Category Archives: Travel

Saying Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018!

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Happy New Year, inspirNational! Throughout the first week of 2018 I have found myself reflecting about 2017 and the goals I have for 2018. I can say with confidence that 2017 was a tremendous year of growth and change for me. I learned more about myself and what I want in life than ever before.

Key highlights were my graduation from the USC International MBA Program, moving to Greenville, South Carolina to start my new career at Michelin, and traveling throughout the country to Detroit, Traverse City, Savannah, Seattle, Bellingham, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta. Another highlight that sparked this post is that I read a few introspective books that have made a significant impact on my view of the world. I decided to organize my year’s reflections based on these books below:

The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle). A common focus area for me over the past several years has been to focus on the present. Reading The Power of Now, which a great neighbor in Greenville gave to me, has put a different spin on “presence” for me. While I am almost always thinking about what happened in the past or what I’m planning in the future, I have realized that thinking about what is happening right now, in this moment, gives me a sense of peace and calm. It also makes me more in-tune with my inner thoughts and hopes – leading me in the soul-driven direction I would like to go. I am making a conscious effort to be more “now” focused than ever before.

I read The Power of Now at an opportune time when facing uncertainty in my previous relationship. The book helped me identify that I was in a toxic love-hate relationship where I was dealing with lies, sneakiness, and hurt. All of this was first of all, unhealthy and harmful to me, and second of all, holding me back from being in the “now.” My gut and my closest peers knew this all along, but reading the advice in a book is what hit me the most. I had an “aha!” moment, realizing I needed to let go in order to live in my “now” and achieve my fullest potential and destiny. This “aha!” moment and my willingness to share some parts of the story with you are inspired by the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood. I am proud of the celebrities who are standing up against harassment and abuse of women. I, too, feel the need to share my “aha!” moment as it has only helped me realize what threats women face and how we often feel stuck in toxic situations. Thankfully I felt empowered to leave and I hope to remind any of you who feel stuck that you are never truly stuck. There are always ways out, solutions, and people there to help you! Don’t lose faith! I am grateful that I have grown from my own situation and realized what qualities I am looking for in others, especially my future relationships. I can tell you with confidence that the number one value I have for people I bring into my life is character. My closest friends and family model good character, and I plan to only date those with good character in the future. By practicing being in the “now,” I will be more in-tune with my gut and will be able to identify more quickly people who should and should not be in my life. I highly recommend that you read The Power of Now, and you may also have unexpected realizations that help you grow as a person.

No Greatness Without Goodness (Randy Lewis). 2017 marked the beginning of my post-MBA career at Michelin. My first rotation in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program presented me with awareness about the challenges that people with disabilities face when trying to enter the workforce. A colleague at work gave me No Greatness Without Goodness, which discusses Walgreens VP of Supply Chain’s experience raising a son with autism and leading the initiative at Walgreen’s to hire employees with disabilities at its distribution centers. I am proud that Michelin is mirroring Walgreen’s efforts and has committed to hire people with disabilities at its distribution centers and beyond. In the fall, I had the opportunity to learn sign language and perform the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance in sign language at the Upstate Salute event in Greenville, honoring veterans. This experience at the beginning of my career at Michelin has inspired me to always seek opportunities for goodness as I develop into a leader. I aspire to be a servant leader, always thinking about how I can help others in my daily work and in my community. If you are looking for inspiration in your career, particularly related to helping others, check out No Greatness Without Goodness.

Toward A True Kinship of Faiths (Dalai Lama). I received this book as part of Michelin’s new Interfaith Group forming in 2018. The Dalai Lama shares his perspective of different world religions and how we can develop empathy for others who may be different form us. Empathy for diversity has been one of my passions, particularly since studying abroad in Spain and France. I strive to learn from others – the more different people are from me, the more I want to talk to and learn from them. Throughout 2017, I traveled to many beautiful cities throughout the United States from coast to coast, which made me realize the beauty in the diversity of the US landscape and people. What makes America so special to me is the variety of people (backgrounds, religions, cultures, perspectives, etc.) who can live and thrive in our country and who make the most of whatever landscape and environment that surround them.

While the year brought a lot of political turmoil and what the media portrays as division between people, I found through my travels that we are much more connected than we think we are. We are especially connected by our desire for community, as Mark Zuckerberg eloquently describes here. I was fortunate to have two incredible communities in 2017, first as a Gamecock throughout the beginning of the year and second as a resident in the best apartment complex in Greenville. I had an amazing experience cheering on the Gamecock basketball teams in the Final Four and attending Darius Rucker’s free student concert in honor of the Gamecock football team making it to a bowl game. I was reminded how important it is to me and how much fun it is to be part of a school with great spirit (especially now as both a Michigan and USC alumnus). Also graduating in the middle of a historic campus (USC was founded in 1807!) and attending the law school graduation was surreal. The next time you are graduating, I recommend that you also attend a graduation ceremony at your school – it is amazing to have the experience from both sides of the podium! My second community through my apartment complex was the best decision I made when moving to Greenville. I couldn’t be more grateful for the international community that surrounds me – at any given occasion I hear 3-4 languages exchanged! The almost weekly social events have introduced me to some awesome new friends who have helped me feel at home in Greenville as we have explored the town and often been the “newbies” together. As inspired by the Dalai Lama, I look forward to continuing to have an empathy for those different from me, especially when joining new communities in 2018.

 

Having reflected on 2017, I can now officially welcome 2018. An astrologist in Sri Lanka shared with me that 2018 starts the best 10 years of my life – and I can already feel the positive energy in the air! One of my best friends gave me a “love bell” that she bought in Greece where she got engaged, and as a slightly superstitious hopeless(ful?) romantic, I look forward to seeing what it brings for me in 2018. I also look forward to attending more planned runs throughout the year (hopefully the Charleston Bridge Run!) and I am committed to doing a push-up! My year of travel will be focused on some of my best friend’s weddings in Alabama and Chicago and also some exciting work trips (San Francisco and Montreal to start)! I will continue to share my reflections from my travels and daily life and bring new ideas to you. I hope the new year brings you much happiness, love, new experiences, travel, and inspirNational reflections!

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An Adventure to Nepal – Guest Post!

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It is not everyday that we meet someone who traveled to Nepal. And even more interesting, is talking to someone who took a National Geographic trip to Nepal! I want to introduce Dalton George, who is dating one of my favorite new friends in Greenville, Alissa. Ironically Alissa is also from Michigan and we bound over our love for Michigan (despite our Spartan and Wolverine rivalry :)). To show how small our world is, Dalton is also from my hometown, but we never met each other there! When I first met Dalton in Greenville, he mentioned that he was traveling to Nepal and I couldn’t wait to hear about his trip! He was kind enough to share details about his experience, answering my questions below.

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Pokhara (PC: Dalton George)


What inspired you to go on the trip to Nepal?

I am not so sure I was inspired to go to Nepal specifically, I was more inspired to just travel in general. If anything, the decision to go specifically to Nepal was more out of coincidence than anything else. I will explain.

So last June I finished up my Master’s Degree program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and had a few months in between that and my next professional endeavor. Knowing this, and knowing how busy life can get, I made traveling somewhere new an imperative in my life during my “down time.” The logic here was simple: you never know when you will have the opportunity to do something amazing with the people you love most, so seize the day! My mother had already told me she was going “stir crazy” and needed to travel somewhere new, and had asked me if I was interested in taking a trip with her and my sister. So the decision to travel somewhere was easy: I had motivation to do so and people to go with. Time to make it happen.

Coincidence selected Nepal. My mother and I were unsure of where we wanted to go, but we were certain that we wanted to go on a National Geographic tour. To decide on our destination, we flipped open a NatGeo adventure catalogue, and we each picked out our 3 favorite trips that were advertised. Our selections overlapped at Nepal, and therefore we decided Nepal was our destination.

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Trishuli River (PC: Dalton George)

I cannot speak to why my mother selected Nepal out of that catalogue, but I can tell you why I did: lack of knowledge. Seriously, that is why. Ok ok, and I really wanted to see some cool mountains (and my God, were those some cool mountains!). I remember looking at that NatGeo catalogue, reading over the Nepal description, and thinking, “oh my gosh, I literally know NOTHING about Nepal, or Tibet for that matter.” The trip description advertised some exciting opportunities, including a Rhino wildlife safari, Paragliding, and mountain hiking. But the main reason I selected Nepal out of that catalogue was ignorance, and a desire to reverse it. And again, yes, to see some awesome mountains.

Describe National Geographic trips to those who may not know about them.

National Geographic offers curated tours of popular “and some not so popular” destinations across the whole world. The trip usually functions as a two week tour of a region, or in our case, most of a country. You travel with a small tour group, usually 12-20 people, and together you all have an adventure! This was my first trip that functioned this way, and I can honestly say I really enjoyed it. It made Nepal accessible to someone like me, someone who does not speak the language, or as I have previously mentioned, have any clue about any aspect of what the country is all about. The tour group is led by a guide a local from that region or country. Ours was a Nepalese man who was currently living in the country’s capital city (Kathmandu) and had been leading NatGeo tours for 12+ years. His English was excellent, and he was an endless encyclopedia of knowledge about his home country, its religions, and the Tibetan region as a whole. Seriously, we did our best to stump him with questions, almost to no avail. I sort of cheated, half-sarcastically asking him to name all of the gods in the Hindu religion. He could not, seeing as there are over 33 million total…

I would recommend NatGeo trips to anyone. Your group follows a general itinerary, but there is ample time to pick and choose activities that appeal to your preferences. For us in Nepal, we jumped at every chance to do any hiking, as my sister and I enjoy that activity immensely, and decided not to participate in others like the much heralded “Everest Plane Flight” (it was too expensive). This ability to pick and choose gives the NatGeo trips a great balance between structure and freedom, and you are never pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.

Another reason why I would recommend NatGeo is in the way they set up their tours so that almost all money spent by you and your tour group during the trip is going in the hands of local people. And I don’t simply mean the well off business owners of city hotels. I mean small villages, and in our case, Tibetan refugees. At least on this trip this was the case, I suppose I cannot speak to other trips in other areas of the world. Places that your tour group eats, sleeps, and spends your time (and money) are almost exclusively places run by local people. In this way, NatGeo places a premium on supporting local, sometimes even vulnerable, communities in the places that they send their tour groups. Don’t confuse this with any sort of charity activity, these are businesses like any other, the difference is your money is not going to some rich development company who set up shop on the coast of Jamaica, but into the hands of local business owners who have a much more personal stake in the future of their country. As a tourist, this gave me the feel-goods, and is a business practice in the tourism industry I had not given much thought to until I saw it in action.

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Kathmandu (PC: Dalton George)

What were your favorite landmarks and excursions?

The Himalayas – these need no explanation I’m sure. One of the few times in my life that I can honestly say I had no words to describe the shear awesomeness of a thing I saw…I imagine the majesty of looking up at these mountains is only matched by the view from atop one of them.

The Himalayan Foothills – Like a way, way cooler version of Appalachia. With glacial rivers cutting pathways through the steep, forested foothills of heaven’s cradle, the beautiful scenery provided makes the arduous journey through the bumpy mountain roads of Nepal enjoyable. Well, mostly.

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Farmland in the Himalayan Foothills (PC: Dalton George)

Buddhanath Buddhist Stupa – This 5th century Buddhist religious monument/temple serves as a pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists around the world. Awe inspiring in its Architecture, one of those moments where you ask yourself “how did people over 1000 years ago build something like this???”

Swayambhunath Buddhist Stupa – Another Buddhist religious monument similar to Buddhanath, but this temple has a very sizable population of Rhesis Macaques roaming the grounds. These “holy monkeys” live at the temple year round, entertaining tourists and stealing from the offering tables all day every day. Additionally, the views from this Stupa of the capital city of Kathmandu are amazing. Absolutely worth your time.

 

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Monkey Temple (PC: Dalton George)

Pashupatinah Temple – A very famous Hindu temple located in Kathmandu. I learned so much about the Hindu religion whilst visiting this ancient temple, both in a cognitive and emotional way. This place hit me harder than most of the places I visited in Nepal. It’s a very spiritual and emotional place. If you are a westerner, be prepared. Oh, and stay out of the way of the roving bands of holy cows that are walking everywhere.

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Chitwan National Park – Rhinos. In the wild. From 100 feet away. And Tigers. TIGERS. We didn’t see one, but the footprints were enough for me to get back into the safari jeep. The farming village of Chitwan is also a lovely place filled with lovelier people. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

How were the people?

From the streets of Kathmandu, to the small farming villages in the Himalayan foothills, the people of Nepal were never shy to share a smile and a “Namaste” with foreign visitors. Never during my twelve days in the country did I feel unwelcome or experience any unfriendliness, and I always felt safe. The Nepali are a very spiritual, peaceful people whose society is heavily influenced by both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. This latter influence is especially important in understanding their attitudes towards community and people from all levels of society. Without going into extensive detail (because I will surely not get something right!) I can say that Tibetan Buddhist influence has instilled a fundamental sense of living for the community that defines the culture of the Nepali people. They are not (as of yet) a materialistic people, their sense of self is not tied to ownership of land or things. They seemed much more concerned about building spirituality, and social connectedness than wealth and status. Oh, and they very much like to have a good time when the working day is done 😉.

How was the food?

Delicious, unique, and CHEAP. Nepalese cuisine is kind of mix between Chinese, Indian, and Tibetan (no, not Panda Express Chinese, actual Chinese). Lots of lentils, lots of meat curries, lots of fried breads, lots of fantastic uses of spices on veggies, and fantastic teas (Masala Milk Chai in particular). If you choose to, you can have this Dal Bhat style of meal breakfast lunch and dinner: it’s a Nepalese staple, and its amazing. All of the ingredients for most everything you eat are locally sourced from the fertile foothills of the Himalayas, so everything is very fresh.

What reflections or learnings did you have about yourself, life, and/or the world?

Oh man, I could go on and on for this one. But in the interest of keeping it short and sweet, I guess the one most important thing I learned, or at least got a more concrete sense of, is that different lifestyles and cultures do not necessarily belong on a hierarchy. We label places like Nepal “the 3rd world” and conceptualize it as existing in a lesser state of prosperity (and therefore happiness) than a place like the United States, or some other “developed” Western country. When we look at the GDP of a place like Nepal, or here about how basic its infrastructure is, or shake our heads at its lack of political stability, we are only focusing on the surface and missing the bigger picture, the deeper understanding of what that place is really all about. Only by walking on through the streets and interacting with the people can we gain such an understanding. There are plenty of values and norms of Nepali society I would love to see incorporated into my American one. Love, peace, and community-oriented growth are cornerstones of the Nepali culture, and we as Americans have a lot to gain in understanding how these people see the world and understand their place in it as we journey through our own nation-wide identity crisis. I would highly recommend Nepal to anyone wishing to experience a place unlike any other, with a people unlike any other, before it (potentially) succumbs to the pressures to modernize in the ways dictated by the Western “developed world.”


Thank you, Dalton, for sharing your story! I am inspired to go on a National Geographic trip and to visit Nepal one day too!

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.

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