Unbelievable blessings: One year, seventeen cities
1. Honolulu, Hawaii
I started the year off in Hawaii with my awesome mom. We travelled to Kauai’i, an island in the Hawaiian chain for a few days. We saw waterfalls, went to an awesome luau on the beach and just really enjoyed our time. I rang in the New Year at Waikiki Beach watching fireworks shoot off from the ocean. It was the second time I had spent NYE in Hawaii and was really neat to see fireworks all over the island.
2. Waco, Texas
After Hawaii, I went back to Waco to start the spring semester of my junior year. It was my second semester as Editor in Chief of The Baylor Lariat. One of my best friends, Jessica, came back from the program I am currently doing in London and worked as the Arts&Entertainment editor that semester. The above picture features mine and Jess’ favorite contribution to the staff — awesome Lariat fleeces! It also shows one of my favorite people — Julie Freeman — who is one of the greatest mentor/friends in the world. To explain how incredible Julie is wouldn’t do her justice, your life is lacking without her in it, just trust me. With all the stress and drama of the Lariat newsroom, having these two there that semester was a Godsend.
3. Ruidoso, New Mexico
While I didn’t live here for a really extended amount of time, it is still a part of this year I definitely never want to forget. I was lucky to spend yet another Spring Break with amazing friends. We rented out a mountain cabin for all of us for an entire week in Ruidoso. We made the best of the small mountain town and I really enjoyed planning the trip. With me in the photo is Chris, another Godsend in my life. We have been best friends for a little over a year now and we will be roommates when I come back from London. The Ruidoso trip was full of crazy times and just great friendship. From skiing to lounging and reading in our cabin, we all had an amazing time and I still think about the peacefulness of that week.
4. Washington, D.C.
I was lucky enough to land a second internship in Washington, D.C. for another summer and spent my break there again this past summer. I worked for the Student Press Law Center in Arlington as a reporter. I was fortunate enough to have my mom visit all the way from Hawaii. The picture is of us in front of my favorite place in the District, the Supreme Court. We got to sit in and hear opinions that day and woke up way early for it. My time in DC was completely different, though I lived in the same place with the same awesome owners I spent a lot of time to myself, reading and writing. I think this past summer was definitely a time when I started to realize how much I enjoyed DC and the possibilities it offers. It’s still one of my favorite American cities, if not my favorite.
5. London, England
On September 1, I moved to London for three and a half months not really knowing what to expect. What I found was a city that piqued my interests in so many ways. Its various neighborhoods are awesome, its politics are really neat for a nerd like me, its trees are the coolest I have seen and its people are so very, very different. Studying in London has been one of the most interesting times of my life thus far. I feel like I have changed in some obvious and not so obvious ways. I look forward to moving back to America because I miss my friends but also because I am interested to see how my perspective has changed. What have I learned? How will I see Waco and Texas? Perhaps my favorite thing about London was its proximity to the continent and the ease of travel to other parts of Europe. One of my biggest goals was to travel as much as possible. I think I have done more than I thought I could, and the awesome thing is there is still so much more I want to see. I am thankful for the travel experiences I have this semester. The next cities on this list trips I took during my time in London. Each time I came back from a trip, London felt more like a home. A definite highlight of my time in London is when two of my best friends, Sommer (above) and Jessica, came to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. An amazing City like London paired with amazing friends like Sommer and Jessica makes for an unforgettable week.
6. Edinburgh, Scotland
My first weekend trip while studying abroad was to Edinburgh, Scotland. To think about the trip now is incredible. So much has changed and I feel like I would have a totally different view of the city now that I have traveled elsewhere. However, we all really enjoyed our time in Edinburgh. One of my favorite things we did was a ghost tour at night through the city. We visited Edinburgh Castle as well. We took a train to Scotland, which was a first for me as well.
7. Madrid, Spain
I can’t even explain how much I loved this place. Knowing enough Spanish to have some conversations there was really neat and made me dread my Spanish IV class in the Spring a little less. We had an awesome hostel experience and encountered some of the best people in Spain. I truly felt like I could have spent a semester in Madrid. If I lived on the continent, I think Spain would be my first choice (except for the whole 50 percent unemployment for people my age.) I did an entire post on my trip to this city that you should read if Spain has ever grabbed your attention. I really miss the paella and the culture and hope to make it back to Spain one day. This photo is of me, Fabian and Carlos (two guys we met while in Spain) all doing a Sic ‘en in front of Madrid’s symbol, a bear and a small tree. Pablo, our tour guide, told me why that was the symbol, but I am pretty sure it was a lie because it was a free tour haha.
8. Zurich, Switzerland
Ok, I will be honest, I didn’t leave the airport premises for this one. In fact, there isn’t even a photo of me in Zurich, so I will need to go back for a proper visit. I put it on the list, though, because I was in the airport for about ten hours of my life. I slept on a random restaurant booth for a lot of it. (except for when Caty and I attempted to figure our the bus system and get to the city center. Yeah, that didn’t work out.) The picture is of the Swiss Alps as we flew from Zurich to Venice for the start of our Mediterranean cruise that was our mid-semester break.
9. Venice, Italy
This was my first encounter with Italy and I loved every single minute. From the gelato to the canals, Venice was really impressive. We had a day and a half in Venice before our cruise departed from the city and began its tour. We used that time to see as much of the city as possible. We went in a few churches, had several gelato stops and even took time to see a few art exhibits. The city is just so different because of its waterways. It is an awesome city to get lost in and at times, i think I was actually lost in it! I got another day in Venice because our cruise ported there at the end and we had a day before our flight left. Seeing it again was great and I could definitely use a third round of Venice.
10. Ancona, Italy
Most of these write-ups have been extremely positive, partly because the places are just insanely awesome and partly because I was a giddy American traveling throughout Europe. Ancona, however, is not a place I would suggest to anyone. It was the first stop on our cruise for some reason and literally the only thing I saw was more ocean. We made the best of our time there, but if you are looking for a hidden gem of the Italian coast, Ancona wasn’t it for me.
11. Mykonos, Greece
This place was so great I had to upload two photos. But really, during the cruise we had an entire day (from about 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) in Mykonos. We spent a lot of time on Paradise Beach, and then spent time in the city at night. My favorite part of Greece? Gyros. What I would give to have a Greek gyro available at all times and taste like the ones in Mykonos. The cityscape was awesome, with stark white buildings and bright blue accents running throughout. Mykonos was probably my favorite stop on the cruise.
12. Athens, Greece
If you know me, you know my favorite Disney movie is Hercules. Well, let me just say that we have a few hours to get in all we could of Athens, Greece, and we did a great job that day thanks to the help of one of those cheesy bus tours. This picture is of us at the Parthenon. We got in for free because we are students (winning) and saw some of the oldest ruins in the world up close and personal. There is much of Athens I didn’t see and I think a return trip is in order.
13. Corfu, Greece
It was another one those places that was nice, but apparently not nice enough for me to think to get a photo of myself actually in the City. We had a few hours there and we enjoyed our time, but we all kind of wished we had planned an excursion for this day because apparently the city wasn’t the best part of Corfu. If you go, make sure to take a kayak adventure, we heard this was really amazing. Add it to the redo list, too.
14. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Wow. That was my first thought as I stepped foot in Dubrovnik. I had never heard of this place until the cruise itinerary. It used to be its own country and still has city walls that surround amazing buildings and pathways. The cliffs along its beaches have awesome caves and caverns that could have inspired several of Owl City’s songs, if you ask me. Dubrovnik is worth the trip. The people were really nice and the views were the best part. The building behind me in the photo above with Colleen looked like it was straight out of Narnia, Prince Caspian.
15. Brussels, Belgium
On our way back from the cruise we had a really long lay over, during the day, in Brussels. So we took a train to the city center and explored. It has one of the most beautiful city squares in all of Europe, with buildings like I have never seen. Food wise, the waffles were incredible. In this picture Colleen and I have Leonidas waffles before walking around Brussels.
16. Rome, Italy
Following the cruise, I took a travel break. My internship began and travel time availability was definitely shortened. I explored London much more and really got familiar with the City. But then, all of a sudden, I was really over the cloudy days and darkness that started at 3:30 p.m. here in London. So, the girls found cheap flights to Rome for a weekend and we went. One of my roommates here, Brent, was also in Rome that weekend. Pretty knowledgeable about Rome after working there this summer, he showed us amazing places to eat and tour. Some of the best times were just walking around the city and joking around, like in the above photograph with one of the public fountains that people still use for public consumption.
17. Marrakech, Morocco
The travel bug bit us and we had to take one last trip before we go back to America. So naturally we chose to go to Africa. I really couldn’t believe when we finally booked our tickets to Morocco and I kept counting down the days until we left. We researched and researched Marrakech before going and that really made our trip much better. Our riad was really incredible and the Moroccan people were incredibly nice, perhaps the nicest of any people group I have met. We went on an all day excursion for one of our days that allowed us to hike through the Atlas mountains and ride a camel! The pictures above are of me feeding a young camel, followed by the main city square in the morning and then a picture of one willow tree that is sustained by a waterfall in the middle of the Atlas mountains. Morocco was my favorite travel experience of my time in London and I would go back for the mint tea and people alone. (except the creepers who always hit on the girls haha!)
Well, there it all is: one year, seventeen incredible places and an unlimited amount of memories. My 2011 was insanely blessed beyond measure. There were valleys, but I feel like the peaks were so high the valleys were easy to overcome. I really don’t know what I did to deserve such an amazing year. But I do know that it wouldn’t have been possible without amazing people in my life, like my mother, who has made so much available to me.
On Sunday I travel back to America where I will spend a few days in Dallas before heading to Honolulu, HI to finally see my mom. After a little more than a week there (including a trip to Hilo, on the Big Island) I will head back to Texas where I will see a Heisman trophy winner play with my Baylor Bears in the Alamo Bowl that I am attending with Alyssa and Cailtin and their families. I will then get to spend some time with extended family in San Antonio before heading to Austin for NYE with a few of my closest and best friends. After that, it is 2012: the year I graduate from college. I had no clue 2011 had this much in store for me, and I can’t fathom what 2012 will bring, but I am ready.