10 Things I Learned From 10 Cities in 2017

In 2014, I made my first New Years Resolution – to travel to five cities I’ve never visited before, and to fly solo on at least one of these trips. Since 2014, I’ve visited over 35 new cities and 10 countries, with more than a handful of these being solo adventures. There’s something about traveling that makes me feel like I’m not just living— but that I am truly alive. I’ve pushed further beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone than I could have ever imagined, which has given me a sense of confidence that has trickled down to every aspect of my life.

Each year, I reflect on my trips and the pearls of wisdom they have brought me. This has become my favorite post to write, for it forces me to mull over the moments that have been marinating in my mind as the months have gone by.

  1. Savannah, GA. | I’m my Mother’s Daughter

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This year I realized that I am one bob haircut away from turning into my mother. We’re two ENFJ’s in a pod, who have walked through fire to live a life of sunshine. Savannah was the first time my mom and I traveled together— no Tammy, no Grammy, just us. On the first weekend of January, my sister attends a theater conference in Upstate New York. My mom and I seized this window of opportunity to do something we’ve never done before: go on an adventure. The combination of a short flight, open containers, and River Street made Savannah the perfect destination.

My Mom has not been bitten by the travel bug as I have, however, we have both been plagued with a different beast: anxiety. Sharing my love of travel with my Mom goes so much further than showing her some of my favorite destinations. I am deeply indebted to travel for allowing me to realize that I can tame my own anxious mind. Our weekend in Savannah was spent going with the flow of what River Street had to offer. Not everything in life needs a plan— which sounds blasphemous when you’re as type A as we are. We didn’t have an itinerary telling us to take syringe jello shots at the dueling piano bar… those things just happen.

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2. Boston, MA. | Embrace change

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I don’t feel completely ready to say goodbye to 2017. My baby sister is a senior in high school, and will be going off to Emerson College in the fall. I’m not completely sure how that’s even possible, because I feel like I graduated high school 20 minutes ago. Going away to college is the experience that transitions you into adulthood. It’s the years that you’ll build relationships that will bring you into your next phase of life.

We visited Boston this summer, and it was such an obvious fit for my sister’s college experience. This trip allowed me to face reality. The truth is that I’ll never be ready to let my sister go (ammi right parents?!), but I have faith in Boston, and the happiness this city will bring my sister. 

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3. Montréal, QC  | Fly solo (and do some pull ups)

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Sometimes you gotta go, where nobody knows your name. ☝🏻🎶 Montréal is my first Canadian adventure, eh, and certainly did not lack in poutine, friendliness, and maple syrup. Once you travel by yourself, it becomes something that you crave. I love to immerse myself in a new location, and flying solo forces you to dive in differently. One of my favorite things to do is take classes at different gyms, so I can learn from different trainers, and trainees wherever I am! On this trip, I visited Studio Epix for their HIIT morning workout. This was the first class that pushed me to try pull ups… and life has never been the same.

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4. Austin, TX | Be Genuinely Curious

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A professor once told me that the key to being a good listener is in being genuinely curious. That was a tip that has always stuck with me, and has been brought to life during my time in Austin. This year on my solo adventures, I grew quite fond of hostel life. During my time at the Firehouse Hostel, I went on daily adventures with interesting others, traveling from as far as Australia. It wasn’t hard to be genuinely curious about the paths that my new traveling posse have taken, that led us to the same place, at the same time. It makes me think of all the people we cross paths with on a daily basis, that we may be inspired by if it were for just a little bit of curiosity. We’re not cats, after all…

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5. Pilanesberg, South Africa | Life extends beyond ourselves

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This year I took the trip of my dreams, and went on safari in South Africa. Being smack dab in the middle of the animal kingdom was a consistent reminder that the universe does not revolve around us. We humans get caught up in our own lives, and don’t often sit and ponder about the lioness that is hunting to feed her cubs. This trip was a refreshing culture shock, that allowed me to disconnect from the human world. Albert Einstein once said, look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albie, you weren’t kidding buddy.

[Read more: Lessons learned on an African Safari]

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6. Cape Town, South Africa | Don’t talk about it, be about it.

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Many of our dreams are reserved for laters and tomorrows. I prefer to-do lists to bucket lists, because as much as I’m a dreamer, I’m also a doer. South Africa was a destination that I always considered a “someday” trip. One of those majestic places that I’ll visit “one day.” Until my best friend said- I’m going, you coming?

We should all dream big, but don’t be afraid to jump up and make things happen. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have travel buddies with travel dreams similar to your own! This trip will hold a special place in my heart, with each moment affirming my love for planet Earth.

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7. Atlanta, GA | You can always count on Waffle House

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This year, two of my trips were rooted in the nuptial love of my college friends. In September, my prom date, his girlfriend and I traveled as sister wives to Atlanta, where we celebrated the wedding of my cat’s namesake, (human) Jordan. Did we lose you, yet?

There a couple of things in life you can depend on. You can depend on the New Yorkers to be the loudest ones in the room.  You can depend on your best friends to travel as far as it takes to watch you walk down the aisle. You can depend on your road trip buddies to keep you belly laughing the whole drive. You can depend on Turbulence by Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke to get you pumped up. And, most importantly, you can depend on Waffle House to make sure you will fall asleep with a full belly.

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8. New Orleans, LA| Don’t jump in the Mississippi

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New Orleans was the scene for another nuptial adventure, that was fueled by Hurricanes and sleep deprivation. But oh, I’m sorry… I thought we were here to party.

This trip wins the award for most fun had in 2017. It has been four years since my friends and I graduated college, so this celebration also served as an epic reunion. There is nothing quite like a New Orleans hotel doubling as your old dorm. Our strong bonds was made stronger with the topsy turvy times that Bourbon Street introduced us to. If you look deep down to the bottom of the Mississippi, you may find some memories that were meant to be forgotten. But, take it from the itchy skin of my friends… you may not want to take that plunge.

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9. Miami, FL | If they don’t tell you how much, it’s probably $300

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South Beach has officially made its way to the top of the leaderboard on my list of cities visited. This year, I visited on my own in February, and as a birthday celebration for one of my best friends in November. We are a crew who would not snub our noses to the likes of a happy hour, and are a group of gals who don’t back down from a challenge.

On one South Beach Saturday night… we got got. If the hot waiter looks too good to be true, he probably is trying to sell you something. Heed our advice and ask how much, and how big, one Coronita is before ordering four of them. But, my friends, if you do order four of them… you don’t stop until the last one is empty. Remember, your body can do this, don’t let your mind stop you!

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10. Denver, CO |  Get high

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I get by with a little help from my friends, and I get high with a little help from my friends. Denver was one of the last cities I visited this year. It was one of those Google Flights cheap rate induced decisions that I’ll never regret. The Rocky Mountains were calling my name, and I was like, u up?

We visited Estes Park on the last day the road to highest peak of the mountains was open for the season. In less than an hour, we were in a completely different climate. There was a ridiculous sense of tranquility that came with the altitude. I felt like an astronaut that was exploring a totally different planet (ok, maybe that was the edibles talking).

My faith is something that I often struggle with, but I always seem to find answers in nature. This year, I have been coping with the reality of the progression of time. My sister is growing up and going off to college. My grandparents are aging and have been ailing. We’re born, we grow up, we do some things between A to Z, and then life ends. Depressing way to end such an uplifting blog, huh?

Sometimes I feel stupidly optimistic, clinging to silver linings. But, my mindset so often comes from considering darkness, forcing me to exude light. I believe that the role I play in this world is dictated by my ability to be present, be appreciative, and be mindful. Sometimes it takes standing at the highest peak of a mountain to remember that you’re braver than you think. Take this time as we begin the new year to really reflect on the world and your place in it. Try to give more than you take, feel as much as you think, and smile at as many humans as you cross paths with.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2016

10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2015

2016’s 10 lessons from 10 cities

This year, I have jumped around the map quite a bit! Here are the most important pearls of wisdom from each city that I visited in 2016…

1. The key to surviving Mardi Gras is your squad. New Orleans, LA

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My first adventure of 2016 was to New Orleans, LA to be part of the Mardi Gras madness. My college roommate and I were overdue for a reunion, and decided to go hard rather than going home. Mardi Gras is just as wild as it is said to be, so if you are going to fully indulge, make sure you’re surrounded by a squad that is just as ready as you are! More on surviving Mardi Gras…

2. Keep in touch with those you meet along the way. London, England

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One of my favorite parts about traveling is the eclectic collection of friends I make along the way! Social media makes it easy to keep in touch with the people you’ve met all over the globe. In London, I met up with a friend from Wales that I met in Santa Monica. In New York, I met up with friends from London that I met in Miami. As unlikely as it may seem, you never know when you will cross paths with someone that you’ve met far, far away!

3. Go off the beaten path. Zaanse Schanse, Netherlands

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Amsterdam was a tospy turvy city to visit. Its weird ways won my heart through their canals, coffee shops and eroticism. As much fun as I had, touring the land just north of the city was my favorite part of the Netherlands. Visiting the windmills was a unique experience, which made me feel like I have traveled back into the time of Van Gogh. Don’t hesitate to look at the tours offered within a city center- they will offer convenient, cost efficient ways to explore off the beaten path!

4. Thou shall be adaptable and flexible. Dublin, Ireland

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My time in Dublin was split between two airbnbs. The first was a luxurious two bedroom apartment, with a balcony, two bathrooms, and hotel quality at home feel. The second one required an uphill battle to the top floor, and 2 hours notice if you wanted to use the hot water. Regardless of what the sleeping arrangements were, it didn’t take away from the fun that Dublin had to offer. From riches to rags, as long as you have good friends and good spirits you’ll have a good time!

5. Celebrate good times…come on! Bird Island, Antigua

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I celebrated my quarter of a century birthday this year under the sun in Antigua. If I could relive one day out of this entire year, it would be the one pictured. Momentous occasions, such as a big birthday, should be celebrated! While I wish I could spend every day popping champagne on a catamaran, it is a day that I will look back on for the rest of my life. Another lesson I learned during this year’s adventures is the value of GoPro footage! Going into a trip with ideas in mind makes it easy to create a fun music video, like this one, that we made to the song HandClap!

6. The advice of locals is worth 1000 yelp reviews.  Copenhagen, Denmark

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I said it before and I’ll say it again… I love Airbnb. In Copenhagen, I stayed with a group of girls who were excited to give recommendations as soon as we arrived. If it weren’t for them, I would have never ended up checking out Paper Island – aka street food heaven. This artistic haven was one of my favorite spots in the entire city! Aside from my Airbnb hosts, great advice was imparted on me by the manager of a restaurant I stopped in for dinner. He wrote directions on the back of a napkin that led me to the beautiful gardens of Frederiksborg Castle, in the town of Hillerød.

7. Expect the unexpected (without panicking). Budapest, Hungary

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Ok, I know I have proclaimed my love for Airbnb more than once in the post, but this year I experienced my very first home sharing hiccup. I arrived to my Budapest apartment in the cloak of night, and followed my host’s instructions to retrieve my key step by step… to no avail. After much back and forth (thank god for portable wifi!), and being scared out of my mind by the fact that there were people in the apartment that I have rented, I learned that I had been double booked. I was lucky to have a travel buddy that helped to keep me calm and laughing at our terrible luck, as we quickly readjusted, finding a hostel to stay for the night.

8. Oktoberfest is the best. Munich, Germany

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I regret every year that I have not spent at Oktoberfest in Munich! At first, I thought this was a celebration that revolved around beer. While yes, this is true, I had no idea of the fun and games that take place outside of the beer tents! Growing up, rides were never my thing. In Six Flags, I’d rather go on the safari than go on a roller coaster. However, the spirit of Oktoberfest (and many liters of Spaten) have helped me to face my fears and go on every single ride the festival had to offer. Twice.

9. Be carefree and confident. Savannah, GA

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My adventures in the South began with a reunion with my college BFF & cat’s namesake, Jordan. I can go on and on with what I love about Savannah *cough cough, open container laws*, but the highlight of my trip was crashing a 1986 high school reunion. Not only did we mingle with Effingham County’s finest alumni, we left a lasting impression on the dance floor. The memory of this night is 100x greater than times we would have looked back on if we had decided to just go to a bar instead…

10. Solo travel is good for the soul. Charleston, SC

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I have such great memories with all of my friends and family that I have traveled with this year, but the experience of traveling alone is incomparable. Traveling alone reminds you what you are capable of. It forces you to make time to put yourself first. After a solo adventure, you are left feeling confident and empowered. In our day to day lives, self-love often falls to the back burner. Don’t neglect to spend some time with the greatest travel buddy there is… yourself!

How To Keep a New Years Resolution in 3 Simple Steps

2014 was the first year I ever made a New Years Resolution, took it seriously, and accomplished it! The outcome changed my life. 

Goal-setting is a fool proof way to get to where you want to be, and what is a better goal than keeping a New Years Resolution? Here are three tips to help you figure out what your resolution should be, and how to make it happen! 

1. Love It. 

Pick something you really want to accomplish, because your number one motivator.. is you! So often people’s resolutions are broken by February, and long forgotten by March: I will lose weight! *eats big mac*… I will stop smoking! *takes out lighter*. A resolution is a promise to yourself, and yourself only. Let your heart decide.. and pick something that will truly enhance your year. 

2. Simplify It

Don’t overwhelm yourself! Take your big idea, and break it down to its roots. “I want to change the world” isn’t exactly a tangible goal. But, vowing to yourself that you will volunteer at 10 different places this year, can be accomplished! 

3. Do It. 

Stop making excuses and take the first step, whatever that first step may be. Sign up for that yoga class. Book a plane ticket. A first step that involves a financial commitment is a huge motivator in keeping your resolution! Keep taking baby steps until you reach December, where you can proudly look back on your amazing year!