’s nothing that screams Christmastime more than the tree and lights in downtown Detroit! Juan, Linley and I had a wonderful time exploring and grabbing some dinner in Campus Martius park (even if our glasses kept fogging up!).

Big Bright Light Show

Each year, downtown Rochester knocks it out of the park with their big bright light show. Every business has their own colorful lights outside and not only is this absolutely whimsical, but it’s also extremely helpful for local businesses. My friend Ter and I ordered some pouches of Bright Light Cosmos and enjoyed ourselves a little too much!

Drive Thru Light Show

I actually drove through this light show twice: once with Juan and Linley, and another time with my friend Ter. Both times were fun and full of cliche holiday music.

Outdoor Drinks

My friend Donna and I definitely took drinking in public for granted! We each enjoyed a cosmo mule on a heated patio recently and had a great time.

I hope you all have happy and safe holidays this year! ☺️

Giving Tuesday: Top Four Charities

As 2020 comes to a close, this is a great time to reflect and donate to a local charity or two. With many nonprofit organizations’ funding being eliminated due to the ongoing impacts of the global pandemic, there has never been a better time to help amazing charities in your area.

While there are many charities I care about, there are four that I have either participated in, heavily benefited from, or have grown to admire over the past decade. If you are interested in donating time or financially to any of these charities, please use the affiliated links or contact me for more information. And most importantly: thank you for your donation!

Big Brothers Big Sisters

I immediately tear up when I think of how much BBBS of the Great Lakes Bay Region (Michigan) has impacted me. Aniya and I have been matched for six years and to see her grow has been one of the greatest gifts I could’ve asked for. Aniya is gracious, strong and has truly grown up to be a phenomenal young woman. She is the sister I never had but always wanted. There’s no doubt that I’ve learned more from her than she’s learned from me! Please consider becoming a Big or donating a gift a money to: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E246618&id=1

Compass Dog Rescue

I’m pretty sure my first word was “dog,” and I impatiently waited 23 long, ‘’miserable” (😂) years to finally rescue one. Compass Dog Rescue is based in Royal Oak, Michigan but rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in southern states. My little guy Linley was saved in 2017 from a high-kill shelter after he was dropped there during Hurricane Harvey. This pup has helped with my anxiety and depression more than I could’ve ever anticipated, and your new best friend could be waiting for you at Compass! To donate or even rescue/foster a rescue dog, please visit: https://m.facebook.com/compassdogrescue/

The Camilla Foundation

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the Camilla Foundation is focused on helping those in need at both local and global levels. Their global mission is to empower and grow the stability of an orphanage in Uganda. They are currently approving the salary of 20 amazing caretakers and funding self-sufficient food security for our growing children through the entire year. To donate, please visit: https://camilla-foundation.org/donate

The Barn Sanctuary

As a vegetarian transitioning into a fully plant-based diet, I want to end animal cruelty, live a healthier lifestyle and protect the environment from the dangers of climate change. Animals are friends, not food! To learn more and donate to the Barn Sanctuary, please visit: https://www.barnsanctuary.org/donate/

Finding Hope in Friendship

In the midst of a worsening global pandemic, a gut-wrenching American presidential election and the beginning of some painful family estrangement, I wanted to post about the people I’m especially grateful for these days.

♥️♥️♥️

Jaclyn and Dustin / Detroit, 2020
Carolyn / Washington D.C., 2020
Linley counts as a person too, right? / 2020
Saskia / Germany, 2016
Bethany / Colorado, 2020
Jacomijne 😂 / Sweden, 2016
And Bernie… always Bernie!

Zip Lining and Problem Solving

My love for zip lining began in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on a family vacation. The freedom and thrill associated with it is empowering and so exhilarating!

I’ve been zip lining a few times since our Smokey Mountain adventure: once with my Little Sister and twice with a friend in metro-Detroit.

If you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights, for a family-friendly activity, a team-building exercise or something fun to do outdoors, zip lining might be the perfect pastime for ya!

If you live in Michigan or Tennessee, feel free to message me for company suggestions and additional information 🙂

Media taken August, 2019 and October, 2020

Friend & Family Breakups

I wanted to put a pause on my regular travel posts and write about something that’s been lingering in the forefront of my mind this year.

I’ve been struggling with long-term extended family estrangement and somewhat short-term immediate family drama, as well as some pretty upsetting friendship breakups. I won’t go into specifics in order to protect those around me, but I’ve been in a dark place for about a year or so now. As one can imagine, this has taken a toll on my mental health.

I recently heard a quote on one of my favorite podcasts that goes a little something like this:

“Depression is the greatest acting teacher. I can smile through anything even though I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole.” If that doesn’t hit you like a semi truck, I’m not sure what will…

I’m not a therapist or licensed professional by any means, but I wanted to share some strategies I’ve been applying to help with the pain of broken friendships and family relationships. It’s important to note that all of these points coincide with each other and this is the “flow” as I see it. Remember: everyone’s journey is highly personal and individual.

1. Don’t change who you are for those around you.

I have a lot of people in my life – family members in particular – who will never be proud of me, no matter what I do. In the past and present, I have been laughed at or mocked for my dreams and ambitions. Family members have and will continue to make me feel small to build themselves up. About five years ago, I chose to let them go as opposed to clinging onto the gaslighting and the guilt (e.g.: “well, I guess it’s your choice if you don’t want to be here” comments when THEY were the ones hurting ME).

2. Create your own closure.

Oftentimes we find that friendship and family breakups seem abrupt, without true closure. I was best friends with someone for nearly 12 years and I’ve been thinking about our good times lately. But with that, I’ve also been thinking of the bad. The truth is that she was like an older sister to me, whereas I was her “plan b”/“second choice” friend for a very long time. Write a goodbye letter. Get rid of photos. Do something that allows you to create your own closure. Remember, don’t change yourself to fit others’ narratives of you.

3. Try not to hate the person on the other end.

It would be so easy for me to say, “She was a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.” Although there are times I’ve been hurt by family and friends (and honestly still am hurting from recent experiences), I try my damnedest to acknowledge that we all have flaws and shortcomings. I realize this is much easier said than done, but I’m hoping this will make me a better, stronger person in the end.

4. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings.

Conversely, it’s okay to be angry, hurt, frustrated or upset. As long as you aren’t taking it out on the other person, allow yourself to reflect on your feelings in the present moment. Thinking of a past memory you miss? Cry. Thinking of how good things were in the past? Smile. The more you hold back and shove your feelings into a corner of your mind, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

5. Focus on yourself and the great relationships in your life.

I may never have a best friend who reminds me of an older sister ever again, but I do have amazing friends in my life. I feel loved every day, even if it isn’t by a family member. I may never be close with my family, but I have several friends-turned-family relationships that fill my heart. Be around like-minded, supportive people who will always be there for you (and always be there for them, too!).

Every day of 2020 has felt like an overwhelming struggle, but I am much more resilient than I was before. “When life hands you lemons, they say to make lemonade, but you can’t make lemonade without any sugar.”

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂