Elon: The 2nd Fall

Sophomore fall is finished! It’s hard to believe I only have two more falls on campus. This semester was full of ups and downs and definitely challenged me more than the previous two. Between crazy weather (two hurricanes and a snow storm), a full class load, and starting a new job, I had moments where I felt so worn down. There were times I just wanted to “feel like a person” again. It’s hard to have a sense of self when you’re constantly running from one thing to the next and always surrounded by others.

There were also moments of incredible happiness and fun. I am continuing to build close friendships and I felt many of them solidifying this semester. I am also starting to find my niche and my interests within my academic field. I love my major still and haven’t changed once, which is shocking for those who know how indecisive I am. Though my classes were difficult this semester, I enjoyed them. I took a few fun trips and realized how lucky and blessed I am to be a college student with the ability to plan and pay for a wide variety of experiences.

I am currently sitting in the Atlanta airport, waiting out at 10 hour layover on my way to Peru for January. Again, how lucky am I? Posts about Peru will hopefully be up sometime at the end of January, but for now I’m going to go through the highlights of my previous semester.

In September, Hurricane Florence created a panic before it wrecked the Carolina coasts. I had to evacuate from school for 5 days and headed home with my friend Jane in tow. We had a great time relaxing, playing with my mom’s kiddos, and visiting places in Cincy. It was a nice break and I was happy to go home, since I hadn’t been planning on going home until December. It was difficult to not know what was happening at school and to watch the terrible news roll in about the damage in my adopted state. I volunteered to gather supplies for victims when I returned to campus and I’m hoping to get a chance to volunteer more in the coming semester and years.

Another notable event from September was family weekend. Even though my parents weren’t able to make it down, I had a lot of fun with my friends and their parents, who were generous enough to include me. My godmother also came up that weekend and got to see my soccer game! It was nice to see her and have some feeling of family.

In October, Hurricane Michael hit during our fall break. My friend Mackenzie and I went to visit my Uncle Jon in central PA/ Ocean City, NJ during the long weekend and had to drive because of mass flight cancelations. We had so much fun playing mini golf, eating good food, and spending time together, but again, it was difficult to hear about the damage our campus sustained. Thought we were spared from Florence, Michael brought high winds, downed trees, and power outages. Driving back to campus was a little bit unnerving because as we got closer we saw more and more damage. Luckily, Elon was somehow spared the worst again and we were able to stay on schedule.

My dad also came out to visit in October. He was able to see a few soccer games, both mine and the varsity teams, and we had a lot of fun hanging out. Our new favorite spot is the brewery and restaurant in Saxapahaw right by the river. I was happy to see him and to get a chance to catch up. I’m hoping he and my mom can make it out more in the future!

In November I went to William and Mary for a soccer weekend. It was fun to bond with my teammates and see some family friends in the area. I didn’t realize how much I missed traveling for soccer and I’m thankful that Women’s Club Soccer gives me the opportunity to continue playing and having fun experiences. I was worried I would get to Williamsburg and feel overwhelmed by a sense of home and longing to be at W&M, but other than a tinge of sadness I was fine. This was a huge relief because it reinforced that Elon is the right place for me and is my home.

I also went to Athens, GA the weekend before Thanksgiving for a UGA football game. Mackenzie lives in Athens and was nice enough to invite a group of us down to experience “real” college football. The game was very fun and I’m looking forward to going down for more games in the future.

My dad’s family went to Smith Mountain Lake, VA for Thanksgiving week. We were all in one house, which worked out surprisingly well and enjoyed the beautiful lake views. We also were able to go see the National D-Day memorial and Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat from Monticello. I love Thanksgiving because of the emphasis we place on family, and this year was another great trip!

The first weekend in December I went to visit my godmother for a night. She lives in Fayetteville, NC so the 1.5 hour drive is easy to make. It was so nice to relax and spend time with her. Getting away from he stresses of school right before finals was exactly what I needed. I’m hoping to make it down a couple times this next semester.

The last big event of the semester was the 13 inches of snow dumped onto campus the day before finals. We had one day off, three delays, and everyone had rescheduled testing times. This added to the stress of the last week and threw of most people’s travel plans. Luckily mine weren’t too badly affected and I was able to make it home in time to head to Toronto with bough school friends!

Toronto was amazing! Canada is cool because it’s so easy to get to and to cross into. Also everyone really is super nice. We toured the CN Tower, went to the Christmas market, visited St. Lawrence Market, and wandered around the city exploring. There is so much we didn’t see and I’m excited to go back sometime soon! It was fun to plan a short trip kind of last minute and do something different for break.

After getting back from Canada, I relaxed, read, and spent quality time with my family. I am so excited to get to Peru and explore/hike for three weeks, but I’m also looking forward to the week I have at home at the end of the month.

I am really proud of all I accomplished this past semester and how much I was able to handle/juggle. My goals for the coming semester are to have more time to myself, explore NC some more, and reach out to new people to build more relationships. As always, long live Elon!

(I will upload all my pictures at some point but need my laptop to do so)

Adios 2018

Happy New Year! As 2018 wound down yesterday I realized I still hadn’t posted about my sophomore fall semester and thought this would be a great time to catch everyone up and reflect on the year more broadly.

Let me start with this: I am so incredibly blessed. This year has had its ups and downs, but through it all I have recognized and leaned on my wonderful support system. My family is supportive, loving, and fun. My friends often comment on how much they love and feel comfortable around my family, and I think that is a testament to my parents’ selfless willingness to include others and treat everyone like family.

My friends, both from high school and college, get me. It is so important to me to invest in relationships where both people are giving their love and time. My phrase for the year was “It’s a two way street.” I used this to remind myself that it is not my sole responsibility to maintain friendships. It has been a slow and often difficult process to come to the realization that some of my relationships were causing me more stress than they were worth because the other person wasn’t putting in effort. I made it a goal of 2018, and will continue to make it a goal, to cut out these unequal relationships, or to take steps to try and even them out. As someone who has been taught to keep up and prioritize my relationships with others, and as someone who instinctually works very hard to stay in touch with those I love, this has been a difficult, but beneficial lesson.

I have grown closer to many of my college friends and know I will have friends for life even after our time at Elon is over. While it is fun to have friends from all over the country, it makes breaks away from school that much harder because I can’t see my fellow phoenix. I have also realized, during this break in particular, that there will always be some disconnect between me and my high school friends because, since they almost all go to the same school, they have shared experiences I will never understand. This is natural and no one’s fault, but it has caused me to feel left out of conversations and realize I am moving in a very different direction from many of my friends. I am very thankful for the high school friends I do keep in touch with though, and my goal for this year is to get some of them to come visit me. (No one has yet, which is honestly a little annoying and surprising. Who wouldn’t want to come to NC?) Another goal for this year is to visit more of my college friends in their hometowns so I can see more of the country!

Personally, this has been a year of growth. I feel like I reside in that weird and confusing space between teen and adult, and learning how to navigate this space has brought me both joy and frustration. My roommates and I have our own apartment and I have two jobs on top of being a full time (sometimes it feels like more than full time) student. This has presented me with a host of new lessons, like how to grocery shop for one (a difficult challenge when you come from a family of 5), manage a more complicated schedule, have more financial responsibility, and find time for myself amongst all my other commitments. I’m still learning how to do all of these things, but have gotten better with time.

On the teen side of the spectrum, I am still working on navigating family time, where I am once again a daughter and sister that has to keep others informed of my schedule and my comings and goings. All college students experience this transition and I’m not sure if anyone ever figures it out completely. I have also had to accept that things at home change and continue on without me, and I don’t have to have knowledge or control of any of these changes. Case in point: a new subdivision is slowly emerging on the old golf course where my brothers and friends and I used to sled, walk our dogs, explore the creek, and sell lemonade to golfers. The other day, I drove down the new street that paved over these important memories of my childhood and sobbed because I was overwhelmed by the idea that I can never tromp across the hills with a sled and a dog again. This is a small example, but it exemplifies my mixed feelings about growing up, and my staunch dislike of change, specifically change not approved by me.

This year also brought me moments of complete happiness. From exploring new parts of NC with friends, to having quality family time, to watching both of my brothers succeed and forge their own paths, I enjoyed so many aspects of 2018 (many will be explained further in my semester update). I realized that the most important part of a good moment is the people in it, not the plans around it. I learned to care less about what others think, proactively reflect on, recognize, and accept my flaws, and take time to slow down and enjoy the present instead of stressing about what’s next.

Since this post has turned into a lengthy 2018 reflection and I will need to post about my semester separately, I’ll end it here with my New Year’s resolutions. Some are the same as last year, others have been added, but my first resolution is to put these goals somewhere I can see them daily and to work hard toward implementing them in my life. 2019, you have big shoes to fill and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

  1. find a church home at school, invest in reading the Bible on my own, pray more
  2. stay positive and stress less
  3. enjoy the present
  4. don’t procrastinate
  5. don’t judge others as much
  6. be happier with what I have, stop comparing myself to others
  7. use my phone less, turn it off for a portion of everyday (I can survive without it)
  8. read more books outside of school (finish team of rivals)
  9. recognize unhealthy relationships, stay in positive ones
  10. take control of my life by giving up some control
  11. take more time for self improvement and rest

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy 2019, full of growth, family, friends, and love!

Summer 2018

I’m back at Elon and getting into the swing of the new year! Wow, summer really flew by. Parts of it went slowly, parts of it were boring, and for parts of it I wanted nothing more than to be back at school with my friends and a constant schedule. Overall, I had a great 3.5 months off and wish I would have appreciated it a little more in the moment.

I know my last post highlights a few of the activities I was planning on doing over the break, but I wanted to expand a little more in this post and put my pictures up.

The first 6 weeks of the summer were fairly uneventful. I arrived home, got settled in, caught up with friends, and began my internship in Senator Portman’s Cincinnati office. My job was to answer phone calls from constituents, write news briefs, attend naturalization ceremonies, and update local government information. I quickly became friends with the other intern and, after discovering that we went to high school together and only live 5 minutes apart, carpooled with him the majority of the time.


Speaking on behalf of Senator Portman at a naturalization ceremony. June 7, 2018

I enjoyed the experience and am very happy I did it because I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I don’t think I want to be in that side of politics because it was hard to give people the answers they wanted and frustrating to see the roadblocks and obstacles government work can put in your way to slow you down and dilute the work you are trying to do. I also learned that I cannot have a job in the future where I sit in an office all day. I need to be moving around, meeting with people, and traveling.

The one exciting, out-of-the-norm thing I did during the 6 weeks of May and June was visit my grandparents in Massachusetts unexpectedly. My brother was going up to tour a school in Vermont, so I decided to tag along and stay with Mammy and Papa. I realized I hadn’t seen them in exactly a year, which made me so sad and frustrated that we don’t live closer and I hadn’t done anything to see them sooner. We had a nice, relaxing weekend (for the most part) and I was so happy to get a chance to spend time with them one on one.


Me and Ty with Mammy and Papa. June 18, 2018

July and August are when a lot of the craziness hit. My parents went out of town for my dad’s 50th birthday, Ty went to London for a family trip, and my Spanish brother, Gianluca, flew into town at the beginning of July to stay with us for another month. Adding another person to our already hectic family isn’t that big of a deal (my mom likes to say, “I’ve already got three kids so four doesn’t make a difference”) but it did add to our schedule because he had group events he had to be at.

4th of July was so much fun. Not only do the Spaniards love the holiday and get really into the USA spirit, but our town hosts a huge concert and festival every year. There are food trucks, singers, games, and more. This year The Fray performed and my family and friends and I had a great time!

We also brought Gianluca to the beach with us for a week. Edisto Island, South Carolina is one of my favorite places in the world. We used to go every summer growing up with the group my dad was stationed with in Germany while he was in the Army. Because of kids getting older and schedules getting crazier we stopped going 3 or 4 years ago. This year my family decided to go back because we missed the island and beach so much. It was weird not having the large group there, but we enjoyed our time and were able to do things we had never done before because we couldn’t get everyone on the same page. We went to Charleston for a day, did a big seafood diner, and went kayaking. Overall, it was a great trip and I hope we continue to go in the future.


Enjoying the beach at sunset! July 8, 2018

The one thing I realized over that trip and the summer in general is how hard of a time I have relaxing. I can’t sit down and enjoy doing nothing. I always have to be doing something. This year at school I am going to try to plan on using one day a week as my “sabbath.” These are days I won’t do any school work. Instead, I will focus on activities in the area I have been wanting to do, reading, or doing nothing. I think it will help me learn how to relax and enjoy myself again.

In August I went to the Zac Brown Band concert for the first time. The tickets were my parent’s birthday present to me and it was one of the better presents they have given me. I feel like I am at the age and point in life now where I don’t need material things and I would rather have experiences and memories. The concert was amazing, not only because of the singing but because of the incredible instrumentals. I was blown away by the violinist and in awe the entire night.

I was also able to visit my Grandpa in St. Louis right before moving back to school. I said this in a previous post, but I love St. Louis. I really don’t sweat the small stuff when I’m there because I feel so far removed from a lot of my worries. It makes me so happy that I am able to see my grandpa so much and visit him for short weekends when I want to. I enjoy spending time with him and I really value our relationship. My friend Reagan came with me to visit and we had fun getting BBQ and soda floats, visiting the original Anheuser-Busch location, seeing the remodeled Arch museum, and more.


Our classic selfie in front of the arch! August 11, 2018

Move in was fast and tiring, but went well. I moved back to school a week early for a couple of reasons. The first was that I was ready to be back and had already been paying for my apartment since June (that’s how they get you). The second is that the Friday night of my original move in day was the first home football game and my youngest brother Trey’s marching band debut. My parents didn’t really want to miss that. The third is because my friend Jane and I decided to go stay with my family friends in DC for a few days before classes started and our schedules became too hectic for us to go another time.

We woke up early and drove the 5 hours up on Sunday. We then proceeded to attend not only a Nationals game, but also a DC United game all in that one day. It was exhausting but so much fun. The Nationals’ park is very nice and even though they were blown out, we still had a great time. The new DC United stadium was awesome. It was just built and has so many high-tech, fan friendly aspects to it. The game had a great atmosphere and it was fun to watch Wayne Rooney play.


At the new Audi Stadium, home of DC United. August 19, 2018

The next day was packed full of fun activities, tours, and stops! We got up and when for a run across the river and by the Navy Yard and then headed to the National Mall for sight-seeing. Over the course of 6 or 7 hours we saw the Botanical Garden, the Native American History Museum, the White House, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Archives, and the Natural History Museum. We headed back home with sore feet and a need for sleep and had We the Pizza for dinner.


The Natural History Museum. August 20, 2018

The next morning we got up early to visit an exhibit at the Library of Congress, as well as Ford’s Theater. We then headed to Georgetown for lunch and Baked and Wired Cupcakes, where we got caught in a torrential downpour. We headed home full, soaking wet, and happy. I’m glad we made this trip before classes started because we would have never been able to once they did. Jane and I both love DC and had a blast, so it was the perfect way to end the summer.

I’m going into my third week of classes and so far I am enjoying the majority of them and my schedule in general. I will make sure to post about the semester in December, but I am aiming to blog about more of my adventures before then!

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.


Elon: One down, three to go

Year one is done and I can’t believe I am a college sophomore already! This past year flew by and I know the next three years will too. I genuinely love being at Elon and I’m both happy and sad to have finished up my first year. I’ve been home for almost a month and I’m already ready to go back. I miss the people, the daily schedule, and my dear old oaks. Fun fact: Elon is Hebrew for “oak tree.”

Over Winter Break I took a quick trip to visit my grandpa in St. Louis with some friends. St. Louis is one of my favorite places and visiting always makes me feel more centered and calm about what is going on in my life. We had a great time and I’m happy we were able to go. Going out to NC was tough for me because I knew I was moving myself farther away from my grandfather. He’s the best listener and always makes me feel better when I’m feeling down.


My second semester was both fun and crazy busy and I continued to learn more about myself along the way. Before I talk about my second semester though, I have to take a minute to talk about my Winter Term in January. A quick rundown: Winter Term is a three week term in January where students have the option to take one class, study abroad, or stay at home. Other schools around the country have a schedule like this, but many students at other schools don’t utilize it. At Elon, a large majority of students are participating in Elon programs during this time.

Through my Fellows Program, I was required to be on campus for this Winter Term to take an introduction to research class. We learned how to create a research question, find credible sources, and write a research paper. Although this wouldn’t have been my first choice on how to spend the month, it was definitely worth it. The class was hard and required an extensive amount of outside effort and work, but I feel much more prepared for the research I am required to do junior and senior year because of it. We did two mini-research projects and mine were on military film depictions and the opioid crisis’ effect on voting in the 2016 election. I enjoyed both and was proud of the final products.


One of my favorite pictures: me and Mack in front of her future place of employment! 

The best part of Winter Term, and possibly my favorite part of the whole year, was our program trip to Washington DC. The fellows program paid for us to take a bus up, stay in a hotel, and have a metro card. Our professors also set up amazing tours and interviews for us to do throughout the week. I visited the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cook Political Report, the National Art Gallery, and so much more. We also had a lot of free time and independence to create our own schedules. I was able to meet up with family for dinner a couple times and wander around the city with friends. I became closer with my friends and got to meet a lot of other great people in my program. There are 50 of us and it was nice to bond with the people I’ll be with for the next three years. I also just love DC and hope to live there one day, so it was nice to get a feel for the city.


Me and Nicole and Abe! 

At the end of Winter Term I had a five day break, so I came home to relax, refresh, visit friends, and celebrate my birthday with my family. The nice part about the January break is that the entire time I’m in college I will be home on or around my birthday. I went to visit friends at Ohio State during this time, and enjoyed seeing everyone and finally getting up to OSU’s campus. I liked the campus well enough, but that visit confirmed that a small school was the right decision for me. I freaked out immediately after driving on campus because of how crowded and big it was, if that tells you anything.

When I left to go back to school after this break, I had a really hard time. I think a large part of this was because I knew I wasn’t coming home again until the end of school. This meant I would be gone for four months and wasn’t sure when I would see my family next. Looking back, it was perfectly normal for me to feel this way, but at the time I was so mad at myself for getting upset, specifically going into my second semester of school. Now for second semester.

Class-wise, everything went well. I had a few classes I really enjoyed, and others that weren’t the best but were requirements. I ended with really good grades and decided to be an International Global Studies (Latin American concentration) and Spanish double major with a Communications minor. I’m still debating adding a History minor, but we will see if I have time.

I also tried out Air Force ROTC this past semester. There were parts of it I really enjoyed, and I loved becoming friends with the other Elon cadets, but I decided not to continue in the program for a few reasons. I am so happy I tried the program and experienced what ROTC is like. I put a lot of thought into the decision to start with the program as well as the decision to not continue on next year, and I am happy with how everything went.



The Elon cadets before our dining out. 

Another important part of my semester was going to Houston to participate in hurricane recovery over Spring Break. I was very nervous about the trip at the beginning because I barely knew the other people on it and wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision to not go home. All of those nerves were for nothing though. Everyone on the trip was amazing and I made so many new friends. It was very rewarding and fulfilling to be able to meet people in the Houston community, hear their stories, and help them out. We bonded in a way only a trip of strangers doing physical work can. Texas has its own culture and feels like a totally different world. I ripped out drywall, took down molding, threw out personal belongings, slept on a cot, and had a great week. It was humbling to see the work that still needs to be done in Houston almost 9 months after Harvey. If anyone is considering participating in an Alternative Break trip of any kind, I highly encourage you to take the risk and go.


Outside the first house we gutted. We spent two and a half days ripping everything out. 

My friendships only grew over the past semester, and I feel like I have a solid group amazing people that I can rely on. We are all from all across the country, which isn’t fun right now since we don’t get to see each other, but it creates a very interesting and diverse group. I continued to play club soccer and volunteer at Family Abuse Services and can’t wait to get back into the swing of things in the fall. I also grew closer with my Christian group and am hoping to find a permanent church home next year.


We surprised a few friends with an early birthday brunch picnic right before exams!

This summer I am nannying and baby-sitting. I also have an internship in Senator Portman’s Cincinnati office. So far, I like it and I am happy to have the experience here before trying to get an internship or job in DC. My family is headed back to Edisto Island, SC for a week at the beach after a four year break and I couldn’t be more excited. We are also hosting our Spanish brother, Gianluca, for the month of July and I can’t wait to keep up on my Spanish with him.

In the fall I will be living in an on-campus apartment with my roommate and suite mates from this past year because we enjoyed living together enough to want to do it again. We are all excited to have our own kitchen and be able to cook and host more get togethers. I am looking forward to my classes and am anxious to do more work toward my eventual research project. I will have my car, which will be great for exploring the area and visiting family more often.


Enjoying my smoothie, my hammock, and the NC weather! 

Elon has been such a blessing. I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be and I am so excited about what the future holds. This past year has had many challenges but through them all I have learned that I am stronger than I think I am and that taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone is when I do my best. I have felt my confidence grow along with my trust in myself. I am happy to be home, but I am anxiously awaiting my return to NC so I can continue to find my way and get settled back into my second home. Long live Elon!

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.


Europe: 2017

Alright, here we go, the last Europe: 2017 blog post! As much as I have enjoyed documenting my wonderful trips on this site, my hope moving forward is to blog about day to day experiences and thoughts more than I have been. I think the series I’ve done on here have been fun and I know they will always be a great documentation of my trips, but they can be overwhelming and, as we’ve clearly seen, difficult to stay on top of. I’m excited and a little sad this is my last post. Hopefully I’ll be blessed with another trip soon so I can start the “post and procrastinate” process all over again.

But onto my trip! A little background: after we finished in Nuremberg, the cruise continued its schedule on land by driving to Prague. My family decided to take a different route and fly to Paris to see everything we could possibly see in a day and a half.


Day 9: Paris

This morning we got up, had breakfast, and said goodbye to Janos (our self-self-proclamied “food guy” and waiter for the trip. He is the best!). While I was very sad to leave, I was excited to get to Paris. We flew out of the Nuremberg airport and landed in Paris around lunchtime. Flying in we could see the whole city from the sky and it was spectacular. The Eiffel Tower was way bigger than I thought it would be. Everyone told me it’s a monstrosity,  but I was never able to comprehend its size until I saw it towering over everything from the air. On our way to the Hotel Napoleon, we drove through the Arc de Triomphe roundabout and thought we were going to die. It’s probably around 7 or 8 “lanes”, but no one drives in the lanes, so cars are weaving in and out and it’s absolute madness.


In front of the Arc de Triomphe. August 7, 2017

Our hotel was very old and beautiful and we dropped off our bags and headed to an Italian restaurant my Uncle Jon had been to before and likes. I had a great octopus salad and we all shared a mango tiramisu (weird, but surprisingly good). After lunch Leah, Pat, Grandpa and I all walked over to see the Arc de Triomphe. It was massive and extremely beautiful. I couldn’t believe we were staying so close to such an iconic landmark.

After we went back to the hotel to grab Uncle Jon we walked down the famous shopping Avenue des Champs-Elysees, window shopping and wandering through stores. We headed back to the hotel and Leah and I rushed to get ready for dinner in the Eiffel Tower. Oh ya, did I mention we had dinner inside the Eiffel Tower? We may have rushed to get ready, but man did we look good.

The restaurant, Les Jules Verne, is on the second deck of the tower and we had an amazing six course meal with a breath taking view of Paris. We were even inside for the sparkling light show the tower has at night. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget. Tomorrow we get to tour the city!


Right before dinner inside the Eiffel Tower. August 7, 2017


Day 10: Paris

Today was very on-the-go and we saw so many sites! Jon hired a private tour guide to show us around and it was a great way to see everything in a short amount of time. We had a comfy van and would drive from site to site, stopping at some to get pictures or grab food. Our tour guide Pamela was very sweet and really knew the city (which I guess is her job but still, I was impressed).

Our first stop was Montemarte, the city’s main and oldest art district sitting on a hill overlooking everything. It’s Uncle Jon’s favorite part of Paris and it’s easy to see why. Picture every movie you’ve ever seen about Paris, this section of the city looks exactly like the picture in your head. It’s insane. As I’m sitting in my dorm room bed writing this post, I’m sitting under a small canvas I got in Montemarte of the view of the city. I still can’t get over its beauty and I look at that painting often to remind myself how lucky I am.


In front of the Eiffel instead of in it. August 8, 2017

After Montemarte we went to the Eiffel again, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and much, much more. We had lunch at a very French bistro and then drove out to Versailles to tour the palace and its grounds. Its richness and overall grandeur was insane. Every room was either covered in gold or paintings of Greek/Roman gods and goddesses. Or both. The hall of mirrors was like nothing I have ever seen before and the gardens were enormous.


The hall of mirrors inside Versailles. August 8, 2017

After the palace we went back to Montemarte and bought paintings and wandered around until we ducked into a very old building for dinner. I was feeling very dehydrated at the hotel so Leah and I went downstairs and each got an entire glass bottle of water and went back to the room and chugged them. We want to come back to tour the gardens more and do a few graveyard tours. Uncle Jon believes Jim Morrison is still alive so going to see his grave is a must.


The view from Montemarte. August 8, 2017

We had an amazing time and I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful, caring family that is able to take me to see incredible sites and celebrate my accomplishments. God is so good and has filled our world with so much beauty that I would be lucky to explore only a tiny fraction of it in my lifetime.

I cannot express my gratitude for this trip and my love for the people on it and for the people who have always supported me and my dreams. You will never know how much you mean to me.

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.


Europe: 2017

So far, so good for my New Years resolution to post more often! I’m back at school and had a lot of free time today, so I put “write a blog post” on my to-do list. Here’s hoping this will be the start of a positive habit. Only time will tell though. Keep reading to hear more about the German section of my vacation!


Day 7: Regensburg

This morning we were able to relax on the boat and take some time to refresh before arriving in Regensburg, Germany. The town only has about 150,000 people, making it half the size of Bratislava. Our tour guide for the day was excellent. She had taken a “peace and conflict” class and was able to provide a lot of information, along with personal comments about the city that she calls home.

Our tour was a city tour and brought us to a wide variety of landmarks. We saw the cathedral (you can’t go to a European town and not see the cathedral), the old city walls and fort that protected the original army and townspeople from native tribes and other invaders, Oskar Schindler’s house, the hat maker’s shop who made Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter hat for Alice in Wonderland, a David and Goliath mural that I found particularly interesting, the oldest sausage house in Germany, and the oldest coffee house in Germany.


David and Goliath mural in Regensburg. August 5, 2017

A couple of side notes: I did not know much about Oskar Schindler before this trip and made sure to watch Schindler’s List when I got back home. His story is very powerful and extraordinary and looking back, I am very happy we were able to see into a small part of his remarkable life. We also made sure to have coffee and sausages from the famous places and while I was slightly disappointed in the coffee (I thought the coffee in Mondsee, Austria was better), the sausage was the best I have ever had and I wish I had gotten more.

Regensburg was a really great size for me and I really enjoyed the city and our day. That night on the ship was the Captain’s Dinner, so Leah and I dressed up, attempted to dance, and had a grand old time!

Day 8: Nuremberg

Again, we had another relaxing morning on the boat – our last one – before we arrived in Nuremberg. Nuremberg was special to me because it was very close to where my mom and dad lived and met when they lived in Germany. We have never been back to visit as a family, something we really need to do, but it meant a lot to me to see their old stomping grounds.

Uncle Jon, Leah, and I did the World War 2 tour and saw the sites of the Nazi rallies and the Nuremberg Trials. Visiting and learning about these places made me realize how little I learned about them in school, which really upset me. On top of that, to look up at a place where Hitler once stood was disgusting, chilling, shocking, and powerful all at once. I don’t feel like those words really describe the feeling I had, but I don’t know how else to describe it because it was a feeling I had never had before. I want to learn more about these sites moving forward because we have to be educated in order to not repeat the past.


What remains of the stadium where the Nuremberg Nazi Rallies were held. August 6, 2017

We had some time in the afternoon to wander around the Old Town center of Nuremberg and we stopped to eat some fantastic crepes and look inside of their Catholic Church. That night we had our last dinner on the boat and packed up to get ready to leave for Paris in the morning!

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Europe: 2017

It seems I have fallen back into a bad habit. For some reason, I am unable to post my vacation stories or pictures in a timely manner no matter what the trip is or how good my intentions are to get everything up. I just finished my first semester of college though, so I feel like that’s a somewhat acceptable excuse/explanation to why I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I should. Going into the new year I am going to try a lot harder to put time aside to take a break from my hectic school schedule and write.

Without further ado, let’s continue into the Austrian part of my summer river cruise!


Day 4: Vienna

Vienna was one of the bigger cities we traveled to and it had gotten mixed reviews from my relatives who had visited before. I knew it had a rich history and was the epicenter of the Habsburg empire that influenced so many of the places we stopped at along the Danube, but I was weary of how touristy and big it was going to be. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Everyone got up early to take a tour of the old city. Leah and I actually had to be woken up five minutes before the tour left because we overslept, so that was a fun start to the day. While Vienna is huge, the old city section makes it feel smaller and I liked it more than I thought I would. We were able to see government buildings, Holocaust memorials, old streets lined with traditional shops, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. At the end of the tour we had some free time before going back to the boat and we found a traditional bakery with amazing Austrian pastries.


Mohnzelten are traditional Austrian pastries filled with a sweet poppy seed paste. August 2, 2017

In the afternoon I made the last minute decision to visit the Schönbrunn Palace- the Habsburg’s summer palace. Leah and Uncle Jon went shopping while the rest of our party stayed on the boat, so I went alone. I am really happy I made this decision and I am proud of myself for doing what I wanted to do instead of going along with the group. The palace was extremely hot but very beautiful, and it gave me a lot more insight into the history of Vienna and Maria Theresia. I was able to meet other guests from the boat that I wouldn’t have talked to otherwise, and I enjoyed talking with them. Once the tour was over we had time to explore the gardens by ourselves so I wandered around and took pictures until another woman by herself offered to take pictures of me. She spoke very limited English and was not from the boat, but we swapped cameras and got a few nice pictures out of the whole exchange, which I thought was very cool.



The Schönbrunn Palace, home of the Habsburg family. August 2, 2017

After dinner on the boat Pat, my grandpa’s girlfriend, Leah, and I went to a Mozart and Strauss concert in a concert hall in the city. Not only was there beautiful orchestra music, but opera singing and traditional dancing. It was and unforgettable and unique experience.

Day 5: Dürnstein, the Wachau Valley, and Melk

This morning we woke up in Dürnstein, Austria. It’s a village of about 200 people, although that number goes up during tourist season. The town is basically straight from Beauty and the Beast. Set on a hillside with the castle ruins that once held Richard the Lionheart above it, the town only has one main road and is full of adorable shops. It is best known for its monastery with a blue steeple. Leah and I were fascinated by the town cemetery and spent a good amount of time wandering through it.


The town graveyard in Dürnstein. August 3, 2017

After a tour of the town Leah and I went on an 18 mile bike ride through the Wachau Valley, a valley known for its mountains, small towns, vineyards, and apricot products. It was almost 100 degrees out and the ride was hilly and long, but Leah and I made it through with only a few blisters and we were happy we got to experience the valley in that unique way. We have decided visiting the valley again when we graduate college because staying the the towns along the river sounds like a great trip.


The blue steeple in Dürnstein gives the town a unique landmark. August 3, 2017

At the end of the ride we arrived in Melk, grabbed something to eat quickly on the boat, and headed back out to tour the Melk Abbey. The abbey sits on a hill above the town and is massive. It is yellow (a common color for Austrian buildings) and features guest rooms, a school, a museum and a church. Maria Theresia stayed there once and many other famous Europeans have visited. The library was my favorite part because it looked exactly like the library from the Beast’s castle or Harry Potter. The abbey also had breathtaking views of the town below it and our beloved Danube.


A panorama of the view from the Melk Abbey. August 3, 2017

Day 6: Salzburg

Today we took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. We got off the boat in Linz, Austria, where Adolf Hitler was born, early in the morning and boarded and bus for a 2.5 hour ride through Austria’s Lake District, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our first stop was in Mondsee to visit the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married in The Sound of Music. A large part of our day was centered around scenes from the movie and Leah and I luckily decided to refresh our Sound of Music knowledge by watching the movie the night before.


Part of the Austrian Lake District

Mondsee was right on a lake at the foot of the mountains and its beauty was a wonderful introduction to the district. Uncle Jon and Leah and I were able to sit down at a cafe and drink the best iced coffee I have ever had, complete with ice cream on top. We then continued on to Salzburg, passing by one lake and small town after another. My pictures won’t do any justice but it was unbelievable how stunning the scenery was. Leah and I have decided that the Lake District is definitely a place we would like to live in for a while.


The best iced coffee ever! August 4, 2017

Salzburg was bigger than I thought it would be, although it is the 4th largest city in Austria so I’m not sure what I was expecting. When we drove up the first thing we noticed was the massive fortress situated on a mountain above the town. We started our tour at the Mirabelle Gardens, where part of the song “Do Re Mi” was filmed for the movie. There was a wedding party taking pictures while we were there and it was fun to watch. We then spent an hour getting a tour of the old city. Salzburg has a main shopping street full of very interesting shop signs. The oldest sign in the city actually hangs above a McDonald’s, which I found fairly amusing. We also saw the building where Mozart lived and a very traditional market. Next, we made our way to the fountain and square used a few times in The Sound of Music and our guide told us how much uproar the movie caused because it had to hang up Nazi flags for a scene.


A busy shopping street in the old city. You can see the McDonald’s sign, the oldest sign in the city, on the right hand side. August 4, 2017

After our tour ended we went to lunch at a local restaurant Uncle Jon found in a quieter part of town. It was nice to get away from the crowds. I order the “Austrian Dumpling Mystery” (that was its actual name) and got 6 dumplings, paired off into three different kinds, that were all very good. I also tried Austrian Herbal Lemonade, which was delicious. We wandered around after lunch a little more and then got back on the bus to meet up with the boat in Passau, Germany. There was no border patrol or checkpoints between Austria and Germany because they are both a part of the EU, so we drove right in, which was very weird in comparison to our borders.

Leah and I wandered around Passau for about 30 minutes, quickly finding the town square and cathedral, before we had to be back on the boat for dinner. I wish we had had more time to explore, but that’s why we need to go back!

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