Christmas Snow


Full disclosure: this post isn’t strictly travel-related. It doesn’t showcase panoramic landscapes or document lessons learned abroad. However, no matter where I’ve traveled or gone, coming home for the holidays has always been important to me. This post — a short essay I wrote about 3 years ago — captures some of the reasons why.

As it is 3 years old, many things have changed (as they always do). However, the message and sentiments still ring true.


Christmas Snow



The branches have traded their leaves for white sleeves

All warm-blooded creatures make ghosts as they breathe

Scarves are wrapped tightly like gifts under trees

Christmas lights tangle in knots annually[*]


I tilt my head back. Snowflakes fall like glitter onto my cheeks, and I spread my mittened hands wide as if to embrace the sky. Christmas lights twinkle all around me. ‘Tis the season.

The snow continues to drift down to the ground like confetti, piling up and accumulating. The party has begun—the ‘Holiday Season,’ the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ the big countdown to Christmas. This is my favorite time of year. I live for this party. The endless celebration: festive music, delicious foods and desserts, countless family gatherings, and it’s all kicked off by the snow.

I’m one of those people that everyone finds annoying—the person who just can’t wait to start celebrating Christmas and the countdown to it each year. In recent years, my celebrations have begun creeping in even before Halloween. I fully recognize that there are other holidays before Christmas that we can’t skip over, and believe me, I do fully celebrate both Halloween and Thanksgiving—just with Christmas music playing in the background. And you won’t find me complaining if either of those holidays is decorated with snow.

Nothing beats a good snow day. When the landscape is transformed into a ‘Marshmallow World,’ a ‘Winter Wonderland.’ The snow clothes the trees, their branches glittering in the sun, and the ground is covered in a thick blanket, tucked in until spring. It’s a magical sight. It’s a magical feeling. Time spent indoors cuddled in a blanket, sipping warm hot chocolate, watching movies with family. Christmas is coming.

For me, the Christmas-week represents love. The week is packed with multiple gatherings of family. Long days spent with cousins only seen once a year. Time spent baking peppernuts and other Christmas treats with my mom as we belt out Christmas songs at the top of our lungs with her old Donny Osmond CD. An incandescent happiness permeates this week. Large snowflakes pile up outside, providing a beautiful scene enjoyed from the warm indoors. We spend time by the Christmas tree, stringing it with lights, reminiscing about the past, and reading the Christmas story.


So we sing carols softly as sweet as we know
A prayer that our burden will lift as we go
Like young love still waiting under mistletoe,
We welcome December with tireless hope


Each year, 40 or so extended family members on my mom’s side caravan through the snow from the Christmas celebration at my house to the nursing homes and assisted living homes in my hometown. As we squeeze into the hallways, the cafeterias, even rooms, we fill the spaces with tracks of snow and five-part harmonies, eagerly singing carols to all who will hear. Sometime an uncle or two will stay behind to drink coffee and soak up the solitude, but for the most part, babies, cousins, aunts, uncles, and the occasional fiancé or boyfriend all accompany us on this tradition each year.

This Christmas will be our third year without my grandpa who started it all. It’s not quite the same without him, yet his deep bass voice carries on through my younger brother. This year will be different in another way though. For the first time, both family heads and tradition-founders will not be lending their voices to our chorus. Last year my grandma moved into the assisted living home connected to the nursing home, so when caroling-time came, she trucked along with us, singing to and greeting her friends, her neighbors. However, after suffering a stroke around Easter this year, she was moved to the nursing home. This year, we will be singing to her, praying that she’ll recognize us and the carols she’s been singing with us in her strong alto for dozens of years. I can only imagine the emotion that will color that moment. Yet as we sing to my grandma, we’ll be joined by my cousin’s newborn, Ailidh. And that will bring hope. Hope for the future, for the things to come—hope that all will not be lost.

To me, snow brings that hope. Christmas brings that hope. That even as things change (and things do change, no matter how hard I try to fight it or ignore it), there’s a promise of tradition, of family, of being whole.

So I’ll continue to belt out Christmas songs in early November and dance with excitement when a snowstorm is forecasted while everyone else groans—just thinking about snow makes me giddy. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m too sentimental. But snow means Christmas. And Christmas brings tradition. Family. Hope. It represents all that stays the same. Yet the snow that accompanies it is fresh. New. It’s a clean start. Together, snow and Christmas pair change and tradition. And together they bring peace.


As gentle as feathers, the snow piles high

Our world gets rewritten and retraced every time

Like fresh plates and clean slates, our future is white



[*] These lyrics as well as those at the middle and end of the essay are excerpts from “Snow” by Sleeping at Last.


Travel is Complicated


One of my favorite parts of travel is learning to find joy, to see the beauty in the ordinary, the everyday. After all, our destinations are so much more than just a tourist stop. They are people’s homes, where people do life. It’s the little things. The farms and orchards spread across the open landscape. A clothes line strung between two trees. Cows grazing in a pasture. Vivid fall colors illuminating the horizon even on a hazy, dreary day. The little reminders that these places aren’t all that different from ours. These people aren’t all that different from us.

How quick we can be to judge when a new place doesn’t meet the expectations set out before us by our tourist guide books, our Pinterest boards, our search limited to the pristine and organized. But life is messy. People live in these places. People have baggage. People  bring history. And that history brings character, and, yes, sometimes flaws. And in those flaws, we see glimpses of our own brokenness. Only brokenness doesn’t make for picture-perfect postcards. Brokenness doesn’t let us escape. It makes us reflect. It makes us uncomfortable.

Poland is a country full of this history that stares us right in the face. It is the home of a group of people who have been conquered and occupied, hardly getting to be a nation of their own.

Auschwitz and Birkenau represent the horrors and atrocities committed during the Holocaust–a glimpse, even today of the terrible things humans are capable of.

At the same time, it can be all too easy to minimize the country into a place with a horrific past. To miss the deep Catholic faith that has been preserved across the  nation, even in a salt mine 150m below the surface. To miss the incredible compositions of Chopin. To miss the people with heart, spunk, and resilience.

People are complicated. Places are complicated. History is complicated. And traveling with expectations based on a single story–whether good or bad–will always fall short.

On Being a Foreigner


I’ve done my fair share of traveling the past couple years. However, never have I quite experienced the “foreigner”-stamped-across-my-forehead feeling quite like I am now. In Wales, everything was at least in English (although sometimes it may have well been another language!). I’ve dealt with language barriers too though–but always with the help of a guiding professor or friend. But now I’m a bit more on my own, making mistakes and trying to learn as I go.

Example 1: The Queue Ticketing Machine.
Swedes don’t just “get in line” as often as Americans do. They take a ticket and “queue” by waiting off to the side for their number to flash on a sign. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting at the phone store, the migration agency, or–even sometimes–if you just want to buy a bottle of Coke, there is probably an inconspicuous ticketing machine hiding–or painfully obvious, if you’re a Swede. Wherever we go, it seems we somehow frequently wreak havoc on all semblance of order by missing this simple step. Sometimes our mistakes are received with more grace than others. Every time I walk away, I think, how could something as basic as queuing be so complicated? And I’m sure the Swedes are thinking the same thing about me.

Example 2: The Grocery Store.
It seems almost every time I walk out of the grocery store, I find myself trying to recover from a little phenomenon I like to call “Grocery Store Trauma.” Again, it’s something so basic, right? Food. Yet I find myself standing in the milk section for 10 minutes, unable to tell one carton from the next. Another time I’m in the sugar aisle for another 10. And don’t even get me started on The Great Candy Fiasco of last week. It’s not rocket science–buying food. Yet every time I end up finding myself stuck, in the way, and confused.


When in doubt, just keep buying the same brand…haha!

Can these experiences be frustrating? Yes.
Would I trade them? Not necessarily.

First, stretching experiences inevitably lead to growth. Yes, I have definitely embarrassed myself or ticked others off through my mistakes. But I’m learning along the way. I’m learning to adapt to a new place and way of doing things. I’m learning that there is not a “better” or “wrong” way, just different ways. I’m learning to let go, to forgive myself for my mistakes, and to not dwell on complete strangers’ judgments of me. And I am learning about having grace for both others as well as myself.

And second, I’m acquiring empathy for the foreigners and sojourners when I’m in my own home–those who are displaced, whether by choice or not. How many times have I heard, or even thought myself, judgments of those new to America? How could they mess up something so basic, something so simple? Why are they doing it all wrong? But now I find myself unable to do the basics, the simple, the “painfully obvious,” either.

There are people far more courageous than me who have left their homes, their comfort, their language, their ways of doing things. Live with grace.

And, of course, I’m never as alone as I sometimes let myself think. I have a group of new teachers making mistakes and learning right beside me. It’s never so bad a quick trip to Espresso House can’t fix it. And I am also surrounded by the most supportive school staff coming alongside me along the way.

Comfort zones were never meant to be brick walls keeping us inside. As I’ve been going on evening walks while we still have this beautiful weather, I’ve been making a habit of going off on a side path if I see one (and, believe me, there are many!). The best adventures happen off the beaten trail. It might at first seem harder. I might get lost for a bit. But it is always worth it.


Always worth it.

New Adventures on the Horizon

newadventuresaheadIn one hour, I will be decked out in a black cap and gown, walking across a stage to receive my college diploma (or at least the empty shell representing what will hopefully be arriving in my mailbox in a few weeks). In just a few hours, I will be a college graduate.

As close as it is, the idea of being done with college–being done with school, aka what I’ve devoted the last 18 years of my life to–kind of terrifies me.

So what do I do when life seems overwhelming with decisions and changes? Throw myself into more changes, adventures, and unknowns. Naturally.

Life after graduation is enough of an adventure on its own–change, uncertainty, new experiences, unknowns…but to mix in some excitement with the apprehension, I have two exciting post-graduation travel adventures just around the corner.

Band Tour: South Korea!

Today I will be graduating from Bethel and moving all of my stuff home. Monday I’ll be at the airport before the sun rises along with 45-or-so other students in Bethel’s awesome wind symphony. For one last hurrah of my Bethel career, I will be going on a 10-day band tour to South Korea!

There we will be spending time in Seoul, Chun Cheon, Daegu, Gyeongju, and the DMZ. Not only will we be performing, but we’ll also get to do things like attend a Taekwando lesson, stay with host families, play tourists, and just soak up a new culture!

The whole idea of going on band tour in two days isn’t something I’ve really had time to process yet (with the whole student teaching…and finals…and graduation thing), but I am beyond excited to get to explore another corner of the world!

That Job Thing: Sweden!

Graduating from college does mean it’s time to enter into the “adult world,” the “real world,” and do things like find a job and a place to live, cook my own meals, and all of that fun stuff! But if I have to do all of those things no matter what, why not do them in another country?

I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to be going to Sweden to teach middle school English for the next two (at least!) years. I will be working with the Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES)–a system of schools started by an American woman in 1993. I will be teaching at the IES school in Boras, which is just outside of Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. The quote below pretty well sums up how I feel about this experience:

if it's both terrifying and amazingAm I a little terrified? At the risk of sounding stereotypically Minnesotan: you betcha! But does it also sound amazing and wonderful and exciting and like an incredible opportunity to grow, explore, and learn? That would be a definite yes. I don’t know all of the details, but it feels right. So I’ll try it out–and who knows where this one decision might take me?

So thanks Bethel for opening up the world to me and making it seem accessible.

It’s time to make my mark.

“For Paris is a Moveable Feast….” (Ernest Hemingway)

There it is!

                 There it is!

Our jump over to Paris was on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo attack, so nerves were a little higher, but there was now so much security in France (aka armed guards everywhere and security checks at all museums), so we still felt pretty safe.

Stamps and signs like this one were all over the city

Stamps and signs like this one were all over the city

Just getting to Paris was half the fun. It was like a switch was flipped. One minute we were standing outside on our Western Front tour, shivering and somber, listening as Carl told us about one last memorial. And then we were done and back in the van–now with coats off (for the first time in days!). Lucas switched on the radio and pretty soon he, Lauren, and I were laughing, chatting, and listening and dancing to the music. We were normal 20-somethings again. We had truly emerged from the front.

And then we arrived in Paris. And I think it was different at first than I had expected. London had been so iconic. There was so much to do and no language barrier. Maybe it was a bit of culture shock, but it took me a little bit to warm up to Paris.

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with the city, however. On our third night there, a group of 5 of us decided to go up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Let me just tell you–there are a lot of stairs to go up that thing! There were a couple times I didn’t know if we would make it, especially on the neverending spiral staircase. But finally we emerged at the top. And the incredible view took my breath away. We were at the top of Paris with roads going out all around the Arc. In the distance we could see the majestic Eiffel Tower (I preferred it lit up at night). We probably stood up there for close to an hour, just taking it all in. And then the Eiffel Tower started sparkling. This was the magic, the city of lights.

At the top of Paris as the Eiffel Tower glowed behind us

At the top of Paris as the Eiffel Tower glowed behind us

One other major highlight of Paris was a Literary Walking Tour we did as a class. Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite movies, and I basically felt like I was reliving it as we walked around the city, seeing where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein lived and the places they frequented.

PicMonkey Collage

Overall, Paris was a place of moments. Whether that meant finally seeing things I’ve dreamed of seeing my whole life, late-night walks, trying nutella crepes from a street vendor, or just hanging out with the group in our hostel eating too much candy and laughing a little too loudly. Paris is memories.


“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)
Paris Highlights:
-Rewriting “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and convincing my classmates to sing it for our send-off for Anne-Britt (video here)
-Attending a service at the American Church of Paris
-Our Literary Walking Tour of Paris–an English major’s dream! :)
-Our night at the top of the Arc de Triomphe
-The Louvre! It was basically its own town and so overwhelming…but it was amazing–so much talent and art–and, of course, I had to see the Mona Lisa!
-Trying macarons for the first time (the rose ones are amazing! :D)
-Versailles: The Hall of Mirrors was absolutely stunning
-Going back to the Eiffel Tower with Molly and Elizabeth our last night. We got up to it right as it finished sparkling, so it cleared out and we could just take it all in. Incredible.
Bucketlist: check, check, check!

Bucketlist: check, check, check!

“Every headstone, every cross has a story. That is the way to look at cemetaries.” (Carl Ooghe)

IMG_0494The Western Front is a place of stories. Each monument, each structure, each grave tells a story. The landscape, the topography still cradles stories of a century ago.

Super beautiful in the evening...but this crater was made during WWI. Welsh (and other British miners) would dig tunnels under the German trenches there and plant explosives...successful attempts made craters like this one.

Super beautiful in the evening…but this crater was made during WWI. Welsh (and other British) miners would dig tunnels under the German trenches there and plant explosives…successful attempts made craters like this one.

Now we get to the focal point of this trip–the Western Front. Talk about classroom on location! We had three days in Belgium and Northern France. Needless to say, this was a much different pace than our time in London with very long days, and being together with the group all day.

First, a note on our amazing tour guides. Our “head guide” was Carl (yes, the one who is quoted in the title of this post), who is basically a walking history book, and the landscape of Belgium is his reference. The first two days I rode in his van in the front middle seat, so as we drove between memorials and monuments, I got so much additional information! Driving along, every other minute he’d see something in a field or along the skyline and be telling a story about its significance in his Belgian accent (which, fun fact, sounds a lot like a Scottish one, with its long, rolled r’s!). The second was Lucas, who was in his late-20s, but was also a fountain of knowledge. Carl did most of the talking on the tour, but when I rode with Lucas on the last day, I found that he had just as much knowledge and stories to share…plus his commentary on Carl’s driving was hilarious too!

Overall, Belgium is very different from England. First of all, it is almost completely flat except for a few ridges (which were, understandably, very important during the war). Also, Belgium is farmland! I was feeling very at home that first day when we stepped out of the vans and inhaled that very distinct farm-smell. ;) We could still find fields of leeks, cabbages, and brussel sprouts growing in the wet, clay soil (and I’m pretty sure I was the only one constantly fascinated by this aspect the whole time!…haha).

Belgium also has much more of an “old Europe” feel, with rows of red brick houses and patches of cobblestone roads. This is actually a little surprising, however, since pretty much the entire area of Ypres had to be rebuilt after the destruction of the war, with full reconstruction not ending until 1984.

Poppies everywhere. Lest we forget.

Poppies everywhere.      Lest we forget.

There are so many stories I could tell from these few days (so please ask sometime! :)), but a couple stand out.

On the second day, we stopped by an Australian Memorial that was pretty much surrounded by fields. As we were looking at the monument, Carl ran out into a field to pick up a few bits of shrapnel that he had spotted. Lucas too told us how farmers today still continue to find live, unexploded shells in their fields–100 years after the war began! They then have to call the army to pick them up and dispose of them safely. And even as we drove around, Carl was constantly pointing out remains of German bunkers in fields. As someone who lives on a farm, this was all so crazy to think about. When we rock-pick, we always collect our ‘treasures’–golf balls, bits of glass, pretty rocks…but I can’t even imagine finding bits of shrapnel, or worse, possibly dangerous shells. I don’t usually consider the impact history can have on our landscape.

The powerful Australian Memorial that was surrounded by fields.

The powerful Australian Memorial that was surrounded by fields.

The second memory/story will probably seem a little strange at first–basically, it’s a really miserable day. Our second day was characterized by lots of rain, 30-40mph winds, and just all-around cold. While we stood outside in the wide-open landscape and listened to Carl talk. Yeah. Super interesting stuff, but super miserable weather, with no chance to go inside or warm up or dry off. But that afternoon as we had a chance to walk through some preserved trenches, I had a little realization which was this: This is real. This is the climate of this place. This is exactly what the soldiers had to deal with as they fought 100 years ago. At least we get to go back to the van after 30  minutes. They were stuck here for 4 years, never to feel completely dry or warm. Or safe, for that matter. Their lives were on the line as well.


Walking through a preserved trench

So…classroom on location isn’t always fun, happy, easy. But neither were the things we study; we get just a small taste…


We decided to take a group pic on that miserable day (Not sure whose idea that was?? haha) while we were soaking wet and freezing cold–which I think is pretty evident by our expressions in the picture. (Now it just makes us roll with laughter)

Western Front Highlights:
-Everything Carl and Lucas said!
-Being back among farmland ;)
-Really getting a sense of where this history happened and what it was like
-The Welsh dragon WWI monument
-Walking through preserved trenches
-Endless rounds of WWI-themed Mafia with our group every night at the hostel


The grand Welsh Dragon Memorial. It’s distinct because it’s not a Commonwealth memorial–it’s fully funded and cared for by the Welsh people. <3

Day Trips From London

During our first week abroad, we got to see a little more of England than just London.

We had one day completely free of class and group activities while in London. A group of us chose to spend that day taking the train out to a smaller town–St. Albans, about an hour out of the city. This was England. This took me back to my semester in Wales. Riding the train as wind whipped the rain against the windows. Watching the landscape transform from city structures to rolling green hills dotted with dark brick homes with colorful gutters and slate roofs. This was the UK that had stolen my heart and been my home.

The town itself was super charming. It boasts a beautiful cathedral which is one of the oldest sites of continual worship in the UK. It is also the site of an ancient Roman city and hosts remnants of a Roman theatre. Overall, St. Albans provided a lovely day at a different pace than the busy city.


Great sights, good eats, and awesome people!

And of course, what would our group’s travels be without some delays and transportation fiascos? When we arrived at the St. Albans train station to hop on a train back to London, we found the train there packed and not going anywhere. We were told that no one was certain when the next train would be leaving–they were waiting for a conductor! We settled ourselves in to wait for at least an hour…when, in a stroke of luck, I overheard one of the station workers saying there were a few spots left on a bus that would take us to a train station 40 minutes away where we could get on a train to London. We dashed to the bus and all got seats, only to see a flood of people coming off the train and out of the station. It was yet another adventure for us, but we eventually made it back to London!

St. Albans Highlights:
-The huge outdoor market stretching several blocks
-The beautiful cathedral
-The Roman Theatre ruins
-Afternoon Rosebuds tea at The Merchant


Nothing beats a good cup of tea!

Our second day-trip out of London was as a class to Oxford. This was a place I had been bummed about not seeing while I was studying in Wales, so needless to say, I was pretty excited to see the home of the famous university as well as important place for both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Welcome to Oxford. Dreams really do come true!

Welcome to Oxford. Dreams really do come true!

Our afternoon tour was led by a man named Alastair who used to work for the BBC and knows pretty much everything about the university. He focused on how the university was affected by the war, which was pretty crazy–some of the smaller colleges shrunk down to just 7 men after war broke out.

And of course, we had to close out our day with dinner at The Eagle & Child pub, famous meeting place of the Inklings.

Oxford Highlights:
-Touring Magdalan College
-Prime tea stop at the Congregation House
-Dinner at the Eagle & Child!


“When a Man is Tired of London, He is Tired of Life Itself” (Samuel Johnson)

Well hiya! Now that I’m back in the States, I can finally share some of my stories from my incredible j-term trip abroad, since time for blogging and consistent wifi access (shout-out to #WIFIAP) were few and far between while on the trip.

3 weeks ago, we arrived in London, but actually getting there was half the adventure! With the lovely Minnesota-January weather comes lots of airline delays. From waiting to just check in for over an hour, to our flight to D.C. leaving almost 2 hours late, it was quickly apparent that we would not be getting anywhere fast. We constantly eyed the clock nervously–our flight to London from D.C. was scheduled to leave at 10PM, giving us just 50 minutes for our layover. When we finally arrived in D.C. at 10:30, we sprinted to our gate…only to find that our plane had left just minutes before. Cue more waiting….and eventually we were given vouchers for a nearby hotel and for food at the airport or hotel (good thing it was almost midnight at this point and everything was closed! ;)). We were ready to just get to the hotel and relax before a flight out in the morning, but–surprise! We had to wait over an hour and a half for the hotel-airport shuttle (sensing a theme yet?).

Okay, so it all sounds pretty dramatic, and it kind of was, but everyone honestly stayed surprisingly (and thankfully) calm. Our mild frustration mingled with humor and a sense of flexibility; it was already evident we’d picked a great group to travel with!


When it sunk in that we had actually missed our international flight…

So in the morning, we boarded our plane and were off! (Okay, after 2-ish hours of delays…again…classic). Around midnight (UK-time), we finally arrived in London, got our luggage (no problems–yay!), and started the long trek to the hostel. I think we finally made it to bed around 3am that night. It had been some very long days of travel and we were exhausted, but also stoked to finally be in London, and to finally be on this new adventure.

Having been to London before, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to be back–and for a week this time. Yet I quickly fell back in love with the city and country again, and I never ran out of things to do or got tired with the city. It was also so interesting to experience the city from a news lens–WWI. I was finding tombs and memorials in cathedrals I’d been to before and learning more of the context surrounding monuments both new and familiar. The Imperial War Museum was a huge highlight, having been redone for the WWI centenary. There was an incredible amount of information presented in such an interactive way.


On another note, London was a great place to bond with the group, whether that meant exploring the city during lots of free time, stopping in for High Tea and crumpets with clotted cream (fave!!), or late-night gelato excursions. We were quickly thrown into comfortability with each other. And sharing a small hostel room with 7 girls and floor space the size of my dining room table may have helped too! ;)

The first of many group-selfie-of-the-day pics to come with our awesome group!

The first of many group-selfie-of-the-day pics to come with our awesome group!

London Highlights:
-the Imperial War Museum
-the Tate Britain art gallery
-High Tea at the Tea House Theatre
-Attending an evening service at Westminster Abbey
-Making friends in the evening in the lounge at our hostel
-Just being back in the UK (aka my second home <3)!

Revisiting Hogwarts and some other London faves

Revisiting Hogwarts and some other London faves

Leaving on a Jetplane…

i do believeYes, yes I do believe it’s time for another adventure! In fact, I’m off for one in just a few hours!

I am stoked to be heading back to Europe for almost all of the month of January with a class from Bethel to study World War I over J-term. I’ll get to revisit some familiar places with a new lens as well as explore a few new places too!

The trip will begin with about a week in London where we’ll visit sites like the Imperial War Museum, the Tate Britain, Trafalgar Square, and several war memorials. Considering we are currently in the  100-year anniversary of World War I, this will be the prime time to be there! Plus I’ll get to continue to explore this city I’ve already gotten to get a glimpse of a couple times. And eat my weight in scones, crumpets, fish & chips, tea, vimto, and all of the other amazing British foods and drinks I’ve missed desperately over the past year!

The classic phone booth pic

London, we will meet again soon in all of your classic-red-phonebooth-glory!

While staying in London, we’ll get to take a day-trip to Oxford and learn a little bit about how men like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien experienced the war. And basically I’ll be geeking out hardcore the entire time.

Then we’ll chunnel on over to the continent and spend a couple days in Ypres, Belgium. There we’ll experience the Western Front and walk through the trenches used in WWI (talk about bringing history to life!). We’ll also get to attend the Last Post ceremony, a tribute done in the town every single night of the year to honor those who died defending the town during the war.

Next we’ll be on our way to Paris (aka a city I’ve DREAMED of seeing). Here we’ll hit up a lot of the typical must-sees: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and we’ll also take a trip to Versailles (stoked to see the famous Hall of Mirrors!). And I definitely see a trip to the Louvre in my future!

Our trip will close out in Munich. There we’ll shift our focus to the transition from WWI to WWII as we learn about the rise of communism and fascism as well as visit the nearby Dachau concentration camp. This may be one of the hardest, but also impactful, places of the trip.

And on a lighter side, I’ll get to continue to explore one of my favorite cities in the world, fake my way through stores with some very shaky German, and eat my weight (sensing a theme?) in Milka chocolate!


Oh yes, Munich, I am excited to return to you!

And that’s that! I’m sure these next three weeks will fly by, but lots of adventures and new experiences await!

And please, do not hesitate to let me know of any of your favorite sites visited, shows seen, or places eaten at in any of these cities! Visiting a new city for the first (or even second) time is always overwhelming, and I love building my plans around the recommendations of friends and family!

Things I’ve Learned While Traveling


After my list of Things I Learned During My Time in Ukraine, I knew I needed to once again verbalize some of what I’ve learned during this incredible experience abroad.

So here it is…a list of just a few of the many, many things I’ve learned while traveling and living abroad these past few months:

  1. Traveling is about the people. The sights are fun, but the people make it all worth it.
  2. You will make mistakes when traveling somewhere new. Sometimes you’ll know you’re making them, and other times you’ll be oblivious, but you will do things wrong. And that’s okay.
  3. Always appreciate where you are at. Find the beauty there. What is familiar to you is probably new and interesting to someone seeing it with fresh eyes.
  4. Be willing to set aside the map and get wonderfully lost. What you discover when you do this will be what you will remember in years to come.
  5. There is nothing that makes the world so big as having friends all over the world. There is nothing that makes the world so small as having friends all over the world.
  6. Don’t be afraid to travel solo. You are stronger and safer than you think. You will be okay. You will discover so much. You will explore, make memories, and meet people. And you will learn so much about yourself and be all the better for it.
  7. None of my shoes are suitable for the amount of walking required by a world traveler. Not a single pair. haha…
  8. Take pictures. Put aside your fear of looking like a tourist or of asking someone to take a picture for you. Any embarrassment you feel in the moment will be far less than the regret you’ll have later when the memories are fading and you have no pictures to look back to.
  9. Comfort zones are meant to be broken.
  10. “It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” ~Korean Proverb
    But seriously. No amount of pictures, video, or description can compare to the real thing.
  11. Goodbyes are absolutely heartbreaking. But they are the proof that you have experienced something wonderful and meaningful. They are a sign of a rich experience and wonderful friendship.
  12. Adventure really is the best way to learn.
  13. If home is where the heart is, then I have no home. Because pieces of my heart are scattered all over this big ol’ world.