Travel: Nashville, TN

Every time that I visit a new city, my traveler’s soul is filled to the brim with happiness! After this month, I’m one step closer to reaching 50 states before I turn 30, and my husband Mike and I were able to put another pin on our travel map together. Our trip to Nashville has a special place in my heart for so many reasons, and I’m excited to share with you why!

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure: Five days was the perfect amount of time to spend in the greater Nashville area. We explored everything the city had to offer, taking part in so many fun activities thanks to our amazing local tour guides, who are friends of ours from our time at Biola University.

Okay, so let’s dig into my favorite activities in Nashville, and why this place needs to be the next city on your bucket list:

  1. The epic bar scene. I had never experienced a social scene quite like Broadway Street in Nashville before. When we were walking through downtown I had a smile on my face as we walked by building after building filled with happy people and live music. Personally, my favorite of each place we visited was Nudie’s Honky Tonk – it was the first bar we went to and in my opinion the music was the best. I’d also give a special shout out to Crazy Town, which had an outdoor area with a nice view of downtown at night.
  2. Girl time at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. One morning we spent a few hours at Cheekwood walking around the gardens and mansion, finding endless spots for photos and Instagram stories. It was so refreshing to walk the grounds, and experience a classic piece of Nashville history. As we toured the mansion, we learned that the owners founded Maxwell Coffee – a fun surprise!
  3. Slowing down at the Farm. We were lucky enough to spend some time in Franklin, TN, where our friends had a multi-acre farm ready for us to ATV, Dirtbike, and enjoy the outdoors. The ride to the farm took us down country roads with gorgeous lands, homes, and animals. Spending time on the farm was the perfect opportunity to slow down from our non-stop weekend and experience God’s country. We definitely sang a round or two of “God Bless America” while we were there.
  4. The Pedestrian Bridge. The entire time we were in Nashville I was looking for that perfect skyline view, and I found it at the Pedestrian Bridge! Right next to Broadway Street we found a walking bridge where you can see sweeping views of the city, and I was in heaven. I think if I had the option I would have sat on a bench looking at the views for hours! Fun fact: the famous music video “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” was filmed on the Pedestrian Bridge.
  5. Southern Culture. Each city across the globe has it’s own personality and culture, and in Nashville I experienced a dose of that southern hospitality. From interacting with the locals, to eating at Loveless Cafe, to learning about this history and importance of music in Tennessee, to driving through all of the neighborhoods (and seeing Carrie Underwoods house), Nashville now has a piece of my heart. Experiencing the southern culture reminded my how different each part of the United States is, and why I love every sub-culture that it has to offer.

Enjoy this short video encapsulating our unforgettable Nashville adventure! 

Travel: Orono, Maine

Although I grew up in New England, my family never quite reached the Maine border when we traveled, always stopping for camping adventures in New Hampshire. When my brother started attending University of Maine in Orono, I finally made a couple treks up north. In May, I flew to the East Coast to attend my brother’s graduation, and spend some good old quality time in his college town! Here are some of my favorites.

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure:

Orono Brewing Company & Nest

OBC is an awesome brewing company in downtown Orono that is small, but mighty. We loved our time there drinking a flight of nice brews, and laughing endlessly over one of their retro trivia games. My other favorite location on the main strip in Orono is their coffee shop – Nest. I went there twice! I would definitely be a regular there if I was a UMaine student.

Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park – check! Another National Park added to the list, and it didn’t disappoint. We drove a little more than an hour from Orono to see the sweeping views of mountains and the sea, did a quick hike (got to love those classic New England Trails), and spent some time in downtown Bar Harbor. A couple foodie highlights for us were the clam chowder and lobster rolls at the Thirsty Whale, and Black Raspberry ice cream at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium.

The Bog Walk

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A favorite excursion of ours during our time in Maine this year was checking out the Bog Walk, which is a one mile wetland trail that is peaceful, uncrowded, and beautiful. It’s perfect for a little day retreat with a friend, or even a solo walk to clear your mind and be in nature.

Our trip to main can be summarized by the notable quote: “Maine. The way life should be.”

Travel: Campinas, Brazil

It’s time for a very overdue and wonderful reflection about my nine day trip to Brazil this Spring. For me, the trip came quickly after committing to make the journey, and somewhere in between came two months of preparation and fundraising, which went as smooth as can be! Unlike other trips that I’ve blogged about, this one was unique in the sense that it was not by any means a vacation – it was a service trip and an opportunity to enrich the lives of the children, students, and professionals that we encountered.

Time Spent: 9 days

The Adventure: 

As I write, it’s hard to know where to begin. My first trip to South America was an amazing and remarkable experience that I will never forget. Normally I have some sort of expectations as to what my travels will bring, but with Brazil I went in with open eyes, an open heart, and no expectations which allowed me to be fully in the moment.

Volunteering at the City of Youth through Hope Unlimited for Children included multiple photography projects for their marketing department, painting one of the homes that 12 children live in, spending time with staff to encourage them in their efforts, and celebrating the children in a variety of ways. One of my favorite evenings from our trip was our birthday party celebration for kids that had birthdays which fell between January and March of this year. Did you know that many of the children that live in the impoverished communities have never been celebrated? Could you imagine not celebrating or not even knowing your own birthday? We made this a celebration of epic proportions – $5 to pick out your candy, popcorn and soda watching Bella e Terra (Beauty and the Beast), ice cream, and a special dinner at the mall afterwards. We loved spoiling these kids!

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When I think about the most impressive part of the trip, I remember being so amazed at the scope of what they do at the City of Youth – from housing 110 children, to hosting vocational courses, to providing physical, emotional, and spiritual therapy to the 3-18 year olds who live there. The staff and leadership at this organization and phenomenal and SO compassionate towards these children. Often times hearing their stories made us emotional, but I find that moments like that were what brought us together.

We refrain from posting any photos of the children from the organization to social media because they are considered at-risk youth. Otherwise, I would love to share more photos of the kids I photographed during my time in Brazil. For anyone who is interested in learning more about my trip, or to gain access to my private share of photos, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Travel: Raleigh, NC

It’s funny the way that life unfolds – the roads you travel, the decisions you make, the inspirations you have. For us, what was a fleeting thought that said “Hey, we should go see a UNC Chapel Hill Basketball game” turned into buying tickets, flying to North Carolina, and road tripping down the east coast for 8 days.

We began our South East Coast adventure in Raleigh, NC and stayed at a hotel local to Chapel Hill and Durham because we knew we had a lot to cover in a short amount of time!

Time Spent: 2 days

The Adventure:

Our red eye flight landed on a sunny and beautiful North Carolina morning, and all we had was our backpacks in hand – we did not want the burden of luggage weighing us down. After renting our road trip car, we drove downtown for a “Welcome to Raleigh” breakfast at a local spot – Morning Times. I remember ordering a hazelnut latte, a egg and cheese biscuit, and grabbing a window seat. Oh, and let’s not forget my impulsive lavender lemon cookie purchase so early in the morning – totally worth it.

After settling into our hotel that morning and taking a quick nap we were up and ready for our first official “southern” lunch with a friend I met at Dell EMC. Quick note – you’ll notice that a lot of our trip was centered around eating… lot’s of eating. She took us to Mama Dip’s in downtown Chapel Hill, and we weren’t disappointed! Luckily for us, we were able to walk off that fried chicken and explore UNC Chapel Hill’s gorgeous campus before the game that night.

Dressed in light blue, we joined 21,000 die hard UNC Chapel Hill fans at the Dean Smith Center for a game against Virginia. Mike and I can both attest to how amazing this experience this was – the energy, the school spirit, and the basketball talent was unreal. All of our inspiration for this trip came to life in this moment, and it was worth every penny!

Our second day was spent primarily in Durham, NC visiting some hot local eateries like Elmo’s Diner, Monut, and Cocoa Cinnamon. After hours of divulging, we explored Duke University & the gardens on campus. I’d been to this Harry Potter styled college before, and it was just as gorgeous as I had left it! We finished the night at Buku in downtown Raleigh, which is a tasty restaurant inspired by world street food – highly recommend! To end the night we asked our waiter for a great spot for drinks, and he pointed us to Foundation Cocktail Bar, which was once a speakeasy in the roaring 20s – how cool! The bartenders were experts in their craft, and we had a blast trying their drinks and asking them all sorts of questions.

We were certainly blessed on our visit in North Carolina by the gorgeous weather, amazing food, and the UNC basketball blowout. You’ll see us again, NC!

 

Travel: San Francisco

Love the place you live.

Last Summer we put pen to paper and wrote down all of the fun activities and towns to explore in the San Francisco Bay Area (check out our Our Bay Area Bucket List). Since we created this list, we have had a great time checking everything off! More recently I also decided to kick off 2017 with a “Food Bucket List” and slowly eat my way through the Bay Area thanks to the recommendations of my wonderful foodie friends.

Favorite Destinations

Point Reyes: Visiting Point Reyes was one of the first items that we checked off our bucket list as it came highly recommended by a friend. Before we drove along the coast, we drove to Point Reyes Station, explored the little downtown area, and visited Heidrun Meadery. Heidrun is the only place in the world that makes its mead via the champagne process. It was fascinating to take a tour of their small factory, and learn about how mead is made! Did you know that mead is a honey based beverage? Let’s just say I took a few bottles home with me.

Half Moon Bay: To our great surprise, our family and friends treated us to a night at the Ritz Carlton in HMB to celebrate our one-year anniversary. We spent the weekend riding horses on the beach, drinking chai, and walking along the gorgeous paths along the waterfront at the resort. We left our weekend with hearts (and bellies) full!

Favorite Food

Teahouse in San Francisco: I had the perfect opportunity to try out one of San Francisco’s many tea houses when one of my best friends from Boston came to visit. Amidst a long itinerary was a stop at the Samovar Tea Lounge in the SOMA district. What I loved about this tea lounge was the location and the menu. We sat on their rooftop deck surrounded by the downtown buildings with perfect weather as we sipped on our international tea pairing – we split the Chinese & Russian Pairing, and of course I had to try their Chai Tea. Since my first visit I’ve been back twice!

Russian River Brewing Company: Let me describe the perfect Sunday afternoon for you – taking a gorgeous road trip north of San Francisco, hiking around a lake, playing spikeball with friends, and sipping world class beer. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty ideal to me! And it was. We had Russian River on our bucket list because of one specific beer – Pliny the Elder. Another one of my favorite breweries I’d like to give a shout out to is the 21st Amendment Brewery in SF – visit if you are ever downtown!

We’ve just begun dining our way through our food bucket list, and I can’t wait to expand more on our favorites. To see a running list of where we’ve been so far, click here. 

Favorite Activities

Red Sox VS A’s Baseball Game: Although it is more likely that you would find us at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, we put the Oakland Coliseum on the bucket list this summer – check! Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 14 different parks, and I was happy to see my home team, the Boston Red Sox, play as I visited my 15th.

Hiking Our Local Trails: One huge plus for us living in the Bay Area is that we are surrounded by mountains that fill our weekend plans with lot’s of hiking! Our favorite hikes to date have been Castle Rock, Fremont Older, Mt. Tam State Park, and Rancho San Antonio. 

Travel: Central Oregon Coast

“Unexpected adventure makes for a better story.” -Unknown

We didn’t plan for the Central Oregon Coast originally. To be honest, Crater Lake was my first choice – closer in location and guaranteed to be beautiful. When plans changed, as they often do in life, I looked at Oregon and picked a new spot on the map, which happened to be along the coastline, and we went for it! Our long weekend quickly approached, and me and all of my travel companions happily took a Friday off and started to make the 10 hour trek to meet with our friends from College. That alone was worth the trip for me, but our experience exploring Sunset Bay State Park was one I’ll never forget. It was that unexpected adventure.

Our campground was clean, friendly, and ideal considering that I found it doing some basic research on the internet! There was no better way to spend our first evening together on the coast than by playing Spikeball on the beach – well, learning how to play. The beach was a gorgeous little inlet with cliffs surrounding us on almost every side, and was just a 2 minute walk from our site.

We spent one whole day hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, which began at our beach and extended for four miles south along the coastline. It was truly one of the most magical and wonderful experiences, with stunning surprises around every turn. With sweeping views of the cliffside and ocean, a rock formation full of SEALS, deer sightings, giant evergreens, and a garden that looked like my depiction of heaven, I was in awe.

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Oregon, I was blown away and completely surprised by you. What a wonderful adventure.

Our Bay Area Bucket List

For someone who loves to travel, experience new cultures, and is itching to Instagram that next beautiful foreign landscape shot, facing the reality that you cannot spend 5 weeks out of the year traveling the world feels one thing – the WORST. I’ve had some pretty terrible lows this year realizing that I do not have the time nor the money for a big international trip, which makes it even more painful when I scroll through my newsfeed each day to see my friends traveling through Thailand, Peru, Canada, and parts of Europe.

My husband laughs at me each day when I bring up our next big trip because I consistently have at least 5 trips planned in my head at one time. And he knows I’m serious 😉

In addition to my need for travel (all the time), I am a total ESFJ: I love making lists and checking things off to feel that sense of accomplishment. The pairing of these two aspects of my life left me feeling like I needed to do something, especially seeing as I wouldn’t be flying to Bali, Japan, Greece, or Norway this year.

We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area almost 1 year ago, and I’ve been happily overwhelmed with the amount of things to do here! To satisfy my need for exploration, we created a “Bay Area Bucket List” filled with activities, restaurants, and experiences that we could partake in within 50 miles of where we live today. Thanks to many friends and family, we have a great list, and it’s growing! Below, you can see our list, and a few of the activities we have already crossed off. I’ve been so happy this year slowly crossing items off the list. IMG_1185

Bucket lists are a great alternative to traveling that helps you do one very important thing – love the place you live!

PS – Feel free to comment and let us know if you have any ideas for bucket list items!