An Old City with a New Friend

As I grow older, my friend circle dwindles down and becomes more tight-knit. This may sound like a bad thing, and at first I thought it was, but I get it now. 

I am blessed to have great, close friends in my life who I would do anything for and vice versa.


One of those friends is someone who I met in Sweden. Bethany and I visited each other in Chicago two months ago – I will always cherish our weekend together, full of exchanging study abroad memories, sore feet from walking everywhere, and acknowledging newfound inside jokes! 


It was also special because I have been to Chicago several times (many of my favorite childhood memories are from Chi-town) and Bethany had never been there prior to this summer. I was able to show her my favorite places, as well as experience new bars and clubs together! 


Bethany, I’m not sure if you’ll see this anytime soon, but thanks for being a gem of a friend! I’m beyond thankful to have met you in Sweden! 


 Cheers to more adventures together! 

South Haven, Michigan

I know that the title of my blog is “A Michiganian Abroad,” but I have been doing a lot of domestic travel since I’ve been home from Thailand. 

This summer has been filled with student loan payments and a new job, so my international trips are on hold until 2018! 


On Thursday, I traveled to South Haven, which is right on Lake Michigan, for an overnight work retreat. The scenery was beautiful, the food was amazing, and the company was much needed! 


A few of my team members live out of state, and getting to know them for the first time was awesome. We had ice-breaker challenges and I won the cup stacking competition (I never win anything…)!


I went swimming in Lake Michigan with Kevin for about an hour. The water was much warmer than usual, but the waves were as high and frequent as I remember. Tonya and I skipped rocks for a while and I failed miserably every time. I still loved my time on the beach with them; they’re two of my favorite coworkers and getting to know them better over the two days meant a lot to me. 


As dorky as it sounds, being in South Haven was a highlight of my summer. My company owns the property we stayed on, and I can’t wait to go back! 


At dinner, we played adult Clue/had an interactive murder mystery game. I’ve always wanted to do this and it was so much fun! The only awkward part was that my character had an affair with my boss’s character, but we had to play the part! I had to cry every time someone mentioned my dead lover’s name, which was “Sal Fee” (like selfie)! 


Sitting around the bonfire with a view like this was something special. Tonya, Steve, Kevin and I played corn hole and the sunset came alive. I can’t wait for next year’s retreat! 

Making New (Animal) Friends While Traveling

A dog at the market (Aix-en-Provence, France 2014)

Happy Tuesday everyone!  If you’re feeling that post-lunch tiredness or mid-week “blah,” I hope you enjoy some animal photos from my travels!  Here are a few of my favorites:

A dog at the market (Aix-en-Provence, France 2014)
A dog at the market (Aix-en-Provence, France, 2014)
Ronaldo, the seven-month-old elephant (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2017)
Ronaldo, the seven-month-old elephant (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2017)
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When the monkey tried to steal my chapstick… (Hamburg, Germany, 2012)
Pierre my teddy bear, NOT a real bear :-) (Hamburg, Germany, 2016)
Pierre my teddy bear, NOT a real bear 🙂 (Hamburg, Germany, 2016)

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part II)

At the beginning of 2018, I hope to go on a trip to Europe with my brother.  He will graduate college in December of this year and has never gone to Europe, so I figure this would be the perfect gift for him (expensive, yes, but perfect…) 🙂

And if that doesn’t work out, then my mom is willing to take his place!

Until my next adventure in Europe, I can look back on the past and cherish the memories I have already made as I excitedly plan on making some new ones in the near future 🙂

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I hope you all have a great Monday and a great week ahead of you! 🙂

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai 

This weekend, I participated in something extremely spiritual and heartwarming. I visited an elephant sanctuary with my friends from the Mirror Foundation. Mind you, we didn’t ride the elephants, nor do we condone that behavior; however, we fed and bathed them! 
Riding elephants, no matter how “well cared for” they are, is awful. It’s an exploitation of Thai culture, as well as a form of animal cruelty that I won’t even get into. The bottom line is this: always educate yourself on animal treatment, as well as cultural acceptances, when researching zoos and animal sanctuaries!!! 
The experience was incredible. A songtaew picked us up from our hotel in Chiang Mai, where we met three Swedish girls. I recognized the Swedish instantly, and it turns out they lived in Kalmar, where I lived for five months! Small world! 
When we arrived, we immediately changed into matching shirts to wear over our clothes. We had an educational lesson about elephant sanctuaries, which ones are proper, and how to feed/behave around the elephants. 
Feeding them was beyond what I thought it could be. They didn’t even need the bananas to be peeled for them; the only one who did was the seven month-old male named Ronaldo! How cute!!! We held the bananas behind our backs and fed them one by one. I absolutely loved the experience, even if my hands became muddy from their thick tongues! 
Throwing mud at the elephants seemed like an odd task, but we all had so much fun getting messy and the elephants were enjoying themselves! Bathing them off with buckets of water was probably my favorite part, because we could really get up close and personal with the elephants. 
My words and photos don’t do the experience justice. Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary if you’re ever in Chiang Mai! 

Volunteering Abroad: Life in Thailand

I’ve been here since April 17, and I can already tell you that my life has changed for the better.

I’m living in a camp/”commune” like setup.  I have been living in a room with a mosquito net above my bed, have been taking cold bucket showers, and have been eating a low-protein, high-carb diet (opposite from home given that I’m a celiac). 

This experience has been humbling, and to say that is an understatement. 

I am currently teaching English at a local orphanage. The children are so grateful to have us there, teaching them and playing with them of course. I have always wanted to adopt children, and my time here has shown me that I’m meant to do this one day. 

I will be volunteering until May 13, and I am beyond thankful that I have made this decision. I will aim to not take things for granted when I come home on May 21. I want to live like the villagers here: having less and making the most out of life (always having smiles on their faces)! 

Chiang Rai, Thailand 

I have been struggling these past few months, post-graduation. I had been through the ringer with job applications, interviews, and other miscellaneous drama that needs no further explanation. Rather than sulking and doing the same things day in and day out, I decided spur-of-the-moment to volunteer abroad.

I have been living in a “commune-like” setting in a village in northern Thailand. This experience is very much different than home: cold bucket showers, mosquito bites like no other, and copious amounts of sweat. 

When you think of Thailand, you think of beaches and tourist destinations, right? But take a moment to consider the poorer side of the nation; I have been teaching in an orphanage and playing with young village children, who barely know English at all. Thailand is more than tourism: it has personality and it truly is “the land of smiles.”

Thank you to all of my friends and family who supported, and continue to support, me through these major life decisions! 

Message of the day: always be grateful for what you have. There are others who have less than you, but may be more likely to give more because of it!