There is a forest in my backyard. Like you can actually get a little lost back there. You can also get a lot of poison ivy … but that’s another story. It’s truly magical. One of my favorite things to do (on the rare occasion that it’s not raining or wet) is sit in my hammock and take it all in. I love that only small slivers of sky can be seen through the lush trees. It’s like being transported to another place and time. My hope is that this year’s Winter is too apocalyptic so that I might enjoy my canopy view as long as possible.
After a whirlwind 8 years of living, learning and exploring in New York City, Prague, Paris, Moldova and India and countless travels around the world; I'm back home in Georgia figuring out what to do next.
Those who know me, know I love the outside. I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors but it wasn’t until I reached my 25th year that I realized how much. To feed my love for nature, my lovely sister planned a weekend up in North Georgia just outside a little town called Hiawassee. It was my birthday as well as my brother-in-law’s birthday, so a weekend at a cabin seemed like a great way to celebrate.
We drove the over two hours to get there (Atlanta traffic sucks!) on a Friday night. I love looking out the window and watching the scenery change mile after mile. The hills starts to appear and the world seems to get greener and greener. When the flea markets seems to appear on every corner, you know you’ve made it. We finally found our turn, drove past the barn and horses and found our little cabin amongst the trees.
Our residence for the weekend? An adorable place called Henson Cove Place.
We didn’t stay in the main house but in a little cabin just behind it. I don’t have a picture of it but it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a typical wooden cabin. I really loved our cabin but I wouldn’t have minded staying in the main house so I could enjoy the beautiful front porch more.
These trips always remind me of how much I love North Georgia. It’s so much more peaceful, beautiful and green up here.
Besides the hills/mountains, there are also tons of lakes with fantastic views.
On Saturday, we rented a boat and spent the morning out on the water. We drove around, went tubing, read and enjoyed the views. It was fantastic. I only wish we could have stayed longer.
After dropping the boat back off, we had lunch and took a long nap (and I finally got to finish The Fifth Element aka best movie ever). When we felt a little more refreshed, we got ourselves together and made our way over to Young Harris, GA to a beautiful winery called Crane Creek Vineyards.
Can it get any more beautiful than that?
We tried a number of delicious wines and chose a couple to take home. There was a white wine that we all liked, so we brought it and some cheese and crackers outside to enjoy in the sunshine. It was magical.
The evening ended after a delicious dinner at a local restaurant and some drinks on the front porch.
The next day we went hiking at Vogel State Park and then went home. A great weekend all around.
When I left the Peace Corps, I traveled for four months through most of the Balkan region (we skipped Greece), bits of Cairo and Abu Dhabi, and a good portion of Nepal and India. It was one of the most incredible adventures of my life. We did it with consideration for the environment, the culture, the people of the region and, of course, our wallets; something I hope all people will learn to do one day.
I would love to show you more pictures … but I really only have a few. That’s not to say that I don’t wish I had some more to help me remember certain parts that my memory seems to let go of as time passes. I didn’t start out on my journey thinking that I was going to go camera-less. I took pictures all of the time, in fact. They were great pictures too! It wasn’t until reviewing them one day that I realized all of my pictures had been erased. And then a little later, the camera stopped working all together. Just my luck.
At first I was frustrated. How was I going to remember this time? How was I going to tell people about my trip? How was I going to prove that I had even been there? But after awhile, I gradually began to forget. I came to realize that I had been given a gift. I could focus more on the present than constantly trying to capture the moment. In the end, I’m so glad that I didn’t spend every second of that incredible time obsessing over what pictures I was going to post on Instagram or which photos would make a great Facebook album. It was freeing.
I think people are forgetting how to just … live. Life is about more than just images online. They’re about our relationships and experiences, our wonderful and crazy relationships and experiences. I feel like they are too often being overshadowed by other “things”. As I’ve been back in the US for a year and a half now, I feel that I’ve regressed a bit too. But, I’m hoping to get back to where I was. Hopefully there’s a happy medium, where we can all embrace technology but remember to live in the here and now.
I hadn’t intended on looking into the coast of California for our adventure. The outcome was an evolution of sorts. My original search involved all of the major national parks; Arches, Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite. I wanted to see them all. Unfortunately, money, time (just 10 days) and logistics always get in the way; so I had to pick just one.
I’d heard incredible stories of trekking the wilderness of Yosemite. I imagined myself traipsing through blooming meadows, camping beneath the stars, hiking for days and staring in wonder at the endless vistas. When I decided that roughing it for a week and a half (while I’m totally up for that at any other time) wasn’t the best idea for relaxing after the whirlwind of wedding festivities, I looked into ways I could combine my love of nature and relaxation. The answer? Glamping!
The idea of ‘Glam Camping’ (I hate that word) turned into trying to find a yurt. I had always wanted to stay in one. The tee-pee like structures (round but with a flat roof) provide both proximity to the outdoors as well as comfort. There aren’t any yurts in the many campgrounds of Yosemite, so I extended my search to all of California. A simple Google search turned up a number of locations, including Big Sur. A little look at Google Maps, showed that Yosemite and Big Sur were about a four hour drive from each other. I can do that!
From the pictures online, Big Sur looked magnificent. I, of course, had heard of it before. From the writings of the Beat Generation to poets and musicians inspired by the scenery, I had been reading about it for years. I knew at once that I had to see what all the fuss was about. We booked our yurt and it was on to the next step.
After we had our yurt booked, (five days, four nights), we reserved two nights in Yosemite. I wish I could have designated more time for Yosemite, but the views from our accommodations in Big Sur were just too good to not spend a whole lot of time there. Plus, I knew I would go back to Yosemite one day to experience the Yosemite Wilderness.
The last step of finding a place to fly into was a no-brainer. One of the closest airports and a city that had been recommended to me countless times was San Francisco. People have told me over and over again how beautiful the city is, how fun it is, how delicious the food is and how much I would love it. I was sure they were right but I had also heard about how expensive it was. Because we were planning our trip on a budget, I decided to look into AirBnB. I had used CouchSurfing many times and really loved it. If it was just your normal trip, I would have certainly gone that route. As it was supposed to be a little more relaxing, I decided to give AirBnB a try. I found a room in a great looking neighborhood, close to a number of tourist destinations and within walking distance to a few restaurants I wanted to try. It was also a great price. We reserved a whole apartment with a kitchen for much less than the boutique hotels in the area. Plus, the woman who owned the apartment was really easy to work with.
After that, we were ready to go. I’d say it was a pretty good plan for never having been to California!
I still think it’s crazy that this happened. We were the best of friends. We hung out as buds. Complained about jobs. Celebrated our successes. Discussed our other relationships. It never even occurred to me that we could be more. And then one day, we were.
I’m so thankful for the experience I had in Peace Corps. It allowed me to meet the most wonderful people, the greatest of friends and the love of my life. I learned so much about myself and the world around me. It was the Peace Corps that not only introduced me to the person I would end up marrying, but it allowed me to become my best self. Maybe that’s why it took us so long to find each other, we had to find our best selves first.
And that’s how a Georgia girl and an Alabama boy had to travel all the way to a little country in Eastern Europe called Moldova to find one another. Funny how life works.
I start graduate school at Emory University in a little over a month and I couldn’t be more ready. My biggest fear right now is that not having been a student for over 6 years will have a larger effect on me than I would like. Being home has meant “ah, I’m finally home, time to do nothing” for so long, I’m afraid it’ll take time to change those deep-seated habits. Despite the nerves, I am beyond excited to learn more about the world. I can’t wait to be surrounded by like minded individuals discussing innovative and concrete ways we can work with communities to meet their needs. Most of all (and not to take away my passion for service to others) I’m excited to no longer be in a job where I’m undervalued. I feel like this is, finally, the first step on a long road to reaching my dreams, having a CAREER in development. I want to be a valuable part of the future of development that learns from its mistakes and introduces innovative ideas that empowers others to have a larger role in determining their own future. Yes, I am an idealist, but I believe it’s possible.
I can’t wait to get on the road and drive for miles and miles with nothing but the sky above and the Pacific Ocean at my side.
I need a stenographer for my subconscious.
So I’m almost done. I can see, taste and smell the food on the horizon. I’ve even already decided on what I’m going to eat tomorrow. I. Can’t. Wait. But to be honest, this cleanse hasn’t been half bad. In fact, I think I actually enjoyed it.
I had decided in the last year that I wanted to do a juice cleanse. I have been vegan and semi-gluten free for a year and a half now and wanted to up the ante on the healthy eating. I recently began substituting smoothies for meals and boy have they become my favorite thing in the world. A refreshing smoothie with all sorts of fruits, a bit of juice, almond milk and tons of leafy greens? It sounds gross, but it is seriously the best thing ever. As I’ve been drinking more and more of my meals, I thought it was time to test out a juice cleanse.
Arden’s Garden, an Atlanta based juice manufacturer, had quickly become my go to for juices and smoothies on the go. It was delicious and a lot less expensive than the $8 per bottle from Blue Print Juices. Are they crazy?! It was inexpensive, delicious and good for you. What’s not to love about that? So that’s who I looked to for my first cleanse.
I initially looked at the two day cleanse but I quickly discarded that when I learned that you have to drink the same thing for two days straight (plus my friend told me the citric acid was hard on her stomach). The ‘Love Your Liver’ cleanse looked a little more appetizing with 6 different types of juice over 3 days. I went for it.
I think the only thing difficult about this cleanse is having delicious looking food constantly around you. I’ve gotten pretty good at resisting these urges considering more than half of the food I see on a daily basis, is not vegan and therefore off-limits. But when your coworkers are eating that awesome tempeh curry and your fiance is chowing down on some scrumptious-smelling vegan dumplings, then it gets hard. When the day is done though, I wasn’t hungry. I honestly feel like I had plenty to eat. There were often times when I didn’t feel like I could possibly drink anymore, my stomach was so full. The juices, I have to say, were not as delicious as my morning smoothies but were fine to get me through the day. My favorite? Red Apple. My lease favorite? Ph Solution. Definitely not recommended for those who don’t like the idea of drinking a salad.
All in all, I think it was a great success. I’m not quite sure if I’m feeling the full effects yet. I do feel like I have more energy but I’d have to let you know if people tell me my skin is glowing. I would, though, do it all over again. Maybe not in the next couple of months but, I could see myself doing it this year. And I will continue to substitute meals for juices when I can, but I’m still really looking forward to my Rawesome Remix salad tomorrow!
Living abroad (when you know you’re going to leave) forces you to live a more simplified life. When you’re always on the go, you don’t have time or space to complicate your life with material items, clutter and (hopefully not too much) drama. You learn to really cherish the simple things in life. The first day of Spring when you can spend the whole day outside. Walking around for hours just to enjoy the outdoors. Seeing a friendly face. Reading a book. Riding a bike. Planting flowers. Playing with animals and the neighborhood kids. Lazily watching the world go by. The time I spent living in Moldova was filled with these serene moments. I hate that I was so eager to leave and start my new life that I forgot how much I loved those moments. I want to go back to that. I want to rid my life of its dependency on things. I want to be able to just up and leave and not have to worry about all I leave behind. I want to remember that the value of my life is all of the experiences I’ve had and not the things I own. It’s what I have seen and done. The people I’ve touched and that have had an effect on me. It’s the people I love and those that love me too.
Bought myself a backpack. The only place that had good light in my apartment was the bathroom. Does this mean I’m ready for grad school?
But the one thing I need to remember, the one thing I need to do, is to just focus on the love. Because that’s all that matters. It’s even more true when other’s are focused on the other things, the things that don’t matter. The nit picking and the questioning. What does any of it accomplish? Can’t they see that it’s all just about the love?
Choosing a graduate school and choosing a graduate school when you have to think about not only you, but the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. If it was just me, I’d choose the one that’s up in the woods, amongst nature. I’d choose the one that’s going to get me out of the US as soon as I could. I wouldn’t be choosing the one that keeps me here; the one that keeps me in the US as long as possible. I want to move. I have this innate desire to just keep moving. But I love this person. I love the life we have. I love all the work that we have put into our life here. It’s completely not what I had in mind for my life at this point, but what an amazing, unexpected surprise it has been. It’s hard to combine these dreams that have been swirling through my thoughts for so long and the dreams that have formed with this other person. Where do my dreams end? Where do OURS begin? I don’t want to take anything away from what he wants in life but I don’t want to belittle the goals that I’ve been making for myself since I was little.
Where does one start and the other begin? Where do I sacrifice? Where do I keep investing in what I’ve always hoped for?
As excited as I am to get hitched to a beyond wonderful guy, I am so stoked to see my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. The last time we were all together was before we left Moldova, almost two years ago. That’s a long time to go without the people you consider your family. These are the people who understand where you’ve been and where you want to go. They’ve been through the ups and the downs. They’ve celebrated with you and comforted you. They have the same passions for service, travel, helping others and enjoying life. I have many dear friends who I can say the same about, but there’s something about being stranded in a strange country (that most people have never heard of) for two + years that bonds you for life. Yes, I know I’m getting a little cheesy here, but that’s what the Peace Corps does to you. It makes you think a little deeper about life and the people you’re spending it with. And I’ve spent time with some incredible people from all over the world. Choosing New York University, studying abroad in Prague, picking up and Moving to France, applying to the Peace Corps; these were some of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And I’m so lucky to call the people I met in these places, friends.
So, as much as planning a wedding can suck sometimes, it is seriously the best reason for a reunion. And I get to have several of them!
I really wanted to make my wedding a reflection of me. And I thought the best way to start out was to create handmade invitations using personalized stamps I purchased off Etsy and embossing them to create a nice texture. Why I thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Yes, they’re more meaningful. Yes, they’re “cute”. But, seriously? I could have done so many more things with my life these last couple of weeks. Instead I was staying indoors, stamping like a maniac (one out of 3 came out okay), shaking embossing powder over every inch of myself and the apartment, and listening to the whir of the embossing tool for hours. I’m not even sure I even saved that much money what with the ink pens, the paper, the embossing powder and tool, the envelopes and the stamps.
People keep telling me that years down the line, I’m going to be thankful that I made these from scratch. Really? I’m going to be thankful that I wasted two weeks of my life on paper that people are eventually going to throw away? I keep thinking about this with every aspect of the wedding. You spend all of this time and money on ONE DAY. ONE freaking day and then it’s all over. It just seems so wasteful to me and I don’t know how to stop thinking about it.
And, I do want that beautiful wedding. I want a perfect day to celebrate love with family and friends. I want everyone to enjoy themselves. But I also want to be frugal, environmentally friendly, less consumption oriented and to connect with the earth more. I know that it’s doable. But trying to be all of those things, again, takes so much time. It’s a bit of catch 22. I guess I just have to find the middle ground, where I can have my ‘green’ wedding but also make sure to have time to enjoy the here and now. It’s just a lot harder than I thought.