Category Archives: Travel

Reflections from Nashville

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Phew! What feels like gust of wind, and my first three months of my post-MBA career have gone by. It all started with a move to Greenville in July, and has since included two trips to Michigan, visits to Charlotte and Columbia, a month spent in Nashville for field sales training, a quick weekend in Chicago, and now back to Greenville. I have been “on the move” throughout, living out of a suitcase, and tonight is one of the first times I have been able to sit and share some of my most recent stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have not sat down for more than 5 minutes to relax (besides sleeping at night) in over a month. That phase is now over though, and I am back to “normal” life.

As the hectic few months came to a close last week, I decided to capture some reflections during my flight from Nashville to Greenville…

Living in Nashville as part of my sales training was one of the biggest blessings for me. On the weekends, I spent some time exploring and learning about the culture, which helped me reflect on the lessons I have learned over the past few months.

My first lesson from Nashville is the power of resilience. I have never realized how resilient I am or can be until facing the past few months of struggles…from a shooting of a colleague in my apartment complex, to family health issues, to going through a new challenging work training, to ending a long term relationship after I learned that my significant other wasn’t the person I thought he was. With each challenge, I felt extreme stress…lack of sleep and appetite and spontaneous tears. At the same time, I felt myself grow closer to God, praying consistently, and keeping my focus on my long term goals of good health, happiness with friends and loved ones, and positive impact in my career. I have bounced back from each hardship, potentially with a few more wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, but also a wider smile to express my gratitude on the good days.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

My second lesson after spending time in Nashville is…country music is a powerful healer. After watching live music almost daily at my hotel and on Broadway Street, I felt tempted to get on stage and pour my heart out. I toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which told inspiring stories of the musicians from years past, who are no different than you and me, except for their incredible music talent. If you really listen to country music or just music in general, you realize how much you can connect with the artists as they sing about love, hardship, and daily life. I felt so connected to those performing, and at times empowered by their words, particularly about moving on from those who bring us down. One day you may see a country song written by me after all that I have faced lately :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Similar to the country music lesson, I have been reminded how dancing soothes the soul. Nashville has no shortage of places to dance, and I took advantage of many of them. I have never felt so liberated to dance however I want whenever I want. While Nashville is known for bachelorette parties, I was happy to also run into a couple bachelor parties and had a blast. Every kind of dancing you could imagine, from salsa to line dancing to R&B, I was doing it. I have learned in yoga class that our hips carry a lot of our stress, so dancing helps us let go of that negative energy. So if anyone ever critiques your dance moves, just tell him/her that you are relieving stress and there can be no judgement :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

And finally…being far away from loved ones has reminded me the importance of a strong support network. I met the best community I could have asked for in my new apartment in Greenville. My friends from high school, college, and grad school have been there every step of the way through phone calls and weekend visits. I couldn’t be more grateful for them and many of you reading this post.

Nashville, and the country music that went along with it, was a strong reminder that I, and all of us, can bounce back from our struggles through the support of family and friends. We are often stronger than we give ourselves credit.

While a few more hours of sleep are in order now that I am back home in Greenville, I feel empowered and eager to start my next chapter. And I can’t wait to share more inspirNational stories along the way. The inspirNational me is back…using travel as an opportunity to reflect, become a better version of myself, and help others do the same.

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Love Rocks Zion

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A few weeks after going to Seattle, I had the opportunity to visit Utah for my cousin’s wedding at Zion National Park. I flew in a few days early to take advantage of the excursions that my cousin planned. Let me tell you, my cousin and her now husband couldn’t have planned a better trip for our family.

I flew into Las Vegas and drove straight to Bryce Canyon National Park for the Astronomy Festival. What started as a flat drive through Las Vegas turned into a mountainous, red rock drive through a gorgeous sunset. I arrived to Ruby’s Inn right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, which was the perfect rustic hotel to stay at before a day of hiking.

My first day of hiking at Bryce Canyon started bright and early. I was blown away by the stunning rock formations, called hoodoos, which were scattered throughout the canyon. While all of the trails were beautiful, I highly recommend the Navajo Loop, which is moderately strenuous, but gives you a great glimpse of all that Bryce Canyon has to offer. The Queens Garden Trail also gives you more views of the hoodoos which look like figurines of queens when you use your imagination. The Rim Trail is a great option for those with strollers/wheelchairs, or those who are looking for a flat path. In between hikes, I stopped by the Astronomy Festival to view famous telescopes and look at the sun up close. It was fascinating and I wish I could have stayed another night to view the constellations. In the evening I drove to Zion National Park to meet my family.

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Bryce Canyon

Upon arriving to Zion National Park, I’m pretty sure my jaw didn’t stop dropping for days. My Hampton Inn hotel was located in the middle of the red rock formations and I never wanted to stop looking at them. I spent the first evening at the Whiptail Grill, which was an old gas station converted into a southwestern restaurant. If you are looking for a unique dining experience with delicious southwestern food, this is a must see! I also stopped by the Bit and Spur to catch up with some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn’t seen in far too long. We had a great time and I knew the next few days of festivities were going to be a blast.

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Angel’s Landing


My next day of hiking was by far the most exhilarating hike I have ever done. I hiked with my family close to the Angel’s Landing point, where we all had to make the grueling decision whether to hike to the top….on an over 100 degree day, with extremely steep climbs, and a metal chain to support us along the way. I am proud to say I was one of the crazy ones who agreed to continue on, and with the encouragement (and lifesaving water in their backpacks) of my cousin and her now husband, I made it to the top! I felt empowered by this hike, reminded that I can do anything that I put my mind to. The full day of hiking led me to jump in the Zion river with my cousin (the bride!), which was a memory I will never forget. After I craved a nice afternoon nap and swam in my family’s hotel pool. My family spent the evening by the pool, catching up as more family came into town for the wedding.

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My cousin and I after our hike!

After an exhilarating hike, we spent the next day doing what I would call a refreshing, but also balance-testing hike…the Narrows. And I have to add that my cousin rented a convertible for the drive into the park, which was such a fun way to start the day. We rented heavy wader boots and hiking sticks, not only to look awesome and official ;), but to be able to trudge throughout a river filled with giant rocks. Each step through the river was a combination of wondering whether we would slip and feeling in awe of the rock walls surrounding us. I felt very refreshed in the water especially with the record high temperatures in Utah. After the hike, my family got dazzled up for the wedding welcome party, where we were greeted with local beers and wine, and cake, overlooking the Zion rock formations. Again, I was stunned and couldn’t believe that people actually lived in such an amazing place!

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The Narrows

 

On my cousin’s wedding day, I had some extra time to explore the farmer’s market and boutiques with Native American heritage gifts, trinkets, and the coolest rocks, bringing me back to my childhood days of collecting rocks. I bought some new rocks representing Utah and was inspired to look back at my old rock collection back in Michigan. I loved them all so much that the rocks are now part of my centerpiece in my Greenville apartment today.

And now for the #LoveRocksZion wedding…my cousin and her now husband planned the most intimate, personal ceremony. All the guests had shade umbrellas to help us keep cool for the outdoor ceremony, again, overlooking the Zion rock formations. No cell phones were allowed, which was a refreshing way for all of us to stay in the moment. I felt so connected to the ceremony. For the reception, we enjoyed a Southwest inspired dinner with geodes decorating our tables, and a cake in the shape of a geode! We danced on the outdoor dance floor with the sun setting around us and beautiful decorative lights overhead. One confession…I caught the bouquet that my cousin (the bride) threw. This was the second time this has happened to me…and I still don’t have a groom :). If anyone has any insight into this, I’d love to hear it :)! To me, there is no better feeling than having many of my loved ones in one place, at one time, dancing together. I will never forget this incredible wedding.

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My brother and me at the reception

My last day in Utah involved a drive back to Las Vegas, where I strolled the strip for several hours before flying home. No, I didn’t gamble or do anything else Vegas-y, except enjoy the views of what I like to call the lifesize adult Disney World. I look forward to going back to Vegas to experience all of the wild adventures they have to offer :).

I hope my stories help you if you happen to visit Utah one day. I can’t wait to go back!

Seattle’s Best

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Next up on my list of travel reflections is Seattle, Washington. I had the opportunity to visit Bellingham for a wedding in May and combined the trip with a visit to my preschool best friend who lives in Tacoma.

When you have the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend going to Bellingham, Tacoma, and Seattle. Below I captured some highlights from each of the places.

Bellingham: Ideal for a quaint, romantic getaway surrounded by beautiful yachts in the Pacific Ocean, and an adorable downtown. You can’t go to Bellingham without visiting the Yacht Club for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Make a point to try local Washington wines, both red and white. Stroll through the streets of Downtown Bellingham, where you will find unique boutiques and restaurants with some of the best seafood in the country. The nightlife is a lot of fun too, with live music, craft beer, and speakeasy style clubs. If you enjoy skiing, visit Bellingham for the world famous Ski to Sea Race in May. I happened to be there at the time of the race and the locals were proud to share stories of Ski to Sea Races in years passed.

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View from the Bellingham Yacht Club

Tacoma: Just 20 minutes outside of Seattle, Tacoma is rated as one of the most livable and walkable cities, with beautiful views of Mount Rainier in the distance. I tried some of the best chowder and seafood I have ever had at Duke’s Chowder House. Stop by the hip coffee shops for brunch or a quick pick-me-up, especially the Anthem Coffee Shop. There are cute boutiques and restaurants scattered throughout the city, so be sure to take a stroll one afternoon. If you’re up for a hiking adventure, you have several options around you. I hiked at Olympic National Park and was amazed to go from 70 degree weather to 30 degree weather along the 4-mile hike to one of the summits. I can’t wait to go back to this park and other parks near Tacoma.

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View from Duke’s Chowder House

Seattle: One of the most unique cities I have visited, with gorgeous snow capped mountains in the distance, fresh flowers and vegetables everywhere you go, gourmet coffee shops, free spirited people, and some of the cleanest air I have ever felt. The first must-see is the Pike’s Place Market, which has some of the largest, most vibrant flowers I have ever seen. Fresh fish samples are available at many of the booths, and you can watch the famous fish tossing show. Shop for artisan goods, fruits and vegetables, and local delicacies. I could have spent a whole day just at the Pike’s Place Market.

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Another fun opportunity is to tour the Starbucks Reserve, where you can learn about the coffee making process and the history of Starbucks, and try the latest coffee creations. I enjoyed an espresso with mint ice cream in it and it was to die for! I spent one afternoon in Capitol Hill, which was very proudly LGBTQ and open to all people. Capitol Hill is conveniently located near the Starbucks Reserve, so I would recommend that you stroll the streets there and make a stop at Unicorn bar – one of the wildest bars I have ever seen.

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If you’re into architecture and want to laugh like crazy, you have to try the Seattle Ride the Ducks boat tour, which gives you cityscape views through the pier…and yes the boat can both drive on land and go in water. Shoutout to my mom who did the same tour many years ago and it was still the same amount of fun that she had. After the boat tour, make a point to walk around the Space Needle, which I didn’t actually tour, but enjoyed seeing from the outside. Also, stop at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation museum, where you can learn about the inspiring acts of Bill and Melinda Gates through Microsoft and beyond in the communities throughout the world.

Long story short, for some of the freshest air, stunning mountain and coastal views, best seafood, most beautiful flowers, and delicious coffee, visit Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellingham!

Serendipity in Savannah

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Now that I am back down south and in the process of decorating my apartment with travel trinkets, I can’t help but reflect upon the trips I have taken over the past several months.

I want to start by sharing my trip to beautiful Savannah, Georgia. If you have been to Charleston and loved it, then Savannah will also be your cup of tea. If you have not been to either city, both Charleston and Savannah should be at the top of your travel list of Southeastern U.S. cities.

Why Savannah?

Go back in history, where you will be reminded of the majestic architecture and charm of a European coast town. Walk along cobblestone streets, with the most beautiful public squares surrounded by large trees that will remind you of a fairytale. If you have the opportunity, stay in one of the stunning, colorful historical homes throughout the city. I had the opportunity to stay in a historical home through AirBnB. It was amazing to see the historical exterior with an interior that included modern appliances and a modern layout. It gave me a taste of the “local” Savannah lifestyle.

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Experience the haunted stories of Savannah. Did you know that Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the United States? With its longtime presence in the history of the country, significant trade with influxes of people, and presence during times of slavery, there are many people who have left their spirits in Savannah. You can go on ghost tours, grave visits, or haunted pub crawls. I went on the haunted pub crawl through Ghost City Tours and highly recommend it. I tried local cocktails (key lime pie shot was amazing!) and beer while learning the haunted history of residents and visitors past. Some of my favorite pubs were Tondee’s Tavern and the Six Pence Pub.

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Enjoy delicious Southern cuisine, ranging from shrimp and grits and other seafood, to barbecue. If you are into the haunted scene, the Old Pinke House has delicious food and swanky cocktails in the basement. The Pirate’s House will give you all the seafood you could ever want, tropical drinks, and a real pirate might visit your table.

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Basque in the sun on the beaches of Tybee Island, a short 15-minute drive away from downtown Savannah. The pier has an incredible walkway where you can order an ice cream and watch fisherman work their magic. I happened to see a fisherman catch a shark and another one use a net to catch crab.

Stroll through Forsyth Park, with path after path of beautiful trees, fountains, and open fields to throw a frisbee, have a picnic, or lay down and read a book. I spent one afternoon throwing the frisbee with my boyfriend and walking through the farmer’s market.

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Visit the home of the Girl Scouts of America. If you love Thin Mints and Samoas as much as I do, you can buy Girl Scout cookies for a discounted price at the museum.

Learn the Irish heritage by visiting the breathtaking cathedrals (by morning, and pubs by night ;)). And if you’re looking for a wild time, visit Savannah in the month of March, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. I visited during my spring break, which was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day and so much fun. Everyone was wearing an ounce of green, the restaurants, bars, and stars were speckled with shamrocks and leprechauns, and the fountains were spouting green water!

Go through all of these experiences and you might, just might get a sense of serendipity. I know I did. The telltale example for me was walking along River Street and a mother and daughter pair asked if my boyfriend and I wanted a picture together. They asked us to be sassy and romantic, so we went along with it and had a fun little photo shoot. It also turned out that the daughter was my age and had just moved to Greenville. She invited me to her birthday party the following week, which I ended up attending as I was touring apartments in Greenville. I had a comforting feeling that I was exactly where I was meant to be, and my new chapter I was about to start in Greenville was exactly where I was meant to be. That serendipity brought an endless smile to my face and propelled me through my last semester of graduate school.

I hope that you can also experience the serendipity that Savannah brings. It may surprise you and provide you with the exact reassurance you need for your return trip home.

 

How to Make Your Vacation Last Longer

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With spring break recently past for many of us, it is easy to experience the post vacation blues. We may stop and think, “I wish I could go back” or “why can’t vacation last longer?” During my spring break, I spent a week visiting family in Detroit and Northern Michigan and concluded the break with a trip to Savannah with my boyfriend. It was the perfect combination of a family vacation and romantic getaway. 12 days later, and it felt like the trips were like a blink of an eye. Back to reality, back to school, and no more trips until graduation. Fortunately, though, a walking tour of Savannah inspired me to make my vacation continue. While outside the Mercer House, I learned about the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which made Savannah famous. I decided I would purchase the book when I returned home to see how Savannah became a popular tourist destination.

Flash forward and I am now a quarter of the way through the book. I am so glad that I purchased it, not only because it has an interesting story line, but also because it helps me relive the memories from my trip to Savannah. I realized that it is possible to make our vacations last longer! Below are a few tips I have to make you feel like you are still on vacation:

  • Buy books, both fiction and non-fiction, about your travel destination! As I mentioned with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it is so fun to relive the memories of your vacation through books. After visiting a place, you feel much more engaged by reading a book about it because you have more context about the story setting. You can easily imagine where the plot is taking place and perhaps learn more about the destination’s history and charm.
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Source: Pixabay

  • Give yourself time to reflect. Don’t over-plan your schedule when you return from vacation. You will need time to readjust to working again and to living your daily routine. With more free time when you return, you will be able to process your travel experiences and help them be properly minted in your memory. You may choose to write a travel diary or blog, to call friends to share your travel stories, or to create digital photo albums. I often jump to my next task when I return from vacation, which delays my personal reflection process. I have been actively working to not over-plan so that I can spend more time reflecting and reliving the exciting travel memories.
  • Contribute to travel forums such as Trip Advisor or Yelp, giving feedback based on your experience at hotels, restaurants, and on excursions. You will engage in dialogue about your travel destination and will be able to share your favorite stories. You may notice comments and questions long after you make your original post, which helps you relive your vacation each time. I have had this experience based on my Trip Advisor review of a Costa Rica horseback riding adventure. Three years later, I am still receiving messages about the number of “likes” or “comments” on my post. It is so fun to be able to talk about Costa Rica again and again!

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  • Make a photo book through Shutterfly or Apple. It is easy to post photos on social media, but there’s nothing like a photo book that combines digital convenience with old fashioned memories in an actual book. A photo book provides a tangible memory of your vacation and you can easily place it on your coffee table for guests to read. Every time you have guests over, they can look through the photo book with you, and you will be reminded of your trip and feel like you are on vacation again.

What other tips do you have that help you make your vacation last longer? As we all return from spring break vacations and are going on the home stretch of spring before the start of summer vacations, may we relive the memories of our great vacations past. And make yourself a promise…. 😉

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Source: Rachel Wilkerson

Why Travel? Part Nine

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It is crazy to me to think that since my last “Why Travel?” post in February, I have traveled to 7 countries and lived in 3 places. My desire to travel has continued to grow, along with my appreciation for home and what makes a house a home. As we plan the last couple months of 2016 and prepare for a new year of adventure ahead, I wanted to share more inspiration for all inspirNational followers to travel and experience the world, whether you are one mile or one thousand miles from home.

 

As I have said in my Why Travel?, Why Travel? Part Two, Why Travel? Part Three, Why Travel? Part Four,Why Travel? Part FiveWhy Travel? Part Six,Why Travel? Part Seven, and Why Travel? Part Eight posts, there are SO many reasons to travel. Each of the quotes in these posts makes our wanderlust grow stronger. Start planning your next inspirNational adventure!

Adventures in Sri Lanka

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Can you believe that August is already coming to an end? Since my last post earlier this month, I had one of my most adventurous trips so far. I experienced Sri Lanka, the home country of one of my best friends and roommates from college. It was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, and I had an eye-opening cultural experience in Qatar for a layover on my way to Sri Lanka.

The main purpose of my eastbound journey was attend my friend, Chami’s wedding in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was held in the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition. My college roommates and I used to imagine going to Sri Lanka for this wedding, and it seemed surreal that it was actually happening when I arrived.

Little did I know that the wedding would also include an incredible itinerary, which I wanted to pass along to you in case you would like to visit Sri Lanka one day.

Before the majority of the wedding guests arrived, my friend, Stacey, and I stayed in a modern, hip hotel called Cinnamon Red in the center of Colombo. We tried traditional Sri Lankan food, including Hoppers, Pol Sambola, Kottu, and Curries at Kaema Sutra with the bride and groom. The cuisine was exciting to try because we had to use our hands rather than utensils and enjoyed flavors and spices unfamiliar to our taste buds. We shopped at the popular Odel mall and experienced glorious foot massages recommended by the groom. We also spent time relaxing at the Cinnamon Red rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean and even had the motivation to go to the rooftop gym because of the spectacular views! We enjoyed our first evening at the Bathiya and Santhush concert, which Chami described as the Backstreet Boys of Sri Lanka. Stacey and I were likely the only non-Sri Lankans there, which was definitely an out of body experience. I was reminded, though, that music is a unifying force and I very much felt like part of the crowd while at the concert.

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Over the weekend, we traveled to Negombo for lunch and a beach visit. The beach looked exactly like your desktop background, with palm trees swaying in the breeze, golden sand, and waves of the Indian Ocean crashing. While swimming in the ocean wasn’t safe at the time, I did dip my toes in the water and it was surprisingly warm. Stacey, Chami and I ended up crashing the groom’s bachelor party, which was an interesting way for us to see the party scene and try the local drinks. Balancing out my mantra, I had the fascinating experience of visiting my first Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya. I entered barefoot in all white clothing and was greeted by a friendly regular who offered to give me a tour and explain the history. A few words were lost in translation, but I was grateful to learn about the temple from the perspective of a local.

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I also did a solo trip to an astrologist, which was one of the best fortune telling experiences I’ve ever had in an exotic and tropical small town outside of Colombo. The astrologist reviewed my horoscope, my life trajectory, and my compatibility with my boyfriend. I was happy to learn that all insights affirmed what I have envisioned for my life and there were no surprises or deterrents. I hope that the astrologist is right! He also recommended that I wear a yellow sapphire on my left pointer finger to promote good things happening in my life – if you know of any good places to buy a reasonably priced yellow sapphire ring, please let me know!

Once the wedding guests arrived, we had an incredible guide and bus which quickly became called the “American bus.” We took a long trek to Minneriya, the famous safari park with dozens of elephants, birds, insects, and other safari animals scattered around marshes and green mountains in the distance. We experienced the safari by Jeep, which was such an adventurous way to explore, care free with our hair blowing in the wind and all smiles as we were all getting to know each other and preparing for the week ahead. We spent our evening at the Habarana Village, which was a series of bungalows in the middle of the wilderness, with a beautiful pool and marsh in the distance.

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Our next day was action-packed. We spent the morning climbing over 1,200 steps to visit Sigiriya, an ancient Sri Lankan village which is now a World Heritage Site with amazing views of nature in the distance. We then traveled to the Kandy City Centre to visit the bride’s family’s mall. It was so fun to be able to explore the mall freely and try the most extravagant food court I’ve ever seen. Kandy was incredibly busy because of the famous Perahera Festival in honor of the Buddhist tooth relic. Our tour group walked through the streets where the parade was going to take place (we felt like part of the parade!) in order to visit the Tooth Relic Temple. We were amazed to see elephants outside the temple who were waiting to be dressed for the parade. We spent the evening watching the Perahera Festival from a balcony overlooking the street, and enjoyed traditional music and dance performances, and elephants dressed elegantly with lights and tapestries. I began to feel like a local watching the festival that is so sacred to the Sri Lankans and enjoying traditional Sri Lankan cuisine with the bride’s family. We had a very late evening before returning to Colombo to begin the wedding festivities.

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Chami’s wedding celebration was one that I will never forget. The day before the wedding, the close friends and family were invited to the Chami’s family’s home to watch the Buddhist wedding blessing and enjoy a homemade dinner. This likely became my favorite experience of the trip because I was able to truly understand and be part of the spiritual union of my two close friends. The monks were very friendly, helping the bride translate the blessing into English for many of the guests to understand. They asked us to all hold one string at the same time while they chanted, which was a strong symbol of unity and love that made me feel the power of the Buddhist philosophy. The monks placed string bracelets on all of us (which I am still wearing over a week later!) and encouraged us to try holy water. After the blessing we spent time on the family’s complex rooftop patio, again with beautiful views of Colombo and refreshing cocktails. For dinner, there were live chefs cooking Sri Lankan dishes to order. I had so much fun meeting the bride and groom’s family and friends and learning about the local life in Sri Lanka.

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On the wedding day, I had a blast with the American girls getting my hair and makeup done and having a designer help me put on my first sari. I had no idea what to expect and was so happy with the results. Wearing a sari was surprisingly comfortable (except for having to “disrobe” in the bathroom) and I felt like royalty. Speaking of royalty, the true royalty of the day was the bride and groom. Chami was dressed in gorgeous gold jewelry over her stunning white dress, and the groom wore a handsome gold suit in the Kandy tradition. The wedding was outside, with a beautiful flower-covered trellis, a choir, and adorable photos and signs greeting the guests. My friend Stacey and I had the exciting experience of carrying the wedding ceremony gifts down the aisle. We were surrounded by Kandy drummers and greeted with tropical drinks. The ceremony was delivered in Sinhala, so we couldn’t understand the literal meanings of the words, but we could see and feel the spiritual meanings of the blessings. The reception was out of this world as well. We had dinner options representing cuisines from around the world, the largest dessert room I have ever seen, a 30-person orchestra, and a DJ for entertainment. We had so much fun soaking in every moment, watching the gorgeous newly married couple, and dancing to a blend of Sri Lankan and American hits. It was a night that will go down in my personal history as one of the most unique, exciting and fun experiences I’ve ever had.

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On our last day, Stacey and I joined some of the other Americans at the Colombo bazaar, which was jam-packed with shops, signs, cars, and a beautiful red mosque. It was very interesting for me to visit a mosque for the first time and I was warmly welcomed by those in the mosque. I also purchased a few souvenirs, including elephant pants and teas to share with friends and family. I spent the rest of the day by the pool, watching the sunset, and enjoying one last oceanside meal before heading to the airport at midnight.

Combining these experiences, I am reminded of the importance of living and traveling with an open mind and an open heart. I experienced a part of the world that was incredibly foreign to me, but I was eager to learn, see, listen, taste, and feel. I was grateful to learn more about Chami’s heritage and to understand traditions like Buddhism that are so fascinating to me. I strongly suggest all of you to go out of your comfort zone in your travels and experience wonderful places like Sri Lanka.