2017 Reviewed By Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Welcome to the post every blogger writes, yet most readers don’t give a shit about: my year in review (sorry for the swearing, mom).

Being a travel blogger has been one of the most amazing adventures of my life, but sometimes I still look back at pictures and wonder if I really went there, or did that. Whose life is this? 2017 was a wild ride because I got to travel to eight…yes, EIGHT, different countries.

While I usually only take one big trip per year, I somehow fit two in, and it was an absolutely incredible privilege to check off big list items like Morocco and Denmark (two places I’ve been DYING to go). This year also took me from one of the most traumatic experiences, to some of the most beautiful I’ve ever had. I’m leaving some things behind in 2017 that I’m really going to miss but that’s part of moving forward, right? The end of a year always seems to close a chapter on some things you aren’t quite ready to let go of.

Such is life, I guess. This year has made me stronger, wiser, and as my mom says, “someday it won’t hurt so much.” Until then, let’s live a little stronger, a little more passionate, and really pursue the things that set our hearts on fire. 2018 is going to be such an amazing adventure. I’m already starting to plan some pretty epic road-trips, and I cannot wait to share all of the savory details with you guys. Until then, here is my blogger contribution to the madness of 2017. Happy New Year!!!

Backpacking trip: Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Belgium

I started out this year with a solo backpacking trip that was one for the books. Not only did I love going to Loch Ness and Inverness (Outlander fans!?), but I also just loved seeing the highlands of Scotland. During this trip I also had, singlehandedly, the best 48 hours of my life in Denmark (and made some amazing new friends!).

Cosplaying Rufio at Emerald City Comicon
I’ve only been cosplaying for a couple of years, but I’m so obsessed with it that I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. I love being able to represent characters that I love, and I love gender-bending (taking a male character and giving them a female twist). My Rufio cosplay was so fun to take to Emerald City Comicon. Honestly. I live for conventions.

Becoming a Schwinn/ R.Riveter ambassadorThis year I got to be an Ambassador for two different brands: Schwinn Bikes and R. Riveter bags. Both of these brands have a strong backing of supporting people who are out there really living their lives. Whether it’s taking city adventures with my bike, or traveling across the world (or to another world) with my R. Riveter bag, I’ve loved every minute.

Going to my first Renaissance Faire This was one of those last minute things where you’re less than prepared, but more than a little excited for an event. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, to be perfectly honest, but getting to experience my first joust (and ax throwing) was a pretty special event in my life. I also got to throw an axe…so that was cool. In 2018 I’m really looking forward to going again, and this time cosplaying.

Doing a live painting at BumbershootI’ve told this story a few times, but I was told a lot (growing up) that I wasn’t meant to be an artist. I wasn’t “called” to it. Well, this year not only did I continue painting shoes with my Etsy shop, but I got the amazing opportunity to do a live painting at Bumbeshoot, which is a huge music festival in Seattle. Even better? My painting sold!

Creating some super nerdy art projects (Sherlock + Jamie Fraser)There has seriously been so much nerding this year and I’ve loved it so much. From getting connected with my favorite podcast “Three patch problem” to crocheting little nerd dolls to send to friends, it really has just been the best. I’m also almost finished with all of my Harry Potter house scarves, so keep an eye out for those in my Etsy shop!

Going to the Skagit Valley Scottish Highland Games The Skagit Valley Highland Games has become a tradition that I don’t think I ever want to break. It’s so fun to go celebrate my Scottish heritage, eat amazing food and enjoy traditional Scottish dancing and music. It really is food for my soul and this year was great because I won my tickets for having the best photo from the 2016 Highland Games!

Dislocating my shoulder… the third day of summer campThis year was a year for injuries. This must mean I’m getting old. Not only did I dislocate my shoulder (resulting in weeks of physical therapy), but I also got pneumonia, sustained a 102 degree fever for a week, got my heart broken, and had my first ER visit. This year was kind of a constant progression of healing, but it taught me a lot about patience and about how amazing my little tribe of badass women is. Thank you every single person who held me up this year, despite the crazy.

Cosplaying Aquaman after months of planning I started planning this cosplay after ECCC in March and it came together beautifully. I loved being able to think of something and then actually see it materialize. Also, having a faux shoulder sleeve tattoo was pretty badass. Cosplay brings so much happiness to my life, I don’t even know how I ever went without doing it. Cheers to new ideas and great conventions in 2018! 2nd Photo credit to Aubrey Rebecca Photography.

Getting a new job…my dream job!2016 and 2017 I worked 60 hours a week (6am-6pm…every day) to build a resume that could get me my dream job. I’ve always been a writer, and what started as watching Mad Men resulted in me pinning down that ad agency work was the absolute ringer for what I wanted to do with my career. In October, my hard work finally paid, off thanks to some amazing women helping me along the way. I absolutely love my job, and I feel so incredibly thankful for it each and every day that I’m there.

Backpacking trip: Spain, Morocco, England, Iceland
I ended this year the same way I started it: with travel. 2018 will mark my five year anniversary of backpacking, and I can’t believe I ever let people tell me not to do something that brings so much life to my being. I love traveling, and visiting friends around the world added so much value to 2017. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to jump on planes and live out my passion. I don’t take this privilege lightly. For me traveling is the gateway to every other part of my life being inspired, and I can’t wait to see what adventures 2018 brings my way. 

How 2017 Helped My Millennial Problem

December 31st, 2016 I gave up on something I had done for the past 20 years of my life—I gave up on New Years Resolutions. I decided I had enough of telling myself I couldn’t do things. I was sick of trying to break habits, and pick up skills that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my life.

January 2nd, 2017 I was sitting at my desk realizing how alone I felt. I had been working 60 hours for the past year, and I had managed to isolate myself in a toxic relationship, and away from people who valued me. I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen my friends.” And when I say long, I mean years.

After living abroad for a year, I had lost contact with a lot of people. In addition to the fact that we were all living our adult lives, I was 5,000 miles away. Not exactly the recipe for strong friendships. When I moved back to the U.S. I pretty immediately began working like a maniac, to make up for some debt from living in Paris, and I started dating someone a month after being back. It was insane.

So here I am, starting a new year and feeling like shit. Hello, 2017. All I wanted to do was hang out with people who made me happy. So I made a promise. Not a resolution, but a promise to myself. I didn’t have a whole lot of extra time (re:working 60 hours a week), but I did have an hour a month. I decided that once a month I was going to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. I made a list, and got real with myself. This needed to happen.

And it did.

Every month this year I have grabbed coffee, tea, Skyped, or hung out with someone I hadn’t seen in forever. People who make me happy. People who get me. People who I would be friends with, even if the sky fell. No agenda, I didn’t get anything out of it—I just sat down and had coffee.

Now let me tell you how this changed my life.

My generation (millenials) is one of the loneliest to ever exist, despite the fact that we have more access to people than humanity has ever had before. Think about it—I have access to connect and talk to millions of people every day. It’s insane. And despite that fact, we have higher rates of depression, anxiety and just general unhappiness.

Slight detour: Remember those people who made you happy as a kid. I’m talking about the friends who you raced worms with. The puddle jumping buddies. The non-agenda I just like you friends? Okay, cool—hold onto that thought for a minute. 

When I started to meet up with people who I had no “reason” to meet up with, I started to see myself different. The people I chose are all people who have inspired something in me, when I met them. Maybe it was creativity, or drive, or laughter, or (to be honest) just plain geekery. Whatever it was, it was those people who I just click with—Kindergarten style.

Every time I met up with one of these people I re-discovered a part of myself…and I had a lot of fun. Like, so much fun. Honestly, I am so honored to have these people in my life. This project also spurred on other community creating ideas, like a monthly girls “crafternoon” which honestly gives me so much life.

What I’ve learned from this “project” is that so often we get too busy for people, and we forget how much value they can bring to our lives. I know there’s a huge emphasis on maintaining certain lifelong relationships, like romantic or family…but you know what? Don’t undervalue friendship. Don’t undervalue how rich your life can be from being around people who just get you.

Collaborate with them, grab coffee with them, plan movie nights with them. Create the opportunities to have your life enriched and I guarantee you’ll see results. And anyway, this is so much better than starving yourself for some crazy weight-loss goal. 

2016: The Year of Grit

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2016. I really wish that I could be one of those people who said that 2016 was great, despite the obvious turmoil, but it was actually a really hard year for me. One that has tested this ‘ole girls grit to the extreme. If I had to use an analogy for 2016 if would be me being a cage fighter with barely any training, locked in the pen with the world champ. I may have survived, but I definitely took a beating.

2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 were some of the most difficult years of my life, so I was expecting 2016 to get in shape, but life hasn’t quite got the memo. That being said, there were some highlights that were fun moments in my year, and I’d like to focus on those rather than dwell on the overall stress that 2016 has brought.

January

I went on a backpacking trip with two of my friends to England, Scotland and Ireland. It was a feat in itself because I had never travelled with multiple friends before. We ate some great food, learned some history and explored the limits of strong personalities under pressure. But we survived! And the end result was some awesome pics. During January I also got to go to San Francisco, which is one of my favorite US cities, and that trip was just a dream.

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This is us in Edinburgh, Scotland right next to the castle.

February

Deadpool came out, and we took advantage of that for our Valentines Days day, which ended up being awesome. February was also the 2 year anniversary of this blog, which is insane. I never thought I’d be able to keep something up this long when I first started it, but now I can’t imagine life without it. This month was also when I moved into my now house, which was such an amazing upgrade (literally God sent) from my former apartment location and situation. I also got to have high-tea with my grandma and I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” which changed a whole lot on my perspective as a creative. Apparently I have no pictures from this month, so here’s one from my January trip, in front of Shakespeare’s house.

 

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March

My little Irish Step Dancing obsessed child self would have been so envious of the fact that I have now seen (in person – not just VHS) Lord of the Dance. If you don’t know what it is, you can click here to see a clip. Basically it was my childhood obsession, and I was in love with Michael Flatley. I was a weird kid, what can I say? This was also the month when my long lost (moved to California) brother came home for a visit, which was such a surprise that I swore in front of my grandmother. Yep, that happened.

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April

This past year was my first ever Emerald City Comicon experience and I LOVED every minute of it. I did my first kind of serious cosplay effort, made some new friends and geeked out in the extreme. This was also the month and me and my boyfriend rented a cabin on Camano Island for a weekend and left the world behind. The place purposely didn’t have wifi and it was super nice to just get away from it all.

 

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Sometimes you need to take vacations a few hours from home.
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Me being a geek with other geeks at a Doctor Who fan meetup.

May

May was when I went to Colorado for the first time, and learned that I don’t like Colorado. Say what you will to try and convince me otherwise, but it’s just not the state for me. 2016 was the year I went twice and both times were just brutal on my respitory system. I did have some fun at the art museum, though. This was also the month that the EMP (now known as the MoPOP) hosted its Star Trek opening exhibit, where I met Spock! Okay, it was just a cosplayer, but I mean, that’s the closest I’m probably going to ever get…and it’s pretty darn close.

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June

In June I started working at the Boys and Girls Club again, and boy was that a good decision. I was working part time retail before I started up again, and while it was filling my wardrobe it was simultaneously sucking out my soul. I was so happy to join back with my BBGC family and get to work with all the kids, again. This was also the month for the Eurocup, which I watched obsessively and which I loved every minute of. France may not have won, but I was cheering for them every step along the way. June was pretty packed to be honest. There was a Sounders Game packed in there, and Pride weekend and then I went to my first JMSN concert, which was an experience in itself.

 

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Old school photo booth where we were definitely not ready for the first set so we had to do it again. But now these are some of my favorite pictures.

July 

During July we had a great party for the 4th and then we flew out to Colorado again to explore the mountains, go four wheeling and celebrate some birthdays! We got some pretty amazing photography shots and it was our first trip out of the state, together (next up – out of North America!). We also got to go to the Scottish Highland Games up north of Seattle, and that was one of the best days of this year. Oh man. I’ve never felt so proud to be Scottish, before. It was so amazing!


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August 

To celebrate our 1 year anniversary we hopped off the grid and went to Canada. This trip was a very welcome break from our day to day and we had the nicest Airbnb host ever. It was such a great way to celebrate a great relationship. We also went camping at Banks Lake in August, with a bunch of friends. Besides being eaten alive by mosquitos (he had 70 bites!) it was a super fun trip.

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We really need to get better about asking people to take pictures of us, as a couple.
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Jumping off rocks is not for me, but I’m all about the photography and sun bathing.

 

September 

I’m a firm believer in celebrating my birthday for the ENTIRE month of September. Don’t ask my why, but I love doing it, and I don’t plan on doing it any other way. This years birthday was such a good day and I loved being able to spend time with just the two of us. I didn’t really have a party, and I think I understand now why people don’t really do that as much, as they get older. My little introvert self is just not into it anymore. The hermit life for me (+1)!

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Right before we went out to my birthday dinner.

 

October 

I went to two conventions in October, one for Lego and one for Geek Girl Con. Both were fantastic and I’m so happy to be a part of the con community. Making friends at cons is such perfection because you already know you’re probably as geeky at the other person, so you don’t have to worry about geeking out over something too hard. This was also when I debuted my Rufio cosplay, which I’m pretty excited to wear to ECCC in 2017. It went over so much better than I could have imagined, and I’m so excited to dress up again in March!

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I dressed up so many times in October that by the time the 31st hit I was at the point of impromptu Minnie Mouse.

November 

James and I had an awesome photo shoot with Chelsea Bree Photography, just for fun. It was such a great experience and I’m still so in love with each of the photos. They are just so beautiful. November also hosted one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had. We kept it small and simple at our house and I don’t think I’ll ever do it any other way, again. I loved just being able to hang out with friends. The only one that it tied for first place was the time we had Thanksgiving in France.

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December 

We went the magical route and went to Harry Potter World. It was just the best. Even though it was smaller than we thought, we rode the rides a million times and waved our wands around like 9 year olds. This is also when my roommate tricked me into going onto a huge roller coaster ride…and let me tell you how much I hate Roller Coasters. Christmas was fantastic, we watched movies all day long and opened presents and visited my family. I love keeping holidays small, and I think that’s the way I’ll try to do it for the foreseeable future. It’s just so much more fun to just have a few friends, or even just the two of us.


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All in all 2016 kicked my butt. But I kicked back, and I have a feeling I’m going to be going into 2017 kicking, as well. Trying to reach goals, and really make a difference in your life is not an easy path, but if you’re willing to fight for it, it’s something you can achieve.

If there was one quote I would state for 2016 it’s this:

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When Life Pelts You With Lemons…

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I won’t apologize this time, for the weeks I’ve been silent on my blog. Mainly because life has been serving me a platter of lemons, which I’ve had to skillfully squeeze and mix into some very spontaneous lemonade. To make a long story short, I got laid off from my job a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely abrupt and unexpected. The result was buckling down into “go mode” and starting to figure out how I would pay my tribute to the student loan gods (among other bills etc.).

I’m very happy to say that things have worked out well enough that my bills are covered, and although there is a pay cut involved with now supporting myself – I am considerably happier in my new job and more inspired to create, write and wake up in the morning.

So, what else have I been up to?

Well we relaunched our beautiful website The Exploress, which was a lot of collaboration and a lot of hard work – but we did it! I’m so proud of my beautiful team of writers and photographers and I absolutely love being able to work alongside them to tell their stories of travel and adventures.

And speaking of adventures – in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be headed out on my very own (with two of my best friends!) backpacking adventure around England, Ireland and Scotland. I’m so happy I could cry. Our itinerary consists of four stops, at the moment. We’ll be starting out in London, jumping on a bus up to Edinburgh (no trains – thanks boxing day), flying over to Dublin and then flying over to Stratford Upon Avon (where Shakespeare is buried!).

This trip is coming at the perfect time, and I’m so happy for it to be a bit of respite from my American life. It has been kind of hard to get back in the swing of fast-paced crazy U.S. life, but I’m doing my best and overall I’d say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, right now.

I’ve started a new job, which is remote, so I’m working today from a beautiful coffee shop near my house. I’m working on social media and marketing with them – which is a bit of a dream come true, because I get to write and come up with marketing schemes. I love being able to take both branches of work and really dedicate myself to the overall mission of the company.

Oh! And I do have a couple of upcoming trips, apart from my UK one, that I’m really excited about:

I recently took a road trip to the Olympic peninsula and that was both beautiful and balming for my soul. You can see some of those lovely pictures below. And NEXT weekend I’m taking a snowy adventure to Leavenworth! I’m so excited for so much beautiful snowy goodness.

Oh! And I’ll be headed over to San Francisco, for a week, in January! So really the whole travel life style is working beautifully, at the moment. The thing I’ve learned about travel is that if you make it a priority (and better, if people know you’re the type to jump at the opportunity), the adventures will come to you. I promise to keep up more on the blog, since the storm seems to have calmed for the moment *knock on wood*. Especially while I’m backpacking – I plan on smothering you all with stories and whimsy about my adventures.

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6 Reasons To Set Goals

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Somehow Wednesday has snuck up on us! I have about the motivation of a slug right now because; well…let’s just say 2015 hasn’t started the way I thought it would. Maybe that’s a bad thing; maybe it’s a good thing. But it is, without a doubt, unexpected, and that’s never an easy thing for me.

But that’s life, right? We have no other option than to move forward with what we have, striving to build bigger and more structurally sound things in spite of the rubble that surrounds us.

On Sunday I got a really amazing opportunity to hear a speaker who was talking about the importance of goals. Obviously, being the beginning of the year, it was an appropriate topic – especially since I feel like 2015 hit and I lost all ambition to do anything productive. Is that just me? Anyone else out there just feeling over it (whatever ‘it’ is)?

But anyway, the speaker outlined 6 reasons to set goals and I thought I would share them here (with a little commentary) because they’re awesome and I think worth being spread around the Internet. So here we go:

Six Reasons To Set Goals:

  1. Because it’s necessary

“Either you go forward on purpose, or you sit by and let things happen to you. Either you take control, or other people take control of your life for you.”

It might sound like a no brainer, but if you look at the actions of great men and women throughout history you will notice that they had great goals that got them to their places of greatness. It’s when we don’t have goals or a direction pointing our lives that we go off path and end up places we might never have wanted to end up. The best part of goals is that they are entirely free – they cost nothing, but can change everything.

  1. Objectives stretch our faith:

“Take the limits off your dreams. Instead of running after small dreams, lets fix big goals.”

If you don’t dream big, you’ll never achieve great things. As a Christian, having my “faith stretched” points to my faith in God, but I think it goes beyond that even. Having goals and objectives stretches our faith in humanity, in the future and even in ourselves! Having goals allows us to have milestones, or markers that show us where we were and where we are going. They remind us: We did that. And encourage us to dream even bigger the next time.

  1. Goals concentrate our energy

The fact is, as much as we would love to, we can’t do everything at once. And spreading yourself over acres of ideas generally does more damage than help. Having goals allows us to knock things out one at a time and allows us to take steps forward.

  1. Goals allow you to keep going when you want to stop

“If things aren’t going well, then it’s not the end yet.”

If you walked into my bedroom you wouldn’t really see anything particularly eye catching, but if you came inside, and shut the door, you would notice an entire wall collage of ideas, quotes and inspiring things on the back of my door/wall area. It’s important to list things out, write things down and remember the people and things that inspire you. Because when you have milestones, or people holding you accountable, you’re far more likely to stick with whatever goals you have.

  1. Goals build character

“What I’m becoming is much more important than what I achieve.”

Even if you fail miserably, if you learn about yourself in the process you have succeeded. It might not feel like it right then and there, but the fact remains: You having tried puts you miles ahead of those who never got off life’s ‘couch.’ When we get up again after failing it’s THEN that we grow. Success is great, but failure is often the much better teacher.

  1. Having the right goals will reap rewards

Whether you’re of a religious mindset, and you believe in the reward of heaven, or not – the fact remains that when you work hard toward things that allow you to love, grow, serve others, discover and grow in character then you will be amazed by the results of the rest of the world. I’m a strong believer that the good you put out into the world comes back to you; let’s all try to sow a little kindness back into the communities we surround ourselves with.

STAY TUNED – UPCOMING TRIP: AMSTERDAM THIS WEEKEND – Eeeek!

2014: The Year Of Courage

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My New Years Resolution from last year for 2014

Although Facebook has tried to “review” my year, I’m not satisfied because this year was ridiculously packed with good, bad and everything in between. So, sorry Facebook but here’s MY review of my year.

January: I spent an amazing New Years Eve with best friends while being hit on by a Norwegian guy who couldn’t take a hint. I had my septum pierced and it was awesome. Complete with a mohawk, freshly painted tattoo and rebellious piercing – I’d say I was kind of a badass.

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Dec 25th 2013
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I started working at the Boys And Girls Club!

February: I signed up on an au pair website as a joke, and signed a contract 1 week later. Careful what you wish for. Valentines day was ridiculous, and spent with some pretty awesome friends that I seriously miss.

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March: I learned that my friends are way cooler than people I was trying to impress. Sisters before misters, ladies. Never forget.

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One of the best friends I could ever ask for.
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One of my friends had a BABY!!!

1660285_10202655062031122_2009325527_nApril: My big brother and I were reunited. I always forget I’m related to people, until I get around him. It’s absurd. I went to my first Sounders game. It was pretty cool, but the people I went with made it way cooler.

984029_10202938957408329_2285092849423330472_n988872_10203031577003761_5003727285002521486_nMay: I was a nanny for a family that, in many ways, I felt closer to than my own. They were incredible and I was so blessed for being able to work/live/laugh/learn/be crazy with them for over two years.

10403273_10203246959468188_4260201586568979666_nJune: We lived and we laughed, and we sailed on boats.
We learned what loss was. We were shaken, but we weren’t moved. Our family was tested, but we stood together stronger than ever. #PrayForSPU

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Two of my very favorite people in the world.

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July: I painted my heart out, I hosted a billion people from Couchsurfing and enjoyed the hippieness of my hometown. I met a boy from Germany who loves to cycle around the world. 10456011_10203351752407946_3655178518403346691_n 10360557_10203439734327439_9000043357953367137_n10513315_10203503567643232_6590504214116406302_nAugust: I went to San Francisco (July also). Twice. French politics. But I made some amazing friends from around the world. A bunch of nomads coming together for 48 hours making a little family of memories.

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September: I made a ridiculous adventure to get to France, including four airports (late August) and landed in central France. Literally the middle of nowhere. I became friends with a Spanish girl who gave me the courage to stand up for myself.

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10730952_10204307034129392_696922551305332530_nNovember: We made Thanksgiving happen and I got to host all of my beautiful new friends as we all made our homesick way through (for many of us) our first holiday away from home. We learned that family doesn’t just mean DNA.

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December: We finally started to feel like we could find our way around France. Maybe this life could work. Maybe the leaps of faith weren’t as ridiculous as people said. Maybe we could come out of this stronger, wiser and happier than when we went in. Just maybe, we weren’t quite as crazy as people thought.

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2015: TO BE CONTINUED….

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