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2018 Here and Gone…

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This year has been a roller coaster of delights; ups and downs, and curves galore. I have spent much of this year working on my career goals and getting my writing mojo back. Of course I also spent the year with close friends and family and a slew of traveling. It’s been a great period of growth for me and also a period of reflection.

From a career standpoint I was able to network my way back to the city of my heart – New York City, specifically Brooklyn (and in Brooklyn specifically Bedford Stuyvesant). I am actually proud of myself that I was able to pull it off. I thought I would have to leave my current company to do it and that was almost the case, but things were able to be worked out and I am not back where I truly feel I belong and where I thrive.

I found myself in the streets of New York City, with the help of people who have become my family. We may not be blood related, but they are the family that I have patch-worked together across boroughs, cities, and even countries. Leaving the city wasn’t what I wanted, but I did what was necessary at the time; and now, I’m back to stay.

Writing, ah writing…

Back in February, my muse decided to come out and play and I was very excited. I’m happy to stay that the passion and drive that began this year didn’t fade at all; it’s actually grown in fact. I participated in both Camp NaNoWriMo’s (one in April and one in July), as well as NaNoWriMo in November.

April was a dud in the writing department, namely due to work and the big career move I was trying to make; the muse was not happy. July was better and I was able to win that and get what I needed written, which spawned a lot of planning for November. NaNo was a success in November with me being able to write more than 50k words that month. So exciting! This past month I’ve actually been working on a completely different idea as well as editing some fan-fiction that I have ready to go for some fans in particular.

All in all, it’s been a great year in the writing department – I hope it continues into 2019.

Friends and family rallied around me for a couple things this year; one, I raised money from Leukemia and Lymph Society’s Team in Training and ran the NYC Marathon this year. Huge feat – I was pissed off about my time (didn’t finish anywhere near I wanted), but in the end…I DID IT!!! It was a great accomplishment and something I’ve been wanting to do for years – so go me!

The other item on the agenda was traveling! Every year I travel and I tend to go to multiple places. This year was great because it was an awesome mix of old favorites and new exciting places. And not only were the places I visited a mix of old and new, the people I traveled with were too!

I started my year by traveling to an old favorite; San Francisco, California. I went here with some new friends from work, but one of my oldest friends in the world. It was a great way to start off 2018. Next trip was back to wine country with my sister for the BottleRock music festival. Let me tell you – the festival is expensive, but for the two of us – totally worth it. I love how much I’ve bonded with my younger sister during this time; we’ve learned a lot about each other I feel during this time.

The sisterly time wasn’t done yet; in July, she and I went to Iceland and had an awesome time. August came and went with a new city and new travel buddy! I went to Ireland for the very first time, ran an international half marathon for the first time, and travelled with a new buddy for her first trip to Ireland as well! I’d heard the food was horrible here, but I have to disagree – I ate so well while I was there. The views are fantastic along the coasts, and the city of Dublin is so cute!

As the year has wound to a close, I find myself writing from the beautiful and old city of Lisbon, Portugal. My big brother and I are enjoying our first solo international trip together. This city is breathtaking, the food is delicious, and the weather in December has been phenomenal. We’ve already decided to come back!

So what have I learned this year? There haven’t been any great flashes of insights or big revelations. The knowledge that I have learned this year has always been with me, but I guess this was the year that I finally voiced what I knew to be true for a long time.

Here’s what I figured out:

I can be disappointed in how long it took to do something; but that never negates the accomplishment of actually putting in the work and doing it.

I have an abundance of experiences that I’ve already lived through, and they are preparing me for what is to come.

I have the capacity to be so much more than what I am right now – it will just take time to get there.

I am truly and well loved and cared for.

Simple things right? Like I said, no rocket science in there at all, but still lessons learned and hard won.

With that, I will bid 2018 a hearty goodbye and farewell.

See you in 2019!

Happy New Year!

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Autumn has gone, winter is here, and the end of the year is near…

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Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.  ~ Hal Borland

My autumn truly began in Long Island, NY at another half marathon the first weekend in October. This half marathon is called the Diva’s Half Marathon and it was very fun. They gave us tiaras and feather boas to cross the finish line in as well as little champagne flutes of sparkly juice at the end.

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Run Sister Run Divas! My big sis Taj & me. 

Later in the month I went geo caching for the first time with a friend of mine in Punderson State Park here in Cleveland. It was an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. Temperatures were close to the low 60s, the sun was shining, and all of the leaves were changing colors beautifully. We hiked for a few hours caught up and then warmed up with tea. It was a great way to end the month.

November is always a short month to me because of Thanksgiving. Every year I take shameless advantage of the fact that I have a built-in four-day weekend due to turkey day. This year I went to Germany; Munich to be exact. A close friend of mine moved to the city with her husband and I went for a visit. I only stayed for a week but I was able to get a lot done. Here are some of the highlights:

Zugspitze: highest peak in the German portion of the Alps:

Architecture and History in Munich: the whole freaking city is awesome, way too much cool architecture to see in a week, will be going back to see more.

Deutsch Museum: Science & Technology Museum; this is a definite must see! You need at least half a day to get through most of this place…just plan a whole day.

Day Trips: Nurnberg (only a 2 hour train ride away)

Christmas Markets: while I was there most Christmas markets were just opening up. I was able to go to more local markets, which was very nice.

Needless to say the trip was so much fun. My friends had to work during the day say, so most of my trip I was alone wandering about, but its nice traveling alone sometimes. I had plenty of time for reflection and I didn’t rush anywhere. I was able to take my time and see the city the way I wanted to. I missed some things but not many, either way I will be going to Munich again.

My trip to Germany wrapped up my November and December blew in with crazy cold temperatures and snow here in the Northeast. Work was extremely frenetic the first two weeks and utterly dead the third week in December. My family does a holiday trip every year for the Christmas season and this year we went to Universal Studios. It was nice to get out of the cold weather and have some fun while we were doing it. Of course the highlight of my trip was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

When I look back at this year, I can’t believe it went by so quickly. So many things have happened for the good and the bad. I’m just so thankful that I am healthy, happy, and my family is well. There has been plenty of change in 2016 and I can’t wait for what 2017 brings.

Since I will probably be asleep when the New Year rolls in, Happy New Year all. See you in 2017.

Quote from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_newyears.html
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Travelling Iceland: Reykjavík and More

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“I’ve walked a lot in the mountains in Iceland. And as you come to a new valley, as you come to a new landscape, you have a certain view. If you stand still, the landscape doesn’t necessarily tell you how big it is. It doesn’t really tell you what you’re looking at. The moment you start to move the mountain starts to move.”

~ Olafur Eliasson (Danish-Icelandic Artist)

Iceland has been on my ‘Must Travel To’ list for years. My mother was stationed there during her military career; it was actually her first 15-month assignment away from home. Any time anyone asked her about the place, she said it was beautiful, and was worth the trip.

Now I’ve found out she was right. Iceland was absolutely breathtaking, from the landscape, to the people, I loved it all – this will definitely be a country that I come back to more than once.

This trip came about after talking with a great travelling buddy of mine, Katie. We’ve taken a few trips together now over the years and at the end of 2015 we both had mentioned we wanted to do Iceland one of these days and would love to go with each other.

Well – around the same time a mutual friend of ours was married and one of her friends met Katie and expressed an interest in visiting Iceland as well.

Kismet? You bet it was.

So like all people with a common goal, we decided to visit the country together the last week in January 2016.

Of course the day we fly out, there is a Snow-pocalypse on the east coast, but we all made it on time and in one piece to Reykjavík! We decided to use AirBnb for our accommodations and the little apartment we found about 40 minutes walking from the city center was adorable. Our host was amazing and even made us breakfast!

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Our first day there, we just spent getting our bearings, since we rented a car, and we decided what we wanted to do on which days. The very next day we woke up early to get into gear for our snorkeling tour of the Silfra. We booked this tour with dive.is (https://www.dive.is/). They have many different tours and are a reputable company. If you go, see if you can get Alexi as your tour guide, he was awesome!

So the Silfra was created when the two tectonic plates – European and North American – pulled apart – eons ago. There is a lake not far from the Silfra and when the plates pulled apart, water began to trickle into the location. The water is the purest water around, having been filtered for 70-100 years through lava rock.

Anyway long story short, the snorkeling was amazing. The water is super clear; you can literally see everything under water. The rock formations that were created were stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera that could last in the water. Let me forewarn you, the water is cold. And it’s not a little cold; it’s a lot cold. The temperature of the water all year long is between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade, which roughly translate to between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (I think). I think I’m going to invest in a goPro plus an insulated case for my next trip so I can take video.

After the snorkeling tour, we commenced on our own tour of the Golden Circle. Here is a brief on the circle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Circle_(Iceland). I think we hit all the major spots in the circle. The park itself is gorgeous and many more sites to see, not just these. I will return when the weather is better to do some hiking.

The next day we walked from our Airbnb into downtown Reykjavík and took a free tour of the city, after stopping by the Hand knitting Association of Iceland and picking up some awesome Icelandic yarn and sweater patterns. The tour was really good! Our tour guide was great, he told us about the history of the city and of Iceland and imparted a lot of cool local knowledge. Here is the link to sign up for the tour: http://www.freewalkingtour.is/. It is free, but they do ask for a monetary tip at the end. You can basically give how much you think the tour was worth.

After a mini break we took the car on a ten-hour day trip, to see the cute town of Vik and the black sand beach, and also Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Our day started extremely early and we drove (well Katie drove, I was the navigator) through crazy snow, and dark roads to make it to Vik when the sun rose. As we approached our destination we had to stop and pet the Iceland ponies we saw – they were too cute to pass up.

Not long after our pony stop, we reached Vik and the black sand beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The black sand was so soft; our boots literally sank down into it. The roaring of the waves and the wind was all you could hear as the waves crashed up along the beach. I could have stayed there just watching for probably a good hour or so, but after a quick lunch in town we pushed on to the glacier lagoon.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is made up from the long glacier that stretches along the tops of the mountains in Iceland. The lagoon was formed from the glacier on one side breaking apart and then the water from the ocean meeting and eroding the glacier even more, causing pieces to break apart and flow out into the open water. If you do nothing else, make this trip. There are no words to describe how amazing this place was. It’s definitely a place I’ll return to again.

On our last day in Iceland, we headed to a Geothermal Power Plant called On which powers Reykjavík to get our nerd on, which was pretty darn cool. Then we drove to a little fishing village where we wanted to eat lunch, but found out the restaurant was closed for the season and wouldn’t be opening for another week or so. Instead we stopped in another village and had some pizza, which was very good. After that we found a lava tube that was along the Ring road (literally a road that can take you all the way around Iceland) and decided to go down and investigate as much as we could. Getting down the huge snowdrifts was a challenge, but once we did, the cave was pretty cool.

During this entire time we tried (and failed) to see the Aurora Borealis. It was extremely elusive for us, though a couple of people we met and talked with had seen it before we made it to Iceland. Our final morning we tried to see it again, but just wasn’t happening for us.

Oh well – there is always next time. 🙂

So this concludes my trip to Iceland. It was awesome and I’ll definitely get back to this land of awesomeness when the weather is a little warmer and I can see more.

Until next time!

Quote Credits – Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/iceland.html
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Travelling England, Czech Republic, and Good Ole’ USA

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You would think that I was tired of travelling after being gone for so long right? Yeah no, not in the slightest; you can thank my mother for this travel bug. Summer classes started in May 2015 back in Cleveland, Ohio at Case Western Reserve University. Prior to the semester starting a great friend of mine, who was studying at Cambridge University (she’s since graduated), asked if I’d like to attend May Ball with her at her college Jesus (yes, it is called Jesus College) in Cambridge in June.

Let’s just say, it wasn’t a question in my mind. I decided that I was going! If you’d like more information on the tradition of May Balls and the history at Cambridge, Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Ball). The May Ball for Jesus College was on June 15th 2015, so I flew in a couple days early to catch up and revisit Cambridge, which is a very fun cute city. It was great getting to catch up with my buddy Katie and also get to see some events leading up to the May Ball. So rowing is a very big to do at Cambridge. The final rowing competition was happening Saturday (13th June) so Katie took me and started explaining everything before the competition started. Long story short it was a great couple of hours. The other event that we were able to see the end of was where different colleges used only cardboard to built boats and see if they could float in one of the rivers close to campus. It was hilarious, but awesome to see. Jesus College won that one – after all, it is the college known for engineers.

The day of the May Ball two more friends of Katie’s came to enjoy in the festivities as well. They had been travelling in Scotland or Ireland (I can’t remember now) and made it with a few hours to spare.

In short, the May Ball was awesome! We splurged a little and were able to get a sit down dinner in one of the special dining halls in Jesus College. The food was amazing and there was a wine paired with every course.

The theme was Wild Card, and every part of the college was decked out in the different suits of a card deck. There were also a rides; one of those high swinging rides always at carnivals, dodge em’ (aka bumper cars), laser tag, silent disco (everyone is wearing headphones), and even a concert! The headliner was James Bay, who is a newcomer on the music scene – his first album came out last year (it’s awesome btw).

The whole night was such fun! The morning is even better because there is always a survivor photo outside on the lawn, so it’s nice to be apart of that.

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Setting up for Survivor Photo! Woo Hoo!

Of course, the whirlwind party didn’t end there. As per tradition, you stay up all night, catch a couple zzz’s and then you are off to another city. Which city did we pick? How about Prague, Czech Republic. Considering I had class to get back to, I spent a lovely 16 hours in this gorgeous city, walking around, taking in the sites, and enjoying the food. I had a marvelous time with lovely lady friends. Best 4-day trip ever!

The next trip I took last year was in October 2015. My mom decided that we were going to go on a family trip to what is called the Rise Festival. Last year this took place in the Mohave Desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Essentially the Rise Festival is a festival of lights. People gather together in the middle of nowhere and light lanterns and watch them float into the heavens together.

Sounds hippy dippy right? Well it is, but it’s so very cool.

On the lanterns you can right out hopes, dreams, wishes, angry rants, whatever you want. The whole purpose of the festival is to commune with like-minded people, rid yourself of negative thoughts and energy, and put forth good energy and positivity. I was skeptical, but it was so beautiful to be a part of it.

We didn’t just do the Rise Festival while in Las Vegas. It’s Vegas! You must see a show, eat awesome food, and enjoy the landscape, and that’s exactly what we did. We visited Red Rock Canyon, which were stunning feats of natural architecture, and also experience some great cuisine on the Las Vegas Strip. The show we saw this time around was the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘O’ at the Bellagio Hotel. This is a must see show. It’s been there for a while, but well worth the money spent.

Finally I wrapped up my year in San Diego, California. I had never been to the city before, so it was great to just have a few days to chill and walk around. The Airbnb we stayed at was right downtown, which is extremely walker friendly.

So this completes my tour de 2015, as far as travels go. I had an awesome time last year, and with school it was hectic but crazy fun. I’m two posts away from being completely up to date on the blog! Yay! Stay tuned!