Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I’m about to head home (or back to Toronto, THEN home…), so I might as well post about what kicked off this adventure: the infamous Blue Lagoon!

You get here, and you’re immediately hooked! The water is a misty blue color, to the point of not being able to see your body underneath the calming waves. The skies above are filled with Iceland’s unpredictable weather, yet somehow the on-and-off hail/snow doesn’t faze you once you’re immersed in the pools…

As my friend Bethany put it, “There are no adjectives to describe this experience.” She’s absolutely right! You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

You can even enjoy mud masks AND refreshing smoothies in the water!!

Highlight of the day: finally being in the water, despite two previous Iceland stopovers!

Worst part of the day: not being able to get the nasty, Icelandic salted chocolate taste out of my mouth!

Second worst part: combing my hair after the lagoon…it’s STILL gross four days later!

Pro tip: wear your hair up ladies and gents!

National Pet Day!

I LOVE to travel; however, my dog is making me more of a homebody these days (or at least if I’m not home, I actually WANT to be home…)!

My dog, Linley, is truly my best friend.  I adopted him from Compass Dog Rescue in September and both of our lives have been enhanced ever since!  He’s originally from Texas, but someone from the Detroit area rescued him before the hurricane in Houston.

Linley’s bio on PetFinder read something like this:

  • Age 2-5 (likely 3)
  • Hates to be alone
  • Very social animal (loves other dogs, but does not like cats)
  • Playful but not destructive
  • Goes with the flow (if you’re relaxing, he is, too)!

So as you can probably tell already, Linley was MY dog from the beginning 🙂

Happy National Pet Day, everyone!  Don’t forget to do something extra special for your furry friend today!

Five Favorite Foreign Cities

As the friend who is “always gone somewhere,” a lot of people ask me where my favorite place is (or what city I enjoyed the most).  The truth is that after visiting 20 countries abroad, I can’t pick “one favorite.” So instead, I have five!

I put this in chronological order, not in order of preference:

Aix-en-Provence, France (2014)

  • At this time, this was the longest period I’d been away from the United States.  I spent three weeks in Germany when I was 18 (two years prior) but this felt different, because it WAS!
  • I was truly immersed in the culture.  I lived with a host family as well as someone from New Jersey (who is now one of my closest friends) and learned more about how the French saw world issues, like the Holocaust for example.  Aix will never be Paris, but on the same note, Paris will never be Aix…think about it…
  • My mother’s side of the family is predominantly French.  Although they weren’t from Southern France, I felt close to my roots here.  The experience of living in Aix for two months was something I wouldn’t trade for the world, no matter how insane my host mother was!!

Amsterdam, Holland (2014)

  • My boyfriend and I visited Amsterdam together once my two months in Aix was over, and boy was I pleasantly surprised!  There is such a bad reputation of Amsterdam here in the United States (sleazy, dirty, etc.) and although some of that can be found here, Amsterdam was one of the greenest, cleanest, beautiful cities I’ve visited!
  • Amsterdam is such a melting pot of cultures, languages, and lifestyles.  Hearing Norwegian, Spanish, French, German, and British accents all on the same street is something you can’t experience in Michigan very often!
  • There is absolutely no judgement here!!

Kiruna, Sweden (2016)

  •  On a school trip during study abroad round two in Sweden, we visited Lapland (in the Arctic Circle).  As a third grader, I wanted to visit the ice hotel SO BADLY and my dreams finally came true in Sweden!  It was more breathtaking than I imagined…
  • Being in Lapland was one of the best weeks of my life.  Still is two years later.  I was in love with every aspect of the trip, from dog sledding to seeing the Northern Lights (twice!!) and everything in between – it was perfection.

Bergen, Norway (2016)

  • I visited my mom’s family’s foreign exchange student, Kjell, after studying in Sweden for one semester.  My mom and Kjell haven’t been able to physically see each other once he returned home in the 80s, but they have been able to talk on the phone and write each other letters ever since.  Meeting Kjell, his wife, children, and basically all of his immediate family was something I’d been wanting to do my whole life.  Bergen itself is beautiful, but the sentiment behind my visit made it even more memorable.
  • Um, well…Bergen is absolutely stunning!  I think the photos above speak for themselves…

Bangkok, Thailand (2017)

  • Although I volunteered in Chiang Rai for one month, Bangkok was the best possible way to end my Thai adventure!  I had previously booked a room for myself to explore Bangkok, but then my friends Kaila, Karl, and Hee Cheol decided to join.  I’m beyond thankful that they did because I know I wouldn’t have had as much fun without them!
  • On our first night together, we ate at one of the best restaurants I’ve been to!  And right after, we had drinks on a rooftop bar, which was the perfect way to end our volunteering and begin our weekend together!  I think Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were places I’d rather be long-term; however, because of the people I was spending my weekend with, Bangkok (and its memories) make the list for me!
  • And aside from what I’ve just mentioned, WE HAD A ROOFTOP POOL!  People, it doesn’t get any better than this!  For a month, I was taking cold bucket showers, squatted down to pee, and had mosquito spray on me 24/7.  This 180 was exactly what I needed 🙂

Where are YOUR favorite places?!

Study Abroad Reunion: Chicago (March 9-11)

In 2016, I made the best decision of my life: to study abroad in Kalmar, Sweden.

I made THE BEST friends I could’ve asked for!  We all decided to have a reunion in Chicago because Alice (to my right in the above photo) was student teaching in Illinois for one month.  Mitch and Bethany (to my left) are from Colorado, and Taylor (far right) is from Texas.  We HAD to take a selfie at the iconic bean, obviously 🙂

During our first afternoon/evening, we were catching up at dinner, the hotel bar, and even played Uno for awhile in our room.  I hadn’t seen Taylor or Alice since I left Sweden in June, 2016, so seeing them meant the world to me.  Bethany and I, thankfully, have been able to see each other twice since we returned home (once in Chicago in June, exactly!) and will be going to one of my favorite places, Iceland, this May!  Spending time with Mitch is always great, and seeing him meant the world to me as well!

On our only full day together, we went to the Sears Tower (I STILL need to call it that…) and we took some obligatory Sky Deck photos!  It was worth it, but the crowds and heat were too much for all of us.  Thankfully, Giordano’s was right around the corner 🙂

All of us (except for Taylor – he needed a major nap after the deep dish!) spent time near the Water Tower place, specifically at Nike and Ghiradelli!  Mitch and I were OBSESSED with the store.  I have probably been in there at least 10 times and it never gets old!  Mitch, Alice, and I all got ice cream after, which also put us into a food coma, much like our dear friend!

You can’t go to Chicago without going to a comedy show, am I right? I am in love with Second City and Zanies; I have been to both three times I believe.  Bethany and I went to Zanies in June, and I’ve also been there with another friend from studying abroad in France.  I decided on Zanies this time because 1) the tickets were cheaper, 2) stand-up is hilarious and is rarely ever bad (in my opinion), and 3) it’s located on N. Wells Street, where all the best bars are!

Of course, we picked the best night to go!  It was Zanies’ 40th anniversary so we were able to have some mystery shots, more stand-up comedians, and many more laughs! I would tell you some of the jokes; however, they were NOT appropriate for this blog 🙂 Take my word for it: Zanies is the funniest club in Chicago!

Bethany and I are always thuggin’ it on Wells St…

Our coats got switched at Benchmark…oops!

Fun fact: Bethany and I took a similar photo here back in June.  Once we found the same bar, we obviously had to recreate our masterpiece 🙂

This goes without saying, but this was probably the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.  Seeing old friends felt so rewarding and I haven’t laughed that hard in SO long (both from the comedians AND my best friends)!  I can’t wait until our next reunion together.

I can’t wait for Taylor to have a Guinness at every bar he passes, for Alice to be as stereo-typically French as possible, for Bethany and I to laugh over nothing at all, and for Mitch and I to have the best conversations again 🙂

Three Italian Cities

Okay, Italy is one of my favorite places I’ve visited to date; HOWEVER, there is a huge difference between the three cities I visited there.

In 2014, I visited Milan and Genoa with my boyfriend. We both agreed that Milan wasn’t “all it was cracked up to be.” We enjoyed the food a LOT, and the cathedral in the city center, but that was really about it.

On the flip side, Genoa was breathtaking and the food was even better than Milan! There I ate the best ravioli I’ve ever had in my entire life, and the cappuccinos weren’t bad either 😊 Juan and I had gelato at least four times a day, went to various beaches, and had some of the best experiences with locals. Genoa was much more hospitable than Milan was, too!

In 2016, a friend and I visited Rome. Granted, I knew Rome would be touristy, but this was a little extreme! I love cities like Paris and Bangkok, but you don’t get that true authenticity that you would in Aix or in Chiang Rai; this is how I felt about Genoa as well.

As of right now, given the three cities I’ve visited in one of the most beautiful countries, Genoa is by far my favorite! Rome is second and Milan…well…didn’t live up to my expectations.

I’m not telling you not to visit Milan or Rome because both cities have a lot to offer a variety of people, but if you’re like me and want a true taste of Italy, Genoa won’t disappoint 😊

Teddy Bear Travels

Hello, long time no blogging!  Yet again, I have been MIA for quite some time; however, I’m back and ready to focus on blogging again!

When we travel for an extensive amount of time, it’s always nice to have something from home.  Some bring a photograph, others a keepsake…but for me, it’s always my teddy bear, Pierre!

Pierre is a 3-year-old Build-a-Bear who my boyfriend and I made for Christmas in 2015.  He is very loved, privileged, and fortunate to have seen all these incredible places!  I hope you enjoy his journey as much as he does (and as much as I do)! 🙂

Pierre loves to go boating on Michigan’s many lakes!

He and his wife, Claire, have even ventured to Chicago with me!

Pierre and his best friend, Chestnut, were my travel buddies in Sweden for my semester abroad.

Pierre has even been to castles, something that many humans haven’t even experienced!

He loved riding through Kalmar, SE with me!

Praha (Prague) was one place where Pierre could meet some cool cats 🙂

…but he enjoyed being in my dorm with Chestnut, Coconut, Barry, and Sandy!

Pierre was able to meet one of my best friends from Hamburg, Germany too!  She gave us a care package when we arrived!

I bought this bag in Copenhagen, especially for Pierre! He needed it for our weekend in London together 🙂

DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!

We enjoyed sunny days on the dock near the Kalmar castle 🙂

Pierre and I probably loved our time in Norway the most! 🙂 It made him feel at home with all the boating we did in those two weeks…

We love quality time with Juan!  Pierre loves Lake Michigan 🙂

Pierre was also my buddy on my train from Denver to Grand Junction to visit a friend from study abroad!

More traveling is in Pierre’s future, and mine as well 🙂

Grand Rapids, MI (Black and White Photo Essay)

Yesterday I had to drive a total of four hours for a one hour meeting…

Let’s just say that I chose to make the most of it! I walked around downtown Grand Rapids for about an hour, listened to the cars drive by and construction on nearby buildings. Taking in the city air to me is how others feel about country air: peaceful.

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