Chasing Summer

I will spend my life chasing summer. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve checked in due to my crazy schedule for my holiday in America.  I escaped the Australian winter and took off to the US for a month of fun in the sun. It has been nonstop since I landed in NYC and reunited with so many sorority sisters and friends from college and apparently, believed that I could still party like my former sorority girl self. I spent many of my first days in America hungover until the afternoon when I could finally recoup, exercise and then get back at it again. This lasted for my first weekend and then my body rebelled. It was so amazing to see my friends and my family and even though I haven’t seen any of them in person for a while we just carry on the conversation like it never stopped. It’s pretty amazing how that works. It’s also crazy to genuinely realize that you are past the age where partying is worth it. I enjoy a few glasses of wine. I always will, but I wholeheartedly would rather stay in with friends and family, or even alone, than suffer through the misery and anxiety hangovers bring. Is this growing up?

Luckily, I also managed to have a few “touristy” experiences in NYC because even though it’s my favorite city in the world I’ve been to countless times, I still want to be a tourist because I’m rarely there anymore!  I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, went on a food crawl, did an amazing hot yoga class, took my first Soul Cycle class and spent time with so many people near and dear to me. New York is one of the few cities that I believe has a pulse. You can actually feel how alive it is. Before I knew it I was on a plane and off again to Nashville to attend my annual coaching convention. I experienced this event last year for the first time and this year did not disappoint. There is something so tangible about gathering together that many positive and motivated people for a fitness convention to celebrate our successes, attend seminars and trainings, attend live workouts with our celebrity trainers and just bond with our teammates that we work with predominately online. This time it wasn’t the city that felt alive, but the energy from the people in it. I lost my voice the first day from having so many heart to hearts and possibly from belting out country songs at the crazy bars on Broadway. Just because it’s a bunch of fitness coaches together for a work convention doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of fun! It’s an awesome balance and one I attempt to emulate in all of my personal travels… until someone introduces the idea of a tequila shot.

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QUIT, PACK, OPEN

When I started writing my weekly headspace pieces I had no idea how awesome this weekly release of my thoughts would be. I did know and have proved to myself how hard it is to keep up with your blog even if it is once a week. I see why people do this as an actual career in itself because it’s a lot of work and you truly have to carve out the time for it. I wanted my weekly headspace to be a concrete way for me to write more, even if it wasn’t particularly well designed or crafted pieces. These are my thoughts plain and simple. In this process I have realized that I have A LOT of thoughts in one week. I mean, like, A LOT. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what thoughts to synthesize and what thoughts to dismiss. I talk to hundreds of people on a weekly basis because my business is all about talking to people and connecting with them. It doesn’t matter if it’s people who have known me since childhood or high school or friends that I have connected to through common interests  like fitness and traveling via social media, almost everyone asks me the same question, “Australia? WOW! How is it living there?”

I had my friend and  fellow coach ask me a while ago,  “What is your biggest takeaway  from all your adventures? What have you learned about yourself, other cultures, and the world?”  I realized that I think about this almost every day for one reason or another. I have lived it and I am living it. I have watched my mind expand and my heart break and connected to people from all over the world for about 3 years now. But no one has lived it all with me. Luckily, I have many companions, especially Jackie, who have experienced a huge chunk of it and the bond we share because of it is truly something special.  Through my blog I try to convey what traveling has done for me but I love to pause and reflect for new followers and because I am not sure if I have ever answered that question explicitly, my biggest takeaway from all of my adventures. I am feeling quite nostalgic as my 26th birthday approaches at the beginning of June and  I keep thinking about how different my life was last June. I had high expectations for twenty five but my expectations have been blown out of the water. Because I believed that the best was yet to come… the best came and is still coming.

My biggest takeaway from all of my adventures living abroad in two radically different countries and returning back home to America in between, has been that the world is an absolutely captivating and magical place, if you allow it to be. Being open minded is the key to happiness, success, relationships and quite honestly, life.  I truly believe that for the most part people are their own worst enemies and let their fears hold them back from the life they deserve.

Despite the fact that I was living in a third world country, backpacking through many South East Asian  third world countries, prancing around the fancy beach clubs in Bali, eating traditional meals with locals, paying more for my brunch then I did for my hostel, hiking active volcanoes at sunrise, making friends from every country you could imagine and experiencing something new almost every single day I finally realized how similar we all are. I worry this sounds cliche but that has truly been my personal experience.  Human beings are so similar it is actually quite scary. It’s such a mind blowing experiencing because not only do you see how similar you are but you are forced to perceive the world in a totally new and unique manner.

Despite having similar cores, we do have so many differences in our life experiences, family upbringing, cultures, educations, work experience, travel experience, views on politics, religion, dating, happiness and success. Nothing is more thrilling to me than chatting with friends from Germany, Holland, Vietnam, Indonesia, Italy, England, Wales, France, Canada, you name it,  and learning things you never could find in a  history book or experience in a college lecture hall. Traveling has forced me to be okay with not being in control(which if you know me was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.) Traveling has forced me to see how taking risks is worth the reward. Traveling has forced me to savor the moments as they pass because you may only have a few nights with these new friends who you feel like you’ve known a lifetime. Traveling has made me realize that you don’t need a lot of money to travel you need a lot of GUTS. You need a lot of resilience. You need the willingness to get out of your OWN way and take some risks. You have to be willing to go to countries you know nothing about. You have to be willing to sleep on overnight buses for 17 hours in Vietnam. You have to be willing to play charades and to point to random food and pray you don’t get food poisoning, or take it like a champ when you do. You have to be open minded in your approach to your traveling or you could circle the whole globe and not change a thing.

I truly don’t believe everyone should quit their job and travel the world. I honestly do believe it is the single best decision I have ever made. Quit.. Pack… Open..Not only did I  find a way to make my career work in two new countries I gained the confidence to follow ANYTHING that tugs on my heart strings. Traveling wasn’t an option for me, it was a calling and a voice that needed to be answered. Wanderlust is not going to Disney World twice a year and on a cruise every five. Wanderlust is sincerely wanting to experience a new culture, a new way of life and a willingness to learn that everything you have ever thought could very well be wrong. Traveling forced me to get in touch with my truest self and make some huge sacrifices along the way. It is a whole different level of commitment when you decide to live abroad and become a permanent adventurer. You no longer are someone who leaves and comes back with cool stories to tell your friends and family. You are someone who leaves. You are someone who has to miss important weddings and special occasions. You have to construct dysfunctional holiday celebrations that show what the true spirit of those holidays actually mean.  You are someone who decides that the desire to see the world is stronger than any other guiding factor.

This is a terrifying inner voice to listen to. But when you do, it shows you why being open minded is so important. I know that all people have their opinions about other people’s life choices and many times people like to judge a path that is different from their own or the norm. I think that the 21st century has developed a whole generation of dreamers, doers, seekers and people who very well might quit their job and travel the world. That scares the HELL out of close minded people. It always has and it always will. But traveling teaches you to focus on the good. You don’t look back and dwell on the moments you missed your ferry, were hungover puking on your ferry, nearly died in traffic in Bangkok, got hit on by men, ladyboys, women, or anything with two legs. You look back and remember the people, the laughs, the views, the kick ass food and booze and experience that you simply can’t just look at photos of you have to EXPERIENCE yourself. I think that is the most special part of traveling. Even in today’s world of Instagram, blogs, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, any other social media site that people use to document their every move on a trip; pictures, videos, words, and blog articles can NEVER replace experiencing it for yourself. It never has and it never will. Every traveler holds those stories in their memory, some to share and some to keep, but no two people will see the same world twice.

You learn more about yourself traveling than any other life experience. You form bonds with your traveling companions that can’t be put into words. You are forced to coexist with people you have never imagined you be in the same room with let alone getting naked in front of and sharing a wall socket for your chargers. When you are traveling you  see humanity in such raw form, the good, the bad and the ugly. So when I try to reflect on my biggest take away from my adventures I have to say that it is so complex but actually pretty simple; being open minded is the key to life. It can be applied to every situation across the boards and it is a lesson I continually use in my classroom, my business, my friendships, my relationship and my life. You can see a big and beautiful world or you can see a world full of pain and darkness. That is totally up to you.

Good and evil have existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist. Traveling has reminded me to be open to the magic that this universe has to offer. Not just when you feel like it. Not just for a week or a stage in life. Be open to what the world has to offer you and see the magic in everyday life. Don’t ever stop seeing life as an adventure and that mindset will manifest your reality.  Leaving home does not mean that I never look back, I look back all the time. But my eyes have changed, my mind has expanded, my heart has opened.  I take life as it comes and I take people for what they are. I control myself (this is without a pitcher of sangria in my blood) because I know that’s the only thing I can control. I EMBRACE uncertainty because instead of holding myself back or being afraid of it, I am learning to celebrate the fact that I have no clue what’s next. None of us do. The more authentically you open your mind and your heart to the world around you the more the world around you opens. Allow the world to be the magical and captivating place that it is. Get out of your own way. I’m not saying everyone should quit their job to travel the world but DAMN, I am glad that I did. 

Kicking off 2016: Dry January

My last post was Christmas Eve, so hello again friends. I hate to sound like a broken record because every time I realize how overdue I am for a blog post I start writing and apologize for my inconsistent nature. I have a personal goal to write SOMETHING every single day but that doesn’t always translate to blog material. Sometimes it is simply thoughts & musings in my planner, rants in the notepad on my iPhone or scribbles on my lesson plans. As I’ve said before I am someone who is very self-aware, both of my strengths and of my weaknesses. Suffering from ADHD gives me an incredible energy and ability to take on loads of projects but it also leads me to bite off more than I can chew. I want to do it all which makes it very hard to do it all well, consistently. This is something I cut myself slack for but when it comes down to it, I know that my behavior and my habits are in my control. My creative mind seeks space to grow, breathe, wonder and wander but my Type A side needs routine, control, and stability. I am an open book when it comes to my shortcomings and I refuse to “accept” things that are within my control as the “way it is”.

This is where the fitness aspect of my life is crucial. After a month of my 60 day exercise challenge and 5am wake up calls for workouts I am feeling motivated, determined, focused, dedicated, empowered, committed, and excited (clearly we have been working on forming adjectives in my ESL classroom this week). Having physical fitness goals and a program to follow gives me the discipline I need in my life. I am very skilled at doing whatever the hell I please. But, I am wise enough to want more. I know I can push myself to be more than average, ordinary, or satisfactory. Fitness reminds me you have to work HARD for what you want. You have to put in the effort on days you feel like it and especially on days you don’t. You have to commit and stay consistent in that commitment to see results. When you are wishy washy in your commitment your results are wishy washy and ordinary. With the start of 2016 I naturally reflected upon my journey through 2015 and how many ups and downs I had. When I bite off more than I can chew I manage to swallow anyway but it is a personal goal of mine to channel my energy into fewer projects this year with MORE mindful focus and intentionality placed on the chosen ones. 2015 has been a year of monumental growth from the inside out. The funny thing about figuring yourself out is you continue to change while doing so and hence, have more to figure out! You must believe you CAN do anything but accept you can’t successfully do everything(I know, I know…but you still wanna try). I know that my anything begins with using my words & sharing my constant journey to a balanced, healthy lifestyle full of adventure & genuine happiness.

I had two incredibly different teaching jobs in 2015, one that was so stressful, emotionally draining and exhausting and one that is currently uplifting, flexible, and my classroom once again feels like a place where I feel my creativity is celebrated. I feel like I am positively influencing my student’s lives every day.  I am happy to go to work every morning. I have also slowly but surely dove into building my own business as a health and fitness coach. This is something I never in a million years imagined I would do but as I progress as an individual I realize that most people don’t turn out to be or do what thought they were going to be. That’s the fun part about life. We don’t know what the future holds but we are surely in control of building ourselves up into the best possible versions of ourselves. Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” As I mature, I realize that when I make myself better I in-turn become better at whatever job or life obstacle is in front of me. The more I encourage others to take risks, take action and live the life of their dreams the more I continue to do it myself.

Accepting that my path is incredibly different than an average American 20-something has given me the power to listen closely my heart and actually TRY different things to find what makes me genuinely happy. The hard part is this process is never ending and at times can feel daunting but I have some truly hysterical people in my life who remind me not to take anything too seriously. It is amazing to me what different people teach you and as a traveler, teacher and coach I am constantly influenced by so many interesting and dynamic individuals.  It is a fascinating world and my favorite way to experience it is through the stories of strangers and new memories with friends.

Between all these goals, plans and dreams for the future I refuse to forget the invaluable moments that are happening right now.

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See today

The internet is an incredible tool if you use it in the right way. I wanted to share this comment that I recieved on my blog from a young man in Germany. It literally made my day and gave me so much hope in my heart.I hope it can do the same for you. Today is Christmas Eve in Australia. I absolutely adore Christmas and everything about it but Christmas Eve  is also my dear friend Corey’s birthday. She would have been 26 today. I can’t help but imagine the incredible woman she would be today but I am so grateful she has made me into the woman that I am. Stories like this prove to me, once again, how powerful it is to share from the heart, to grow from pain and the fact that we simply never know how our lives, our words, and the songs we sing to the world lift others up or inspire them. Thank you for reaching out to me Thomas. I hope you find the strength you need to deal with the loss of your mother. I am so sorry for the rollercoaster of grief that I know you are on. I promise you there are friends all  over the world who understand and are happy to listen. I am happy to say that I now am. Now I do know you.  I see you. I hear you. Maybe not in person but technology is an amazing thing. I am so happy that Corey, her family and friends and I have had such a profound impact on your life. There really is no better feeling in the world.  Here is the comment he left me,

 

“You don’t know me and probably you never will but let me add sth to your story. I heard about Corinne about 5 years ago. Somehow it kind of touched me from the beginning, to read about it and especially to see how her friends and family try to live on and do the best out of it is very amazing. If you want to find a sense in everything, the sense is shown in the person who you are today. You never know how many lives you saved by just being who are you are and she made you the person who you are today. I had alot of difficult times in my life, especially in the Last times when my mom died suddenly. To the end of my life i will grief about her, but the most important what i learned from you, your story and her family by watching it from far is to celebrate the life. I learned even to be happy to be the the person who i am today, i am proud of myself and this i learned from the story of corinne, somehow she save my life too. You will never know everything but one thing is sure: corinne didn’t save just one life, everyday somehow there are lives saved by her story, by your actions. I will share her story my way with my actions, even if i never knew her she is already a part of my life. I will not save the world, but maybe one soul. Be proud of her, my soul is saved due to her, i will try to do it with sbd else. And you can even say her story is already global, as i am from germany and i think alot of others are out there anywhere in the world which are saved. I wish you and the family of corinne the best.”photo

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NEWS FLASH: I’M FOUND

It has been a while since I’ve checked in. Consistency does not seem to be my middle name these days. One of the problems of constantly living in the moment is picking and choosing what moments are worth living in and what moments I need to save for someone else. Technology has the power to connect us but sometimes I like to withdraw and unplug to gain perspective. Maybe that is not the best quality for a blogger to have but we’re all a work in progress…right?

When I last updated you I was living at a hostel in a small beach town in Northern Australia. I was participating in my self-proclaimed detox and doing sunrise yoga on the beach in the morning and exercising every afternoon. I spent my days reading, exploring the beaches and hiking areas or laying by the pool. I spent my evenings working at a local restaurant that needed extra help for the end of tourist season. It was a very simple lifestyle but my favorite part about it was the friends that I made there. It was a living/working hostel so most of my friends were there semi-permanently to complete their farm work for their second year visa. I spent so much time with these individuals they quickly turned into friends. It was much different than staying at a hostel and meeting a fun crew for a few nights. We bonded and did everything together and I truly miss each and every one of them now that I am in Sydney on my own. I especially miss my girls who did my detox program with me (shout out to my most loyal students Shona and Sibell) you ladies gave me such motivation to keep going and helping you helped me! I miss having my little minions to terrorize daily. You reminded me why I became a health and fitness coach in the first place! And my roomie, Amy, who helped inspire this blog post. This one is for you girlfriend. Can’t wait until you move to Sydney so we can do it all over again!

In Mission Beach, I woke up every single day like clockwork at 6am and marched down to the beach to do my yoga. The first sunrise took my breath away and I knew that I wanted to start my day like that for as long as I was living at the beach. After a week or two I found myself focusing more on my yoga practice than the sunrise. I stopped taking photos because I was used to the beauty. But then one day it hit me, and I was in awe at how symbolic the sunrise is for life. Every single day there is a gorgeous sunrise but most people miss it because they are still asleep. Even if no one is there to watch it, the sun still rises just as beautifully. If you are lucky enough to see it, you may become jaded to its beauty, but the truly wise take time to acknowledge its beauty every single day. Life has so many beautiful moments and opportunities but people often miss them because they are subconsciously sleeping or they take the splendor for granted. Ask any happy person why they are so happy and I guarantee they will have a simple answer. When we appreciate little things it gives us room to welcome big blessings in our lives. When we focus on the basics and acknowledge how little we need to truly be happy, a whole new freedom opens up in front of our eyes. If you choose to watch the sunrise or you choose to sleep, it still rises. Beauty is everywhere and it is up to us to not only go out and find it, but to go out and appreciate it. Not once, but continually, as a habit not a happenstance.

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Simply Straya& Serendipity

It’s been a while but I’m back with a ridiculous surplus of adventures to share from the past two months of my life. I’ve felt more alive in the past two months then I can ever remember. I feel as if I have said that before on my blog but with little fear of redundancy I dare say it again. I must be doing something right if I continue to feel more and more alive with each chapter of my journey. As if moving to Australia wasn’t exciting enough I also stumbled into what still feels like a fairytale right before I left home. There are so many clichés that can make you crazy, especially about love, more specifically about love when you are doing everything in your power to not be tied to anyone or anywhere. But the old cliché that “it always happens when you stop looking for it” has reared its ironic little head into my life. I had no idea who I would find, staggering through Benjamin’s with more wine than blood in my veins, but I couldn’t be happier that I did. Our circumstance seems impossible but as always I am a firm believer that everything works out the way it is supposed to. I am trusting in my gut, the universe, whatever you want to call it and I’m sure everything will fall into place. Thanks to my new partner in crime my last month in America was kicked into overdrive with lots of new friends, good food, long nights, surprises, Coronas and heart to hearts and the grand finale of jumping out of a plane for the first time. We went skydiving the day before I left for Australia and it epitomized how the last month felt; intimidating but extremely exciting, vulnerable but free, anxious but genuinely joyful. I guess it’s most easily explained as serendipity, finding something good without looking for it. And honestly, I still can’t stop smiling.

The next day I hopped in the minivan with my parents, my ridiculously stuffed backpack(s) and boarded the plane with my new traveling partner, and lifetime partner in crime, my older brother Nick. We started off strong by being dropped off at the wrong terminal at JFK. After 27 hours, lots of bickering, and an exploded beard oil can (leading to an extreme drug dog scare at customs) we finally arrived in Australia(or Straya…what we lovingly call it now). We got a shuttle to our hostel in Brisbane, which is the center of the east coast of Australia. We had one night booked at our hostel and absolutely no further plans. I am not exaggerating. We explored the city all day, hit up a street food market and called it an early night. We decided to book another night and wait for the arrival of the final member of the #Wandernuts trio, Jackie, to arrive from Fiji. The owner of the hostel just laughed as we came down to reception the next morning and asked to book another night. He said, “Yeah I planned on coming to Brisbane for a week… 9 years later…” Nick and I looked at each other with an “OH SHIT” kind of glare and #9yearslater became a running joke for the rest of the trip.

It is absolutely mind blowing how many people I have met in Australia in the past month who had no intentions of staying one place or the other but were enticed by the beauty, the freedom and the kindness that saturate every corner of this country. Brisbane served us well and who knows how long we would have been trapped there if it wasn’t for Nick & Jackie’s deadlines to get back to America. If you are visiting Brisbane be sure to check out the XXXX Brewery tour, Koala Sanctuary, rent bikes and tour the riverfront, botanical garden and lagoon. If you are looking for an amazing hostel check out Brisbane City Backpackers, awesome location, sweet set up and the staff was so helpful. The people we met in Brisbane truly made that city come alive. In the blink of an eye, we went from having no plan to having every single day, bus, hostel, ferry and boat trip planned for the next two and a half weeks. Shout out to Jake at Wicked Travel Brisbane, thanks for simplifying our lives and making our holiday experience perfect!

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Leaving the Land of Smiles

After a bit of a mishap in the flight department (I’ll skip the story due to my own embarrassment) we finally made it to Thailand and back to our favorite island, Ko Phi Phi. It was so strange to be back in Thailand after being in such a westernized culture for two weeks. But even more strange was how NORMAL it felt. It was normal to not understand anything going on around you, for men to be screaming “I LOVEEE YOU”, to see a family of four on the motorbike next to you and to see more 7-11’s on one street than in all of Australia. Since we had such a hard month in Bali and Australia we knew we would need time to kick up our feet and relax in Ko Phi Phi for our last week abroad. Hey, c’mon you can’t hate us for planning the best vacation ever. 😉

Unfortunately the weather in Thailand was not cooperating with us. We were there for 7 nights and we probably had two days of sunshine. Lots of rain and mud puddles which caused us to find recreational activities inside… There isn’t much to do on an island when the weather is bad, especially Ko Phi Phi. We kept ourselves entertained with lots of stories and laughs from our trip, food, and an adult beverage or two. I finally got the chance to meet up with my friend from high school, Fallon who started teaching in Thailand in March. It was so awesome to catch up with her, reminisce on life in Syracuse and bond over our unexplainable desire to find what we need out of life even if that means traveling all over the world to find it. As the rain fell the reality of the end of my journey getting closer and closer washed over me. We didn’t want to talk about moving home because that made it real. I was so excited to see my friends and family, meet my nephew, squeeze my puppy, eat real pizza and finally feel clean but I couldn’t help but hate having to leave behind this place that I have learned to call home.

Thailand is a magical place for many but for me it changed my life in a way I will always revere. Thailand taught me what it means to be myself. That is the most beautiful gift anyone can give you. By no means did I feel “lost” in life before, but Thailand opened my eyes to a world I needed so desperately to see. A world beyond sorority formals and football tailgates. A world where people don’t have shoes on their feet or have to share a small room behind their restaurant with 13 family members. A world full of dreamers, teachers, and travelers; young people who have the same desire to see new horizons as I do. Like I said in an earlier piece, I joined a club I didn’t know existed. There are so many people, so different than I am, who went to different unis, speak different languages, were raised in diverse situations that have the same fire burning inside of them. This fire can not be extinguished or “gotten out of your system”. There is a whole world full of people who want to experience life, other cultures, have heart to hearts at 3 am on cruise ships in Vietnam, explore ancient temples in Cambodia, eat traditional Indonesian food at 6 am with locals and talk to strangers about their lives simply because it matters. I am so grateful for each and every one of you I have met along the way and you have inspired me to continue dreaming, no matter what anyone thinks.

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Cheers, No worries. Cheers, No worries.

After Bali we jumped on a plane and headed to Australia. Once again I was in complete awe that this was not just a dream destination in the far off “future” but a plausible real experience happening….right now. After a whirlwind journey, a layover in Malaysia with some exceptional red velvet cake in the airport, a trip to duty free for some essentials (two bottles of Absolut) we finally arrived in Sydney. Due to a change in plans Jackie and I were using her parents timeshare and staying at the Marriott in Circular Quay, which is the tourist heart of Sydney with a two minute walk to the Sydney Harbor, Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. Every restaurant, bar or activity we needed was either a short ferry ride away or within walking distance. Within minutes of being in Sydney we realized it was happy hour and we were starving, obviously this needed to be taken care of. It felt so weird to be a country with predominately white people, the signs were in English, and it was so clean I could eat my dinner off the sidewalk. Not to mention, there were so many attractive young men in business suits Jackie and I thought we may have to cut the trip short due to a heart attack. We met a group of people whose office building was close by and they came to this place often for happy hour. They gave us tons of advice about Sydney, Australia, and we enjoyed many laughs and cocktails. We were very grateful for their hospitality and they put a great taste in our mouth for Australia. The next five days in Sydney were a whirlwind of beautiful beaches, incredible food, extremely friendly people, picture perfect waterfront towns and one of the most badass cities I’ve ever encountered. I could seriously go on forever so I’ll stick to the highlights.

Walk from Coogee to Bondi Beach – Favorite part of Sydney! This also included the unique art exhibit Sculptures by the Sea. This was one of the most breathtaking 5 kilometers I have ever experienced. There are about 6-7 separate beaches along this ocean front path and each one was unique. Some had huge sand beaches, others were covered with rocks and cliffs. Each one was worth lingering on and as Jackie and I walked we talked about the world, our lives, our travels, just our average heart to hearts except in one of the prettiest locations ever.
Tarango Zoo– We got our fix of koala bears, kangaroos, wombats, crazy reptiles and our favorite the giraffes. Not only was this an awesome zoo it also overlooked Sydney Harbor giving the animals one of the best views of the city. Worth the trip.
Manly– A little neighborhood a short ferry ride away from the Circular Quay. Perfect water and beaches and you instantly feel like you are a in a suburb you could raise three kids, drive your Mommy Lexus and go to the Farmer’s Market on Sundays. We wandered through the streets picturing our future lives and landed at Little Manly, a picture perfect beach with about 5 other people on it.
Watson’s Bay– A ritzy suburb with a similar feel to Manly just add a few zeros to the residents bank account. We enjoyed an awesome brunch at the Dunbar House and soaked up the sunshine, despite the frigid wind.
Darling Harbour– Cute area with tons of restaurants, bars, shopping, the aquarium, animal center and various other tourist attractions. Jackie and I decided to post up at a waterfront beer garden and enjoy some of the famous hard cider and specialty beers.
Sydney Sky Tower– Sydney’s tallest structure (1,014 feet) with an awesome view of the city. Worth the trip! Wish we could have done the Sky Walk!
Pitt Street Mall– Adorable outdoor shopping mall that has everything a 20 something female could possibly desire, including handsome Australian man singing acoustic live music while you shop.

Overall, we did an awesome job playing tourist in Sydney. We brought flashpackin’ to a whole new level and I’ll never forget the question, “So you’re backpacking that’s cool…where are you staying?” “The Marriott”….. Shoutout to Pie Face for saving our stomachs and our budgets and all of the very generous Australian fellows who provided us those 12 dollar cocktails that we clearly couldn’t afford. I am awed by the friendly culture, cleanliness and overall badness of Sydney and I can’t wait to visit again. Then our trip led us to the other powerhouse city, Melbourne. We quickly found out from our Aussie friends before we even got to Australian there is a serious rivalry between the two cities. I am not sure how uniform this sentiment is across the Australian population, but in my own personal experience, you either love one or the other. It’s kind of like the New York/LA debate but on steroids with a tinge more animosity. Jackie and I were excited to experience both cities and form our own opinions.

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Bali Livin: Footloose and Fancy-free

As an American when I thought about Bali, it seemed like a far off distant Neverland that could only be dreamed about or pinned on Pinterest. When I moved to Thailand I truly had no idea that I would explore South East Asia so much while I was there. I quickly realized that I absolutely had to take advantage of being on this side of the world therefore any chance I got to explore a new country I took. After many separate groups of teacher friends made their way to Bali after our first semester in Thailand, I knew I had to make it happen. Just like that Jackie, Maggie and I booked our flights and convinced our friend Brittaney to come along with us. (Not that it took much convincing). We got tons of advice from friends which made planning our trip relatively easy. We also agreed to remain extremely flexible in our plans by only booking our first hotel. We started our Bali adventure in Ubud, which is north of the airport near the center of the island. Ubud is known for its rice fields and amazing scenery. I will tell you a little secret…Ubud is the best kept secret of BalI! We expected to spend a night or two, do some outdoorsy stuff and then head straight for the beaches. We were absolutely captivated by this town the moment we stepped foot in it. It was so quaint and interesting, with brick sidewalks and tree lined streets full of shops, cafes, spas and art galleries. There was a huge cultural influence woven into the streets due to the temples and ancient architecture still standing but converted into hotels, businesses and restaurants. It was a whirlwind experience and we ended up staying a few extra nights to soak up as much Indonesian culture as we could. Must sees if you are traveling to Ubud:

Monkey Forest– A short walk from the action of downtown Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and temple swarming with wild monkeys. They can be vicious (one bit Jackie & stole her sunscreen from her bag) or they can be very loving (at least 3 climbed on my head and gave me high fives). I think it just depends on the monkey vibes you give off. Clearly, there has to be part monkey in me somewhere.

 Sunrise at Mt. Batur– We woke up at 2 am and took a painfully winding ride to the bottom of the active volcano Mt. Batur. We proceeded to hike 1,716 meters up this volcano in the freezing cold and pitch black. Maggie was the ultimate trooper and completed the hike in FLIP FLOPS! On top of the volcano watching the sunrise above the fog is one of the most vivid memories I have of the trip. I felt like I was on top of the world. The hike down the volcano slowly brought us back to reality but that is the way things go with traveling, you gotta take the good with the bad.

A Coffee Plantation– Bali is known for its coffee and this made me ecstatic after suffering for a year with instant coffee in Thailand. We got the chance to visit a coffee plantation and taste test about 10 different types of coffees and teas. The most famous coffee was called Luwak Coffee. It is made by feeding the coffee beans to an animal, a Lombak, and waiting for them to poop it out. The bean ferments in their stomach and then it is roasted normally. It is casually referred to as “Shit coffee”. Jackie and I had to try a cup and it was honestly delicious. Good luck finding some in the states because it supposedly costs 50$ a cup!

Authentic Scenery- We had so many friendly tour guides/cab drivers who took us on excursions off the beaten path. It was incredible to explore the rice fields and secluded neighborhoods of Indonesia. I can picture the narrow roads in my head and I hear the ONE Indonesian song playing…that lasted about 25 minutes….and was on every time we got into a car. Nonetheless, it was magical scenery and so different than what you picture when you hear “Bali”.

Ubud_0

 

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Great Expectations

I apologize for disappearing but I am here and ready to get you all back up to date with my crazy life. I am now back in America sitting in my bed at my parents’ house in Syracuse, NY shivering under 3 blankets. It is 28 degrees and snowing outside. In the past two months I have been in four countries, countless cities and have sucked more out of life than some people will for the entirety of their existence. I wrote this piece before I set out on my month long trip. To be honest, I had no intentions of including it in my blog, it was more for personal reflection, but it does an uncanny job at introducing the past two months of my life and a trip I will remember forever. I am going to try to condense the trip into three blog posts but we will see what it turns out to be. One of my quirks as a writer is that I go in completely blind as to what I want to say and simply let my thoughts guide me. But that is also what I attribute my authentic voice to… I have tried to fight it but ultimately it’s what works for me. Enjoy these expectations and stay tuned for the rest of the stories to come!

Expectations for The Finale Trip

Before I moved to Thailand I read a girl’s blog who lived and taught here and one of her biggest pieces of advice was “to not have any expectations of what your experience will be like because you will most definitely be wrong.” I took this sentiment to heart and shared it with Jackie and we adopted it as our motto jumping into the experience without expectations. My friend who started teaching here this semester shared with me an idea given to him by his aunt. She told him to write down his expectations and hopes for his experience before he left for Thailand so he could have them to look back at once he was finished. She wanted him to realize how different his expectations would be from his reality. Looking back on how much my life has changed in the past year and how “normal” life in Thailand feels today, I wish that I recorded my expectations. Not because they would be right but instead to see how WRONG they would be. I decided that it isn’t to late to use this technique both for my final backpacking trip and for my adjustment back into American culture and life. I won’t be disappointed if I am “wrong” because I know that the reality will be even better than what I can imagine. It is wonderful that my life seems to work out that way and I accredit it to using my knowledge of the law of attraction, a positive attitude and bringing kindness with me everywhere I go.

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