Experiencing Zion National Park in Two and a Half Days

Last weekend, I did something I have never done before – I camped overnight with my boyfriend in Zion National Park, located in Southern Utah. After spending only two nights, and two and a half days in Zion, it was nothing short of majestic, incredible, and completely awe-inspiring.

Though it was a bit of a last minute trip, every second of it worked out perfectly in our favor. Him and I were able to gain the full experience that we were hoping for, despite the short time frame. And that was mainly because we did our research, made smart decisions, and came prepared.

To give some context, my boyfriend lives in Northern Arizona and we’ve been in a 2,500 mile long-distance relationship for nearly a year, so we’ve been used to traveling back and forth to see each other.

We had been talking about doing some sort of trip together instead of just taking turns to visit each other in the states we live in. Eventually, we decided on a camping trip. This trip had only been in the works for about a month, so as we were coming down to the wire, we really had to nail down the logistics of the trip.

The one main concern was where to stay. Since this was so last minute, we narrowed it down to a few different campgrounds that didn’t require reservations ahead of time and finally chose South Campground, which is located near the South Entrance of the park.

We initially planned on driving out early Sunday morning, but it really turned out to be late Saturday night. We were in Sedona, AZ on Saturday night and didn’t arrive back to his place in Flagstaff, AZ until around 11:30PM. Once we got back, we packed everything ahead of time so that it would be ready to go once we left the apartment.

DAY ONE: Getting to South Campground and Hiking Angels Landing

We left Flagstaff around 1:30AM and finally arrived in the park around 6AM. It was still pitch black and the park rangers weren’t even there yet to collect entrance fees as we were driving in. The drive through the park to get to our campground was about 10-15 minutes. As we pulled up to the parking lot for South Campground, there were already 15 cars ahead of us. We weren’t assigned our campground until about 8:30AM. Once we pitched our tent, we took a quick nap and woke up around 10:00AM.

From there, we had to decide on what we would do that day. We headed to the Visitor Center to ask for recommendations and were initially deterred from doing Angels Landing that day since it was already late morning and the sun would be at its peak. We did it anyways.

We took the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center and arrived at the trail leading to Angels Landing around noon. The woman at the Visitor Center was right in the sense that it was blistering hot, but it was completely worth it. The entire hike took us around 5 hours, as we stopped several times and took our time up and back. We went to the very top of Angels Landing.

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What I can say about this hike is that it was truly strenuous, as listed on the brochure. Even as a long distance runner, this was still a challenge for me. At a certain point of the hike, you are holding onto links of chains in order to climb up to top and it hardly ever plateaus, so you are continuously going up hill with very little footing surrounding you. It’s especially hard when it’s crowded because people are constantly going up and down and you have to navigate your way around them. However, as long as you are cognizant of your movements, you’ll be fine. If you are deathly afraid of heights, this will be a huge challenge for you, but it’s certainly not impossible.

After we got to the bottom of the Angels Landing trail, where we began, we dipped our feet in the Virgin River and got a little taste of what to expect for the next day.

DAY 2: The Narrows

We woke up around 7:30AM and had planned on meeting up to hike The Narrows with two new friends that we had met along the way while hiking Angels Landing. The trail that led to The Narrows is the very last stop on the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center. We arrived at the entrance of The Narrows around 10AM and finally started our journey around 10:30AM. The very first step that we took was already up to my calves in water. We started out slow and the water levels only got higher as we continued through.

Our mission was to get to the point of The Narrows where there was a fork in the trail. Someone had recommended this to us and we had to go quite far until we arrived at that point. If you are afraid of deep water or can’t swim, I’d first be wary to recommend this hike. But, if you are adventurous, want to get away from the crowds, and don’t mind doing some climbing, then I’d recommend going all the way until the point that we hiked to.

It took an army to climb over certain areas. We were with our two new friends, a married couple, and a family of four when we were getting through some of the obstacles that we had to surpass. What I can say is that it was definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s truly an unreal experience.

We didn’t get back to the beginning of the trail until around 4:30PM – That’s about six full hours doing this hike.

Fortunately, you can turn around at any point, but again, if you want the full experience, I’d dedicate an entire day to doing this.

DAY 3: Winding down and heading out

After two very strenuous hikes, we decided to keep our third day fairly open. We still wanted to get another trail under our belts, but we wanted to do an easier, shorter one, so we decided on the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This trail was definitely more for beginners, families, or those who are interested in a beautiful walk through nature. Though it was listed as an easy trail, there are still points that are slightly uphill, but that’s to be expected for any of the trails in Zion.

Once we finished this trail, we grabbed lunch at the Zion Lodge and laid out on the grass with other tourists who were also enjoying the scenery.

We left Zion around 1:30PM and arrived back in Flagstaff a little before 6PM. The views driving through Utah were gorgeous enough to make the drive go by very quickly.

Overall, this trip was truly unforgettable and one that I would absolutely do again with more time blocked out. I’d highly recommend putting Zion National Park on the top of your list of National Parks or even just as a vacation idea if you enjoy sightseeing, hiking, and camping.

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4 Days Spent in Barcelona

A little over 24 hours ago, I arrived back in New York City after spending 4 days in Barcelona, Spain. It was my very first time traveling to Europe, and most certainly not my last. In the short amount of time that I was there, I can say that Barcelona has risen to my list of top favorite cities that I have traveled to thus far. With it’s vibrant culture, rich history, and wonderful experiences, I am in awe of how much this city has to offer.

I traveled with two of my best friends from high school. We departed for Barcelona from JFK airport on Tuesday, February 23rd around 5pm. We took Aer Lingus where we had one stop in Dublin, Ireland both ways there and back for only $667 round-trip. The flight was seamless and extremely prompt. Our planes were clean, the staff was great, and the food was actually pretty tasty. My overall rating for this airline was 5/5.

We arrived in Barcelona around 10:00AM on Wednesday, February 24th and had no trouble getting our luggage after we got off the plane. We were out of the airport and in a taxi on our way to our Airbnb which was right across the street from la Sagrada Familia. The Airbnb was perfect. It was clean, cozy, and most importantly, it was in an amazing location which was around the corner from the L2 metro.

Day 1:

The first thing we did on the day one was getting most of our shopping done. We took the metro to the Passeig de Gracia stop where all of the high-end stores were located which reminded me of SoHo in Manhattan. We spent hours walking up and down the street and visiting the different stores. In between shopping, we took a break and ate at TapaTapa restaurant where we, of course, ordered multiple tapas and a pitcher of Sangria. After we finished shopping, we stopped and got a close look at Casa Battlo without going inside. We then walked over to the Arc de Triomf which reminded me of Washington Square Park in Manhattan. It’s crazy how many parallels I can make for Barcelona and New York City.

Day 2:

On Day 2, we ventured to the Gothic Quarter which was Barcelona’s version of Old City, and my personal favorite part of the trip. There, we visited the Picasso Museum, took a look around the flea market, and ate a late lunch near the water. This part of Barcelona had the most beautiful architecture and such a strong sense of history, met with modern restaurants and cafes. Later in the evening, we went out to a bar near the water where we had our lunch which was surprisingly quiet for a Thursday evening which is typically a big night to go out here in New York City.

Day 3:

Time flew by quick and all of a sudden it was already Friday. On Friday, we woke early to visit Parc Guell which was one of our most anticipated sight-seeing experiences. We walked throughout the entire park and avoided paying the fee to go inside of the area where the mosaic architecture resided. In Parc Guell, we enjoyed the beautiful view overlooking the city and experienced hearing some authentic Spanish music where musicians would play for the huge crowds of tourists. After a long day of walking, we went back home to rest before our real night of going out where we headed to Opium night club which was the most recommended place we heard about. It was definitely a touristy club which didn’t get actually crowded until around 1:30AM. We ended the night there and were exhasted by morning.

Day 4:

On our very last full day in Barcelona, we finally went inside of la Sagrada Familia. (My recommendation is to buy the tickets online first to avoid the lines, especially on a weekend to avoid the crowds. This was a tip we actually received from another American tourist we met while at Parc Guell.) The church was absolutely astonishing and completely worth paying to go inside. After nearly an hour inside of the church, we headed to Camp Nou to see none other than the amazing field that FB Barcelona plays. The field was amazing, and unfortunately, we didn’t get to catch a game (but they actually played on the same day that we left Barcelona). On the last night, we had dinner at a local restaurant near our Airbnb and packed up our suitcases and mentally prepared to leave our perfect trip.

Overall, we were able to do so much in only 4 days. There was still so much to see, but we enjoyed every minute of every hour that we experienced. Not a second was wasted and we took advantage of every opportunity despite how tired we may have been.

It was an unforgettable trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.

 

 

Countdown to Barcelona

In about one month, I’ll be taking my very first trip to Europe. To be specific, I’ll be going to Barcelona, Spain for five days at the end of February with two of my closest friends.

Since 2014, I’ve managed to book an international trip to a different continent each year. In the summer of 2014, I traveled to Melbourne, Australia. In the spring of 2015, I traveled to the Philippines. And now, in the winter of 2016, I’m making my way to Barcelona, Spain.

After telling several people, it always seems like a shock to them that I hadn’t chosen Europe sooner. If anything, I’ve done the opposite of what most people have done, which is go to the furthest countries instead of the nearest. Nonetheless, I couldn’t be more excited to finally cross Europe off my list.

To me, traveling the world was always something that I wanted to do. Yet, it always seemed impossible due to my finances. I was fortunate to have been able to travel throughout the United States in 2012-2013 because of my job, but after leaving that job, I assumed that the extent of my travels would have to be placed on hiatus until I was a bit older. But, somehow, I was able to find the time and money to travel abroad sooner that I had thought.

In all honestly, I’m not sure exactly what I want to see or experience yet. Every time I travel, I research lightly, keeping a few specific places in mind and then just winging it once I get there. I like to go off the beaten plan, explore for myself, and figure out what locals do for fun. After asking around a bit, all I know is that the food and drinks are amazing, the architecture is phenomenal, and shopping is endless.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, especially since it will be the first time I travel internationally with the two friends that I’m going with. Traveling is not an easy task. Taking the beautifully edited Instagram photos out of context, traveling can be exhausting and difficult, but that’s the beauty of it. It truly tests your limits and brings our your character. And the people you’re with is what really makes the experience worthwhile.

I have yet to travel completely alone yet. I’m still afraid. I’m not sure if I’m ready for it, but I know that when I do, I’ll discover something amazing about myself.

As far as this trip goes, I’m just excited to have fun with my friends.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

6 Days in Denver and Los Angeles

Since I’ve began this blog, I’ve always written some sort of monumental post on or around my birthday to reflect on the previous year because I like to see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve changed, and how much I’ve grown. It’s never a dull journey to get to where I am and thankfully, I have these blog posts to serve as a reminder that life doesn’t get any easier with age.

I just turned 25 about 2 weeks ago. A quarter-century old. A quarter-life crisis to come. Again, to no surprise, I have a laundry list of events that have happened in that previous year.

In the span of 1 year, I had 2 different jobs, lived in 2 different apartments in New York City, and broke up, got back together, then broke up (again) with my boyfriend.

When I turned 25, I was job-less, boyfriend-less, and at the border of a mental breakdown. It only seemed appropriate to take a trip to escape the realities of the environment that I was currently in.

On November 20th 2015, the Friday before my birthday, I was let go from my job – A “promising” position at a startup company that I had only recently started working at in September after being at a large Publishing company prior.

Clearly, it wasn’t a great fit for me.

The night that I got let go, after experiencing hours of complete and utter shock, I had decided that I needed to get away. I needed to travel. I needed to escape.

Please note, to fully comprehend what led to my course of action in taking this trip, I must summarize the events that took place prior. The following situations were brewing in the months leading up to my trip:

  • I left a stable job
  • I started a new job
  • I reconnected with my ex-boyfriend
  • I disconnected from my ex-boyfriend
  • I got into a 2-month long argument with my sister
  • I reconnected (again) with my ex-boyfriend in the wake of the Paris attacks
  • I re-disconnected with my ex-boyfriend
  • I got let go from my job
  • I turned 25

A person can only withstand so much before they reach their tipping point. And for me, I was just about there.

On November 21st, the day after getting let go, I spent 6 hours booking one-way flights from New Jersey, to Denver, to Los Angeles, then back home to New York City.

I left on Friday, November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving and just returned a few days ago, this past Thursday morning.

It wasn’t a long trip, but it was enough. 6 days in Denver and Los Angeles. It was exactly the right amount of time that I needed to process exactly what had happened in the past few months.

When I arrived at Denver International Airport, I hit the ground running, as I typically do when I travel. Whenever I’m in a different place, I always want to do anything and everything in order to take complete advantage of the time that I have wherever I may be. And boy, did I do that. To summarize the events in Colorado, this is what I was able to accomplish in 4 days (And these are only the events that I’m at liberty to disclose):

When I said goodbye to my friends on Monday, I was sad to go, but overwhelmed with excitement for the second part of my trip to Los Angeles. And here is a summary of the events that happened during my 3 days in California:

In the time that it took for me to emotionally breakdown, I was inadvertently able to revive myself through this trip.

Looking back, although this trip was much needed and an extremely pivotal point in my upcoming year(s) of growth, I must say that I am most grateful for the fact that it was such a safe and successful journey. On my last day in Los Angeles, the San Bernardino shooting also happened. I was an hour-distance from San Bernardino, California. I had no idea that was happening at the time, but I am now aware that I could have been and I thank God that I wasn’t.

You never know what’s going to happen in life. In a second, everything can change. Good things happen, bad things happen. You can never fully prepare for the obstacles that are thrown in your way. The best you can do is get through it and hopefully come out stronger.

At 25, I’m still alive. I’m still breathing. I’m still healthy. I still have much more living to do and I know I will come out of this stronger than ever.

Return from the Philippines

I arrived home from my trip to the Philippines late Thursday night. To say that this trip was amazing is the understatement of the year. This trip was necessary. It was emotional, joyous, and difficult. It was worth every penny spent. I couldn’t even say that you could truly put a price on experiences like these. I want to begin my recap, but I honestly don’t even know where to start. I haven’t even fully re-adjusted to my life back home to be able to discuss how much this trip meant to me. But, since I’ve caught a bit of the writing bug on this late Sunday night, I can’t let it pass, so here I go:

On the first day of our arrival in the Philippines, my parents, sister and I were greeted by a mass of our relatives. I had never met my Dad’s side of the family in-person before, but it felt like I’ve known them my entire life. We had lunch together that day and there was no denying that this family was my blood. Everyone was happy, with large smiles on their face to be able to share this first meal with us. That day, I still couldn’t believe that I was physically there.

Throughout the duration of our trip, we traveled to several places; Tagaytay, Batangas, Taytay Rizal, Zambales. We saw many different parts of the Philippines, ate an extraordinary amount of food, did a lot of shopping, and bonded as a family. I find it impossible to fully explain every detail of my trip in this short blog post, but I can say that in the mere two weeks that I was there, I was able to discover a whole new part of my family and myself.

The thing that I love the most about travel is being able to see a side of yourself in a place that you’ve never been before; being faced with unfamiliar situations is a significant part of life. It helps you realize things you never knew before. It helps you learn. It helps you grow.

Now that I’m back home, I’m honestly heartbroken, sad, and missing the time spent with my family. I’m the opposite of homesick. I want to be there instead of here. I’ve realized many things upon returning back from my trip and the main thing is that my family is the most important thing in my life.

Now that I’m back home, I’m realizing that I’m not okay with my life here. I’m not fulfilled, not even content. The only thing that has seemed to bring me true happiness recently is being with my family and enjoying their company. To feel love that powerful scares me. It makes me wonder if I can ever find that kind of love anywhere else in life.

I went home by myself because I have to go back to work on Monday. My parents and sister stayed in the Philippines for an extra week. Being apart from my family while they are still there makes me feel like a piece of me is missing. I don’t even want to dare think of how my life would be without them, but I do and just being separated from them hurts.

I think that throughout my entire life, I’d been looking for a kind of love like this; unconditional love. Aside from family and God, I’m scared that I will never find someone else to love me the way my family does. I don’t think I could even love myself the way my family does. Being back home just reminds me of that.

The trip has enlightened me a great deal. I know they say you can’t find someone to love you until you truly love yourself and I think that was the problem all along for me.

I’m thankful for this trip. I hope to go back to the Philippines soon. But until then, I’m going to keep working on myself.

Two Weeks Until the Philippines

Recently, I’ve been very silent with using this personal blog to disclose my recent experiences and emotions. Instead, I’ve tried expanding my horizons to other Publishing platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn and EliteDaily. However, I can’t fully neglect the base for which I started my writing journey.

So, here I am providing one very large update. Although much has happened in the time since my last real entry, the largest piece of news that I have to offer is this:

I am leaving for my second-ever International trip to my parent’s home country of the Philippines in two weeks.

If you are familiar with my most recent travels, I went to Australia (my very first International trip) last August and it had opened my eyes to the wonders of traveling to a foreign country and being introduced to a different culture.

Personally, this trip to the Philippines is going to mean so much more than just being introduced to a different culture. In fact, it’s not quite different for me at all.

Being raised in a dual-culture environment was a crucial factor towards the person that I’ve become. As a child, it’s difficult to fully commit to one culture or the other, especially if you are a minority. You cannot hide your physical features no matter how hard you try. I’m a Filipino-American, and I was raised in a predominantly Filipino household. However, I more strongly identify myself with being American.

My parents would speak to me in their native language, however, I’d foolishly refuse to learn how to speak. I understood the language, but I chose English instead. It wasn’t until I grew older did I realize how important that part of me is.

I don’t want to say that I regret the choices I’ve made in the past, but I will say that I wish I had made a greater effort to learn my parent’s native tongue and be more immersed in my heritage.

Millions of people came to the United States to pursue the “American dream” Many of whom made this decision for their children; to provide them with opportunities that they could not have had in their home country.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to my parents for coming here. I know that they made this decision for my sister and I. I also know that I will never be able to repay them for the sacrifices that they’ve made for us. However, I do realize all of the things that they left behind for us and I cannot say that it was in vain.

My family isn’t wealthy. We aren’t even on par with the majority of the Middle Class. However, we are happy with what we do have and what we have is something that most people strive for; a loving and supportive family.

Going to the Philippines will be an eye-opener for me. It will show me the bigger picture of where my parents came from, who and what they left behind, and why they are the way they are. I have a feeling that this trip will impact me in many ways and I couldn’t be more excited. There’s just something about going to your place of lineage and discovering your roots.

For many years, I was beginning to doubt if it would ever happen due to financial circumstance, but miracles can and do happen. Things only seem impossible until they are done.

Again, this trip wouldn’t be possible without the help of my parents. They came to America from the Philippines and now they are taking me and my sister back with them.

It’s going to be an amazing journey and I can’t wait to soak up as much as I can -Stay tuned for more

Return from Melbourne

I returned home from Melbourne last Wednesday and have been gradually adjusting back to my version of normality ever since. It’s not easy going from one way of life to a completely different way, but what I’ve learned is that it is necessary to step outside of your boundaries.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been re-evaluating my life much more than I did before. There is no doubt that I was in desperate need of this trip – If you’ve been keeping up with my past blog entries, you should have noticed that I’ve been anxious for quite some time. I’ve been anxious for something more than what I was settling for at home.

Before I left, I read an article on Thought Catalog called, “The Hardest Part of Traveling No One Talks About” and I was so excited to get away from it all – my job, my friends, my family, my problems. When I returned, I re-read this article and it took on a whole different meaning for me. One quote that struck me was this:

“They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited”

At first, I agreed with a majority of the article up until I read this quote. Yes, I left, changed, grew, experienced, and learned things, but I wouldn’t say that I am more lost. If anything, I see things much more clearly than I did before. I realized what I missed – my friends, my family. And that’s what pulled me back and helped me re-adjust a little easier.

I certainly loved being in a foreign place, seeing amazing views, and exploring, but if anything, the best part of traveling is coming back home.

It’s true what they say, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

(To get a deeper look into my trip, check out my Instagram)

Countdown to Melbourne

Whenever you make plans much in advance, you never really feel the weight of the reality until it comes down to the last final days before the big event.

Well, I’m officially less than one week away from my long-anticipated trip to Melbourne, Australia.

This is my first trip overseas and I couldn’t be more excited, A week ago, however, I was whistling a different tune.

2014 has been a very significant year of transformation for me. In fact, many of the major life events that have happened to me this year have revolved around my trip to Australia. I moved out of my apartment, moved back home, broke up with the guy I was dating, didn’t get to run the San Francisco Marathon, (which I spent $150 on) and cut way back on going out with my friends. On top of that, there were also hardships that occurred at the most inconvenient timing.

A week ago, I still had not received my passport (which I applied for in May). Trying to stay calm, I tried to reassure myself that it was in-transit and everything was going to be okay. Naturally, I began to panic the following day. The weight of the realities that have happened in the past few months all started catching up to me like a wave approaching the shore.

Fortunately, in these last final days as I’m getting closer to my trip, things started falling into place and my panic turned back into excitement once again. I received my passport, finished up last minute plans, and began to breathe again.

It never ceases to amaze me at how worried I get when things aren’t going as planned.

It’s been a rough year, but I’m banking on this trip to salvage all the hopes that I had lost for 2014. I needed something to look forward to, and now that it’s finally happening, I’m just crossing my fingers that everything will be okay.

After all, everything has always worked itself out in the past.

To follow my journey through Melbourne, follow me on Twitter or Instagram (Lindseyruns)

#australia2014 #lindseyinaustralia #lindseyrunsinaustralia

The Travel Bug

Recently, I’ve been noticing an abundance of articles being written about the growing trend of leisurely travel within Millenials. I, myself, can see this trend occurring throughout my own close friends and friends of friends. The more people that I talk to, the more that I see a pattern of people my age having an overwhelming desire to escape from wherever they may be at the moment. Even more so, a lot of people that I know have actually taken the initiative to pack up and leave.

They say that birds of a feather flock together. Well, it’s no surprise that some of the closest friends that I have made in New York have all escaped from wherever they were to be in New York City. It’s also no coincidence that a lot of the people that I’ve encountered in New York City are from the other side of the country, California in particular. I mean if you’re going to make a move, it better be a big one, right?

A few days ago, I mentioned to my sister that I wanted to try to see what it was like on the other side, over in California. I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for or why I think I would find it over there, but I’ve been curious to find out.

In around two weeks, I’ll be leaving for my first big international trip. Back in March, I earned a bonus check from my job and had no idea what to do with the money. Sure, a wise thing that I should have done was to put it away in my savings account or use it to pay off bills. Instead, I wanted to reward myself and splurge. And what better way to splurge than to book a flight somewhere and enjoy a nice trip?

Well, that trip ended up being a flight to Melbourne, Australia with one of my closest childhood friends. We just sat down one day, went on the computer, bought the ticket and that was it.

Only recently has it finally dawned on me that it’s actually happening, and the more that I think about it, the more excited and anxious I become. At the same time, I’m also scared. Scared about loving it there and not wanting to snap back into reality and never coming back.

It’s easy to run away from your problems; to leave everything behind when things are getting tough. I do that a lot with running (and I mean literally running) Whenever I’m frustrated, upset, or angry, I go for a run with the mindset that it will magically solve my problems. It does, but only temporarily. Of course, it’s never a permanent solution. No matter how far or fast I run, my problems are always back at home waiting for me, silently sitting in my mind.

So this makes me wonder about my generation, the Millenials. Where is the sudden boom of travel desires coming from? I hate to make assumptions or say that everyone is like me when they get the itch to go somewhere, but I also refuse to deny that it’s not a part of the reason. We have to be running from something. Maybe it’s growing up, or maybe it’s the fear of missing out, but it has to be something.

Are we all just running away from our problems whenever we catch the travel bug? I like to think that I’m not the only one with these feelings. I like to think that I’m not alone in this and that there is really something lurking in the waters of my generation. There has been a shift in the mindset of Millenials. We’re making moves. And it could be a good thing or a bad thing, but I hope that we all find whatever it is we’re looking for.

Roots

I wouldn’t say that I’m the most experienced person when it comes to traveling, but over the past few years, I’ve definitely broadened my horizons in terms of drifting away from the place I call home (New Jersey) I’m most grateful to my ex-boyfriend for inviting me to be more open-minded about venturing into the unknown. The first plane I ever got on was when I went to San Diego, California for my cousin’s wedding in 2009. I was 18 and a freshmen in college. Leaving for college itself was overwhelming enough and I was only a 45-minute drive away from my parent’s house. Even then, I didn’t make the cut with sticking it out for all 4 years there. I eventually transferred to Rutgers University, which was about a 5-minute drive from my parent’s house. So much for venturing into the unknown.

Now, getting back to the first time that I was on a plane; it was a pretty frightening experience for me to be honest. I was overly excited to even be inside of an airport. Growing up, my parents weren’t extremely wealthy and we didn’t have the luxury to take summer vacations like all of my friends did. As a child, I had never even gone to Disney World. DISNEY WORLD (A sad realization when I think back on it)

Going to California for the first time was one of the most memorable trips of my life. I was blessed enough to have relatives that took it upon themselves to pay for both mine and my sister’s plane tickets. We just had to take care of our own expenses once we were there. That trip opened my eyes to realizing that there was so much more than what I sheltered myself to.

Spring Semester of my Sophomore year of college, I met the man that defined my college love life. I dated him for three years, and loved him with every ounce of love that I had to offer. A majority of it was because I loved his spirit, his personality, his carefree nature. I always wished I could be like that. Throughout our relationship, he would surprise me with mini get-aways. Eventually, the mini get-aways became big get-aways. And they extended further and further. It opened my eyes, and we hadn’t even left the United States.

I’d like to publicly thank him for giving me those opportunities to explore those unfamiliar places. It gave me the courage to move to New York City and embark on one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever been on. But, it won’t stop in New York City. He planted a seed in my mind to be brave enough to travel to where-ever I wanted to go. I learned that traveling exposes you to learning so much about people, places, and more importantly, yourself.

I caught up with another high school friend yesterday and we ran through the typical routine of reflecting on old memories and then moved onto to conversation of updating him on how much has changed in my life and how different I’ve become since high school. I’d like to say that it was mostly just age and maturity that has changed me, but a large part of it also has to do with the fact that I left home to find out who I am.

I have a lot of friends from back home who like to do nothing, but tell me how ridiculous it is to live in New York City for various reasons; too expensive, too dirty, too crowded, the list goes on.

It upsets me to hear them say these things though because although many of their claims have proven themselves to be true, I appreciate all of it. I’ve been able to find myself in a place other than my home in New Jersey. I stepped outside of my boundaries, outside of my comfort zone. And for that, Brandon, I’m forever grateful. You’ve helped me become the person I am, and you’ll continue to help me become the person that I will be.

For all of my upcoming trips to where ever the destination may be, I know that I will continue to learn more about myself. The seed that was planted has strong roots and no matter how far I go, they will always lead me back home.