Wood Tipi, a poem.

I feel pretty dang independent, especially compared to the first 20-something years of my life. But, I’ve hit a snag. What I really really want to do is go camping.

The real kind of camping. You know the kind. Where you rough it on a blow up matress in the woods.

The kind where the dirt somehow made it inside the tent and your shower is the natural spring down the way.

The kind of camping that gives you weird tan lines and the kind that gives your dirty hair a perfect voluminous wave that a styling tool just can’t compete with.

I love camping. It’s hands down, my favorite summetime activity.


I just can’t talk myself into going alone, like the act of camping, that is.

I’ve been camping more times than I have fingers and toes.


I’ve never put my tent up or started a fire alone. Is that what’s stopping me? I know I can do anything if I put my mind to it.


What is it really? What is stopping me from going at it alone?

And why does no one in my life enjoy a campfire full of stories and an open air tent to count the stars?

Maybe that’s part of it?

Part of the enjoyment of camping is bonding with others whilst roasting s’mores.

Part of the excitement of camping is catching dinner on the boat miles from shore without a care in the world.

Part of the camping I love is chowing down on burnt hot dogs and laughing with the people I adore.

Part of camping.. is turning the music up so loud that you forget you’re singing in the woods, among the wildflowers.

Part of camping is getting sunkissed shoulders on Minnesotan ponds, telling all the stories, and watching the fireflies dance in the midnight sky.

I don’t ask for a lot, I really don’t.

I’m just looking for someone who can tipi a stack of wood with me and enjoy every single second of that kind of camping.

What I learned.

We’re a few days post-trip and already back into the swing of things at work. I did get a freckled tan after-all, though slight, and I found trace amounts of sand in my CROC’s this morning when I slipped them on. It’s so wild how it takes forever for vacation to come and once it does, it happens quicker than the snap of your fingers; right back at it wondering when the next blip of magic will happen again.

This trip was different than all the rest. For the second time in my life, I traveled with both of my parents. The first time was a quick weekend road-trip to Wisconsin nearly a decade ago, so nothing like this. My mom has been my travel companion for the last 5+ years on most of my big trips but this year we wanted to gift my dad with the bragging rights of being able to say he’s been to all 50 states (supes jelly, dad!) and we did just that!

Along this journey, I learned a few things about myself, traveling, and DUN DUN DUN… my parents. I should get into the habit of writing my “What I Learned” post whilst in airport waiting room areas vs 4 days post-trip because I think this list would have been longer and written with much more enthusiasm than it will turn out to be.

Oh well, live and learn as they say. Here we go:

  • I don’t know how to relax. Relaxing is defined by: being less tense, less anxious; basically to chill TF out. By being on vacation, I suppose I do embody a sense of relaxation but not really. I’m always analyzing, always critiquing. Always making sure all the peoples are content enough; figuring out what we need to do next. Like, if I’m not paying attention to the schedule, who will? I had plenty of opportunities to relax on this vacation. Many moments were filled with sitting on the beach or poolside. Heck, I even had a 80 minute massage. But in those moments when one should relax, I felt even more overwhelmed with my thoughts. I had planned to read much more on this trip than I did but whenever I tried, my mind wandered. I couldn’t just lay down on the beach and do nothing because my brain was racing, I felt like I needed to be in the water. Laying still was too much work. How does that make sense? Even during my massage, I couldn’t help but wish I had a pen and paper to write down everything zooming by from one side to another in my head. How does one turn that all off and relax?
  • Waikiki/Oahu was a little more slummy than I expected. Before your mouth drops to the ground, here me out. Oahu is BEAUTIFUL. The sand and the water; the blues and all the other colors; the vibe and the air.. it’s legit beautiful AF. I just hadn’t mentally prepared to witness the level of homelessness that we’d seen. There are a lot more areas than I’m used to seeing that are run-down and not maintained. Entire communities with garbage laying around living in generalized filth; homeless community tents neighboring elementary schools, etc. But it’s everywhere else too, not just here. Every community in every state or country on most every continent will have this; it’s not new. It was just a bit more in your face than anywhere I’ve ever been. I should mention though, that I didn’t feel unsafe at all at any point. I think those that are homeless here are homeless by choice. The weather is beautiful year-round, tourists throw unused goods in the trash like it grows on trees; what is there to lose?
  • My dad and I aren’t suitable travel companions. Nope, we most certainly are not. When our day was planned to the minute, I was too structured and when I said we can do whatever for the next few hours, I was too nonchalant. There was no winning. This trip, I was sure was a perfect combo of planned and spontaneous. I had a handful of things planned for specific days and then other days were full of free-will opportunities and ideas galore. It probably would have been perfect for me and my mom but throwing my dad into the mixture just didn’t work. We made due though and we survived.
  • Love is complicated and relationships aren’t easy. Of course I already know this. I have my own complicated history in this department. But one thing I’ve always protected and never really taken time to analyze is that my parents love is complicated and their relationship isn’t easy. I think I’ve always held my parents up on this pedestal (and still do). They’ve been married for over 30 years and I’m well aware that it hasn’t been an easy 30+ years. We weren’t sheltered in our upbringing; we knew when tough times were a’ brewin’. But, they figured out how to make it work and I’m grateful for that. While it’s hard to admit, my parents as individuals are both flawed and they bring that into their relationship, just like the rest of us. What is wonderful though, is how they have figured out a way to still love each other during and through various ups and downs. On this trip, I observed my dad in a way that I’d never before, a way that I didn’t like; because it was something that seemed so familiar to me from my past. And I watched how my mom handled it. They know how to work through anything, it seems, as individuals and as a team. After all these years, they still love each other without an asterisks. And that, my friends, is love worth fighting for.
  • My mom is a saint. Yeah, she is. See the previous point for some context but besides that, she’s just way more chill than I’ll ever be. My dad can’t always control his emotions and I’m admittingly a bit high strung. But my mom is like, so cool. She doesn’t (or doesn’t seem to) hold grudges. When it’s time to do something or try something new, she’s down to do it. When I’m crying because I’m afraid I’m making things more difficult than they should be, she assures me that I am not. Saint Julie, she is.
  • My dad is hilarious. Like, he’s the kind of funny where he doesn’t even realize how humorous he is. When he does pull out his dad joke-esque one-liners, they are gold but what’s even better is when he’s not aware of it. I wish he could see himself the way I do. For examples of his classics, refer back to posts earlier this week or follow the hashtag #shitdadsays on Twitter.
  • There are far too many rich people/celebrities in Hawaii. We passed many homes of those that make more money than I could ever imagine in a life time. Bette Midler, Jackie Chan, and Carol Burnett to name a few. Did you know Bill Gates (and others) own entire blocks of real estate? Not necessary, my guy. Not necessary.
  • God is so good. I didn’t make as much of a point to do my daily devos as I had planned but I did manage to get in a few Elevation podcasts on the flight home and started reading a book a dear friend suggested called Not Safe by Mark Batterson. Outside of that, I found myself being a bit more deliberate with everything I saw and photographed on this trip. I had a few moments of solitude where I was just like 1. Is this my real life? and 2. Holy crap, God is an artist. While my parents took a break to rest, I meandered down the beach one day and walked to the end of a jetty-type thing that divided the shallow calm beach with the loud Pacific Ocean. As I stood at the end very end, all alone, I just let the waves hit me; let the salty water brush my arms. I admired how perfect the waves were. Sailboats dotted the horizon and I imagined whales and dolphins alike swimming beneath my favorite color of blue. How did He imagine all of this to reality? In my wildest dreams, I don’t think I could have.

Okay, that is all. Mahalo for reading!

Day 7/8: A hui hou, Hawaii!

Today. Yesterday? I’ve been awake the better part of 24 hours but I suppose it’s technically yesterday.. Anyway, my mom and I began our last few hours in Hawaii with massages as per a standing tradition we have.

If my dad tells this story, I’m sure it’ll make you laugh. He tells a tale of us coming back to the hotel room crawling on our knees because we were in so much pain. Supes dramatic but not totally wrong, lol.

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t get massages often and I made the mistake of telling the massage therapist that my lower back has been hurting so she mainly focused on that region of my body with some heavy deep tissue work. This hurt in the moment and yes, I felt like the hobbily old witch from Hansel & Gretel for about an hour afterwards, but I feel much better now.

If I can just make getting massages more of a habit than a once a year thing, I might get better results and loosen up my apparently really really tight hips. Our girl Shakira was right, hips don’t lie. HA. That joke was gold.

We hit up one more beach side restaurant recommendation at a place called Lulu’s Waikiki where the tables are tall in the chairs are short; the perfect combination if you ask me. This was one of my favorite places we’d been to and the aesthetic was really cool. Filled with all the nautical things of times passed like blue glass fishing buoys as lights, shipwrecked paddles on the walls, and old hand carved surfboards; it felt like a library I’ve always dreamt about having but in restaurant form.

Our flight wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. last night but that came and went quickly. We met a family from Louisville, KY and they were fun to listen to. The daughter/father combo made me laugh because it reminded me so much of some of the conversations my dad and I have had over the last week.

My brother and his fiance picked us up from the airport around noon today and we met up with my youngest brother at Sanford Hospital this afternoon to visit my grandma and uncle for a bit.

And I think that officially concludes my vacation.

One of my favorite parts about all of the traveling that I’ve done is to do a little reflection post-trip and put together a “What I’ve Learned” post. I plan to put that post together sometime this week but for now this is we’re I’ll leave you. Hawaii is so beautiful, you guys. My absolute favorite parts were snorkeling for the first time and just being by the water, feeling the warm sand between my toes. And the trees! Omg, the trees! A hui hou, Hawaii. Until we meet again.

Day 6: All the suns; screens, rays, and sets.

It’s Thursday and our last full day along latitude 21. I don’t expect I’ll have much to show as we decided to take an alternative route to the itinerary.

I originally had us tentatively down to enjoy the hop on/hop off trolley one last day; perhaps hitting up Pearl Harbor and making another stop at Hanauma Bay. But, we opted for a day filled with sunscreen and rays close by instead.

I know Pearl Harbor came highly recommended, almost to a sickening degree (sorry!), but it was one of the things I was least interested in visiting so I’m not going to lose sleep over it. The trolley system got old quick and it really is a time-suck when your time on vacation is limited.

With that being said, we indulged in breakfast at the Longboard Club, a perk of our resort, and then made our way to the Swell Pool and Lounge that is ‘Alohani. What a sight. I took a few photos but the area is so vast, it simply cannot be captured in a Galaxy S10+ shot.

Post a chilly dip in the saltwater infinity pool and a couple of chapters in the book I’m reading, my mom and I headed to the beach to dip our toes one last time in the Hawaiian sands before heading home tomorrow.

And what better way to end a once in a lifetime vacation in the Aloha State than watching the sun set on a catamaran surrounded by nothing but the sails and waves. I gave my parents some space on this last full evening here and spent some time reflecting on my own while we sailed away from the shore into the Pacific. The music the captain played was sad but I’m sure they meant for it to be romantic. It gave me a sense of how much more lonely I feel when surrounded by people but I did my best not to let myself stay in that funk/mindset.

And here is today’s funny:
Dad: Have you tried the buffet yet?
Mom: The buffet?
Dad: In the bathroom. The pa-tay.
Mom: The bidet? No, I think it’s weird.
Dad: I haven’t tried it either.

Day 5: Just hang loose. Just have fun.

I love the spirit that people have here. I know that a lot of the people we’ve interacted with are in the service industry and it’s their job to greet us with a warm and meaningful “Aloha” but I really think it’s genuine. And I can relate to it in ways I don’t get to on a daily basis.

Where I come from, people are groggy in the morning. Half of them don’t even make eye contact until a second cup of coffee or a meeting scheduled for mid-morning. A lot of people, myself included, get into the hum-drum “another day, another dollar” mantra as if we’re zombies getting ready to work ourselves into the ground.

It’s different here though. And I love it.

If I really think about it, everywhere I’ve traveled to seems to be like this. So is it us, the office job peeps that can’t hang loose? Or is it our location? Maybe where I really need to settle down is a destination/tourist location. Or somewhere with more sunshine.

We arrived at Pier 8 this morning for an early bird whale watch excursion. Spoiler Alert: While we saw a handful of blows (wet air expelled through the blowhole), we only spotted one instance of fluking (tail above water as it begins a deep dive). But you know what? That’s still really fricking cool.

My mom has been asking to go whale watching since before we went to Ireland and I was finally able to deliver. The Star of Honolulu brought us out to sea this morning. I was expecting a 50 passenger medium sized boat today, something similar to the cruises I’ve been on while visiting Duluth but this behemoth was four floors tall and held up to 1500 passengers. WUT.

The ride was smooth and the ocean was as beautiful as ever. I hope I’ll get the chance to search for whales again someday but until then, I’ll always remember the tail at a distance that I did get a glimpse of.

This evening was filled with another first; a luau! Our tour guide turned luau dude introduced himself as Cousin Greg. He is a humorous man and a proud Hawaiian filled with tales of tradition and heritage. Cousin Greg taught us a handful of Hawaiian words like “malahini” and “ohana” on our 15-minute aka 65-minute drive to Germaine’s Luau.

It probably goes without saying but attending a luau is a must on your priority list if you’re visiting Hawaii. Even if you’ve been to one before, it’s a repeat adventure that’ll never get old.

We watched Cousin Greg and another man pull the Kalua pig out of the imu, an underground oven. They make a ceremony out of each part of the luau and it’s just mesmerizing.

After hoisting the pig out following it’s 10+ hour cook-time, we were invited to indulge in signature cocktails while dinner was prepared featuring Hawaiian staples like poi and fensi. We were seated in rows of picnic tables vertically facing the stage and the event was just as picturesque as everything else I’ve encountered in my time here. The venue is perfectly placed on a white sand beach with draping palm trees and we enjoyed the sunset as the hosts began MC’ing the show.

The staff and hospitality was superb, the experience was authentic, and the food was ono (delicious)! While I feel like I have to see much more of the world before I return to places I’ve already been to, I really cannot wait until I make it back to Hawaii and more specifically, Germaine’s.

On the way home, Cousin Greg taught us his favorite Hawaiian song, “Just Hang Loose.” I’ve linked it here for those of you needing a little sunshine in song form this fine February evening.

Day 4: Today, an auntie showed me how to make a flower head lei.

For those of you here for photos only, you’re in luck. I hope to give context to most of these at a later date. But for now, enjoy the beautiful ocean blues and serene green that is Hawai’i. 😌👌⛩⛩🍍

And here is today’s funny:
Dad: I need to find some clothes to wear.
Mom: You can go across the street to find something.
Dad: Across the street?
Mom: Yeah, like Gucci or Prada or whatever.

Day 3: Sun soaked hair and salty skin.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay was incredible. The end. 🙂

Our driver was a dude by the name of Zak. He said we looked like snorkelers when he picked us up and then told us it was the most perfect day to go but I’m sure he tells everyone that because he told everyone he picked up that they look like snorkelers. Classic, Zak. In my three days here, I can’t imagine a day that is anything different than what we’ve witnessed. But it really was the perfect day especially for beginners like us.

The short hike leading up to Hanauma Bay was exactly like you’d see in a postcard. The varying blues of the Pacific Ocean creeped into the crater that is the bay, the breeze was light, and the palm trees soared.

As a member of the first-timer snorkeling club, I thought I had it figured out. Just breathe. Funny because it’s like I forgot how. The water was only waist deep and I know how to swim, yet I keep psyching myself out when it was time to go under. After mustering up enough courage and a mouthful or two of salty water, I finally got the hang of it. Though, I was initially breathing like I was about to give birth. What is wrong with me?!

While I wish I had an underwater camera to share photos of the colors I saw and schools of fish I floated by today, I didnt. But I think going without made it all that much more sweet; a memory all my own. It was so peaceful watching gorgeous shimmery rainbow fish feed on the coral and tiny white with black speckle fish swim over my arms as I lay still in the water. You guys, I even found Dory! She was just a cute as the cartoon and was the only one of her kind among these medium-sized orange, yellow, and royal blue fish. What an experience and I cant wait to go again!

After a brief break to change and relax from a morning of flippering around (get it?), we hit up the Iolani Palace. Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the entire country and was last lived in by Queen Liliuokalani in 1893 before the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown.

While meticulously restored to it’s original condition from the times of past queens and kings, the palace was a tish underwhelming. Only a handful of rooms and nooks contained furniture while other areas were completely empty. The design of the palace was incredible though with rooms inside of rooms and I spotted triangular shaped crannies in roped off areas. More of the palace seems to be off limits than on but whatevs, I’m sure there is a reason for it. The tour was self-guided via an audio device and if one wanted to spend a couple of hours there to bury themselves in the history, they might have left with a more fulfilling experience. 6/10 recommend.

Iolani Palace is behind the open air Hawaii State Capital building. I think this may have been my first state capital building visit, I haven’t even visited my home state of Minnesota’s building. Shame on me.

My initial thought walking through this area was that Hawaii must be an architect’s dream. To not have to really worry about the elements and just let your imagination run wild dreaming new designs.

Entering the State Capital building didn’t happen through a door, it’s just there. You are all of a sudden inside. Seeing the doors for the Senate and House of Representatives surrounded by a moat-like feature with families of ducks floating throughout and a roof in the shape of a volcanic cone open to the sky.. you’re just in it.

Quotes that made me laugh today:
“When is the Pineapple Palace?” -Dad
“We haven’t had breakfast all week!” – Dad (P.S. Yes, we have. Lol, dad.)
“Those are my tan seeds.” – Mom in reference to her shoulder freckles.

Day 2: Aloha from O’ahu!

Uff, I’m tired. But the good kind, you know? We all woke up pre-alarms today. I don’t know how rare it is for my parents to do that but it never happens for me. So I feel like a warrior.

After getting ready and my dad rolling his eyes because I needed to at least put mascara on (I have the classic see-through ginger lashes. Trust me, I’m saving us all by wearing a little ‘scara), we made our way to breakfast. Have you ever been to a continental that has french toast?! Me either! Also, I don’t know if it’s my vaca brain or Hawaii but the fruit here is some of the best I’ve ever had. So so fresh.

Today was one of my kinda, sorta, wing it days. They usually go just fine and this one definitely did but I still feel uneasy not having each day totally planned out. I can’t help but think there is time being wasted. But whatevs, I’m trying to get in touch with the islands “hang loose” pace.

After a 20 minute walk along Luxary Row aka the places I’ll never shop at #GUCCI, we hopped aboard the Red Line of Waikiki Trolley and made our way to the Foster Botanical Garden.

One of the first plants I came across was the Queen Emma flower and how perfectly fitting because my niece Emma is as beautiful inside and out as this flower and garden. This was a pretty sweet place and we spent about an hour looking at all of the lush green plants taller than we were and admiring the twisty trees. Two of my favorite were a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree and the Quipo Tree. Google ’em.

Along the route is a butterfly sancuary with, what seems to be, a solitaire monarch. I don’t know where the others were but the Sioux Falls Butterfly House has these guys beat.

Between looking up at trees as if they were sky rises in a big city and tracking down Monte the Monarch, I did have a mini panic attack thinking I’d lost my wallet. While I stopped for water, I noticed my bag was unzipped and let me tell you, for not being a runner, I retraced my steps and made my way back to the entry in 3 minutes flat after having zigzagged and meandered for nearly 45 minutes. I ended up tracking it down in another area of my bag and may have wept tears of blessings. I had legit questioned if a monkey was lurking in the trees and unzipping peoples bags.

While we waited for our trolley to pick us up, we had an opportunity to peek at the Kuan Yin Temple next door to the garden. A kind face invited my dad and me in while my mom relaxed on a nearby bench but we decided to hang out outside, I didnt want to disturb the peaceful gathering with our tourist shades on.

As we waited a bit longer, we listened to the chanting during thier service. Buddhism has always fascinated me, the same way Christianity does. Bodhi, my cat, is named after a Buddhist term meaning knowledge or enlightenment and I have an array of Buddha’s and singing bowls in my home. I’ve always associated Buddhism with peace and meditation. I hope I’m not far off or offensive in that assumption but I’ll add it to my long list of religions to learn more about.

The trolley brought us through Chinatown which is one of the oldest in the nation, though, quite small. The driver told us that that Chinese love to gamble and congregate in areas along a man-made canal even though it’s illegal in Hawaii.

We later drove past an incredible art district for what seemed like blocks and blocks and blocks. The driver didn’t make much reference to it or the history of the area but it was near the SALT Shopping Center in case you find yourself in these parts. I’ll have to sort through my photos and dedicate an entire post to the beautiful murals we passed.

We ended our day walking along and sunbathing on the sands of Waikiki Beach. We managed to find a less crowded area a ways down by a jetty. Locals gathered singing a capella in the background, played fetch with pups, and jumped from the landing, ignoring the signs that say otherwise. “YOLO”, I heard someone say.
Waikiki Beach is as crowded and filled with as much homelessness as people say but it doesn’t give you a weird vibe. It seems to be a chosen way of life verses back home.

I ventured off a bit on my own down the jetty’s narrow path to feel the waves of the Pacific crash into me away from the busyness of the beach. It was exhilarating. And salty.

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to listen to another street artist by the name of Michael Zanderigo sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and Hallelujah while we ate the most flavorful shaved ice I’ve ever had.

Well, it’s just after 9:00 p.m. here and my parents are already sleeping. Snorkeling tomorrow bright and early! Mahalo for reading.

Day 1: Planes, Trains and Automobibles

And, how has my dad never worn a backpack?

The title of this post is courtesy of my mom mid-ride through the Skylink Light Rail in the DFW airport. We were shuttled at 4:30. a.m. by my loving (and I’m sure tired) brother, flew dang near straight south to Dallas, and then found ourselves on this bubble light rail thing. Later in the day, we’d fly again, Uber, and Trolley it up. The only thing we missed in this 12-hour window was a boat ride.

According to a quick Google search (because I can sometimes be an uncultured millenial never having seen the movie), the characters Steve Martin and John Candy play in PT&A find each other extremely annoying and somehow, they must overcome the insanity of traveling together to reach their intended destination, or goal.

Boy does that sound super familiar today.

To say today went off without a hitch would be a quite the lie. I mean, technically it did but I didn’t factor in #moods. Planner fail. I am by no means an expert at travel, I don’t think anyone can be really; there are too many variables. However, because I do all the research and want to know all the possible things, that does help me to be a better traveler. I don’t get flustered easily, I can roll with the punches, or gate changes or the lack of signage in an airport I’ve never been in and I can figure it out. I’m not afraid to ask random people questions if I’m feeling out of sorts and I don’t embarrass easily.

As expected, our travel day was a bit tense. My mom has never been a fan of airports and my dad has never really been on vacation. He’s not accustomed to the “go, go, go!” nature that it can sometimes entail. Today was filled with a few bumps trying to navigate the change of pace, the weather, and the scenery but after a trip around the Pink Line on the Waikiki Trolley, a taste of the sweet Pacific Ocean between our toes, and a street band performance by a girl no older than 12 belting out some song I’ve never heard of with killer chords, I’m hoping my parents can see the silver lining in the lucky lucky lives we have been blessed with.

I’m excited to see where this week takes us and how it’ll impact my parents view of traveling together in the future. For the sake of our sanity, I hope they breathe in the chill-vibe air here. Channeling all the “ohms” I can muster rn. 😌👌

A hui hou (until we meet again).

Pre-Trip Feels.

It’s the eve before my next big adventure and I’m sitting in an empty nail salon getting a deluxe pedicure sipping complimentary water, but I’m pretending it’s a glass of sweet wine. This is the life.

I leave for Hawaii in less than 24 hours, our flight is scheduled for a 6:15 a.m. departure from Hector International. Good luck self in getting up on time. Though, I do feel like a little kid at Christmas. I’m sure I’ll be up before my alarm patiently waiting for my brother and parents to pick me up before the 5 o’clock hour.

All of my trips are special for differnt reasons but this one is dedicated to my dad. I’m not sure he’s ever really been on a proper vacation outside of weekend getaways throughout his adult life. I remember hearing a tale of a Mount Rushmore road trip in his youth with my grandparents but that was more decades ago than I am old. It’s time to venture out, pops.

My dad turns 60 this year, in October. Two years ago on his birthday, our family surprised him by telling him he was going to make it to Hawaii before his 60th birthday. I doubt he believed us and I’ll never forget his face when we told him.

See, he’s a truck driver. He’s been everywhere, man. Literally. Every state, including parts of Canada. He’s just missing The Aloha State, until now. I know he’s nervous, I’m certain I inherited my anxious tendencies from my father. But I know he’s super amped too. I anticipate “travel day” will be a bit stressful and draining for him and/or my mom but “hello sunshine!” and all the transportation woes will be a thing of the past!

Well, it’s time for my sugar scrub and 10-min leg massage. This is my favorite part of pedis so I’m going to leave you here while I try find inner peace for a moment or two. Have you treated yourself to some kind of self-care lately? If not, get on it girl! Or guy or dude or whatevs.

P.S. I had planned on ending my post above but I need to shamelessly plug Fantasy Nails on South 45th. I usually bounce from place to place for pedis but I’ve finally found the best one in all of Fargo. These guys are legit. The Deluxe Pedi (middle package) included all the usuals like a sugar scrub, paraffin wax, and hot towels but I had 2 hot towel sessions, an amazing cooling gel treatment, and not one but three 5-10 minute massages. While the wax was doing it’s thang, he stepped away for about 15 minutes and I was in a peacefully bliss quiet oasis of massage chair and meditation. Check it out and ask for Hersley (phonetically spelled, unsure of it’s accuracy, lol). A Deluxe Pedi is $40 for regular polish and $55 for gel. 👌

Lastly, here’s our typical night before, Bodhi-thinks-he’s-coming-with photo. One day, bud.

2019: A Year in Review

Ya girl here with an annual update of all things ME! because it’s okay to channel TSwift on a semi-regular basis. After all, they say you need to love yourself before you can truly love others and that was the very-much-intentional theme for my 2019. (#unintentionalrhyme) While I didn’t fully accomplish the “love yo’ self” goal, I definitely chipped away at it and found out that my overall word for the last year of the teens and to close out the decade was INDEPENDENCE. Cue independent related songs, plz. I should have made a playlist.

Before I continue, I do have to say that 2019 really was hella good to me so this post might end up appearing like a cheese-fest but honestly, I’m okay with that because we’re supposed to celebrate each others wins even though most people forget to do that. If you’re not into that, this is the point where you roll your eyes and exit. Boy, bye.

I’ve rarely been one to focus on the bad, the crummy, and the ugly but I have had a couple of not-so-hot years, too. This post is by no means a gloat-fest because I know others may have had a year of misfortune or some really really tough moments. Rather, this is an opportunity for me to share with you that you CAN overcome whatever hand you were dealt, even the most unwelcome ones. While I touch on it briefly, what I don’t share in this post is how many times I’ve been disappointed in those closest to me this year and how often I’ve let people down or how lonely it gets when everyone you know is celebrating their love while you are three blankets deep, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in, watching another episode of Outlander on Netflix. #mood

Life is sometimes a bummer. But it’s also really great if you allow the great in.

With that being said and because I’m supes cliché, here are NINETEEN significant moments from my 2019. Note, I did not say my “top 19” for a reason. While most of these are positives, I did have a few bumps and they did define my year overall. *In chronological order because it was too hard to weigh the importance.*

  1. Knee Probs: I had serious FML vibes at the start of the year. At the top of resolution season 2019, the slick ice outside took me out more than once, finally landing me on the ground with a torn ACL and meniscus. I’m counting my blessings this year each time I make it across the ice without slipping.
  2. Art Therapy: I’ve always had a knack for all the things art but this year was the cherry on top after abandoning my creative spirit for so many years. I took an 8-week pottery class, found a new appreciation via mural works, quilled N’ chilled, and make alcohol ink coasters, to name just a few. I even busted out of my insecurity bubble and tried pole dancing and sound bath meditation. All the kinds of arts FTW.
  3. Arizona! I checked off another state with my mom during our yearly trip to somewhere new and set eyes on one of the seven natural wonders of the world; the Grand Canyon! Read about our trip here.
  4. Rediscovered Faith: At a time in my life that I felt unbearably lost, I found myself waking up early and driving to a church near me. I had no intention of doing this, it just happened and it’s changed my life in so many ways. In 2020, I hope to share my faith story but I haven’t had the courage to do so quite yet. In finding my way this last year, I was welcomed with love and open arms. I attended a small group class, volunteered regularly, joined a grow group, and met truly wonderful followers in Christ both in and outside of the church I attend. I don’t know when I’ll put my Faith Story into words but when I do, it’ll live here.
  5. Concerts! I added Taking Back Sunday, Robert DeLong, LovelyTheBand, Flora Cash, Post Malone, Swae Lee, and Tyla Yaweh to my ever-growing list of “have seen” artists! Posty was the first concert that I attended completely alone. #yearoffirsts
  6. North Shore! OMG, you guys. While this might have seemed minuscule to some, this first regional solo trip was life-changing for me and set into motion something big later in the year. I was really struggling with some things during this time and very spur of the moment changed my plans from camping with my aunts family for a week to embarking on a self-reflection journey for a few days in solitude. I chronicled it via insta and then shared it here.
  7. Celebrated Love! My brother got engaged this year! I felt so honored that he asked me to capture this special moment and even more honored to be asked to be their Maid of Honor. An old friend from my daycare days also shared news of her engagement last spring and I can’t wait to celebrate with them this fall! My cousin is expecting her first little bundle of cuteness and my aunt moved her whole life to another city and is loving it! My youngest brother continues to make me a proud big sister as he continues to grow into the best father Emma could ever hope for. There was so much love this year, so much that I can’t even remember it all.
  8. That Camp Life! I attended two big Unglued events this year; a sleepover adult SUMMER CAMP (say what!) and day-long Fall Retreat! Both all by my lonesome BUT between the two, I met some really cool, kickass peeps. I built myself a blanket ladder, learned how to play the uke, got crafty AF, and found a beer I was actually into. I also may or may not have even dressed up and danced all my worries away in a barn wearing a bright blue wig looking like something magical.
  9. The People! In 2019, not only did I meet more people from more walks of life than ever before but I formed some really cool friendships with people that I only “kinda knew” in years past. Going to church turned into meeting so many wonderful people that are now pillars of strength and mentors in my life. Co-workers turned into important people that I spend time with outside of the regular 8-5. I went on dates; I went on some really bad dates and some really funny ones, too. I reconnected with old friends and best friends from another life. I met and visited with complete strangers in Arizona and Grand Marais and [spoiler] Iceland! 2019 had so many cool people, yo.
  10. Self Care: Ya girl treated herself in 2019. Facials and a regular at-home mask sesh, took myself to church, practiced app-guided meditation like a BOSS, took vitamins on a semi-reg basis, started getting my nails did. (Insert cute high-five girl emoji here.)
  11. State Fair + Apples: Because who doesn’t like either of those? I love everything State Fair and while my brother and his boo aren’t fans like I am (Crowds, heat, long lines, the smell of manure.. What’s not to love?), they still indulged me and agreed to make a weekend of it. We stopped at a neat little orchard that too and took a wagon ride through the woods like one does.
  12. Tattoo: It finally happened. After 11 years of indecisiveness, I finally did it.
  13. Turned 30! I have been flopping between wondering what happened to my 20’s and being so excited for this next decade. Currently: So excited. Also, I wrote something cool about turning 30. Check it out here.
  14. Got a New Job! Same company, new position. I learned a lot this year in the power of advocating for yourself and sticking to your guns; for believing that I was capable of great change in a company that I’m passionate about being a part of its future self. Plus, I finally got to fly in the company plane this year. So that was totes cool.
  15. Iceland! I really am at a loss for words. Trying to describe something so transformative to my life is difficult in the best ways. To the point even, that I owe myself three days worth of unbelievable moments left to transcribe. (I should get on that.) This was my first experience with group travel, my first time in Iceland, and my first time traveling alone abroad. I literally cannot wait until my next adventure! The days that I have detailed can be found here. The others will be up as soon as I stop procrastinating. 🙂
  16. Kittens: Bodhi is the best love bug snuggle bear any girl could wish for and we celebrated Agnes’ “got ya” day in December. I can’t imagine a life without cats in it. And that is a very objective, unbiased statement.
  17. Everything Emma: Need I say more? I could go on for days but I’ll save most of it for the book I’m sure I’ll write about her one day. Emma has a heart so big it makes my own nearly burst. She is such a goofball and so bright. I know everyone says it about the little’s in their lives but she really is going to change the world. I’d bet on it.
  18. Prayed Hard: A year of greats isn’t without sadness and anxiety. On the health front, a friend found himself in the hospital, both of my grandma’s are really feeling their age this year; I spent New Year’s Eve with my aunt and ungle along side my grandma pre and post-surgery for a broken arm among other things. My former boss and now co-worker has a son that suffered serious trauma recently; a young boy in our community died. All of this in 2019. Those are just the ingredients in my 2019 prayer cake. It’s also filled to the brim with so many blessing from those in my life that I care about and love.
  19. Self-Worth: This is tough one but one that I try to make an effort to improve upon every day that I can. It’s hard to grasp what self-worth should be or how to truly obtain it. To me, it’s a thing you see in movies like a great romance or a wizarding world of broomsticks and spells; it’s just a fairy-tale, to love yourself. I’ve very slowly, like snail-pace slowly, been working on my “you’re worth it” mantra and really evaluating the things that make me worth the friendship or the early morning coffee date or the relationship or the pamper yo’ self night or the ‘buy that purse because it looks cute’ splurge. I’ll get there, because I’m worth it. 😉

Okay, there you have it. The nineteen most impactful “somethings” from my 2019. I have a lot of really great things planned for this next year and for the first time in my LIFE, I followed through on nearly all of my goals this last year. I surprised myself more than once, did more than I had ever expected to, and grew in ways that I didn’t know I was capable of.

If I can give any advice for anyone reading this and questioning their 2020, my mom has always reminded me of this: Let go and let God.

What I learned.

I never even once thought of the people I’d meet on this trip. I was like, “I’m a solo traveler within a group; everyone is going to be doing their own things.” It didn’t even occur to me that I might meet people and even more so, meet people that I could grow to adore in such a short time.

Just writing that makes my eyes swell up with tears. The people I met this week were just as incredible as Iceland is. I focused my writings a lot on the trip itself but haven’t included much about the people that I’ve met along the way; mostly for their privacy. I have some feel-good stories and many moments in my journal that I’ll keep for myself to remember them by and cherish forever. I don’t know if any of us will ever cross paths again in this life, but I hope we do. It makes my heart so warm knowing there are people in the world that have the same wanderlust spirit and taste for adventure that I do because it’s easy to forget that when surrounded by people with different desires.

G (Gunner, our tour guide) was absolutely incredible. She is so proud of her heritage and of her country. She’s kind and welcomes you warmly and she’s so consistent. She’s not “on” and you can’t see through her because she is 100% genuinely authentically incredible. There was an elderly couple on our trip that had been all over the world; 100+ countries in their time together. The last time they’d been to Iceland was 1966. My mom was one! While some of their travels over the years was for work; a lot of it was for adventure and pleasure, too. They said that our guide was one of the top 5 EVER. In the 50+ years of traveling, Gunner Rosdottir is in their top 5. Talk about a compliment and it doesn’t even do her near as much justice as she deserves.

Guys, I’m so proud of myself. Like, in the best possible way. I can’t even think about it without crying and all of these feels are the most wonderful kind.

I noticed on face book that people are posting what they looked like at the beginning of the decade and at the end; most of them glow-ups but honestly that’s only due to fashion. I reflected on this on my last jaunt of a flight home. Physically, I’m much heavier now than I was at the beginning of this decade; is that a glow-down? I’m sure I’ve learned how to do my makeup a bit better and I’ve hopefully upgraded my fashion game but so much more has changed internally for the better rather than externally.

My life is split up into a handful of segments and I don’t know if that’s normal or not. A decade ago, I was in the early years of what would become a rocky and tumultuous relationship. I was more insecure than I’d ever been in my life and thought that by loving someone harder, I could fix them. Seven years ago, I was forced to leave that relationship because my mom and brother moved me out in the middle of the night due to an explosive conversation they heard when I secretly dialed my moms number. That didn’t last. He was broken and I was the only one that could salvage what life he had left in him. Or so I thought.

He didn’t share the same sense of adventure that I had. So, five years ago, I took the first step into not waiting around anymore for my life to begin. I started traveling with my mom. I feel like my first trip with my mom, through reflection, was my first real step into gaining Independence from an abusive situation. It took me another three years before I finally left that broken relationship.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I left the man that I’d loved with every ounce of my being for nearly a decade; for my entire adult life. I don’t know if i’ll ever be able to love someone the way I did him ever again. I know I’m capable of love; I’m a lover by nature but he took a piece of me that I’ll never be able to give someone again. A love that was fueled by pain. A love that I’m not willing to go through or forfeit to anyone ever again. I want a love that will move mountains, not dig graves.

That same two years ago, I was so unbelievable lost and broken in the truest sense. I came to realize that I wasn’t a person. My entire being existed to make his life better. I didn’t have a sense of self because it died when I left. I wish I could have told that girl then what I’d be doing now. She never would have dreamed of visiting Ireland and Scotland in 2018. She never would have dared go on a solo trip to the North Shore in her home-state. She didn’t think she’d ever get to see the Grand Canyon and she never ever, in a millions years, would have guessed that she’d travel to Iceland alone. I wish I would have told that girl that she’ll get through the pain and immerse the cocoon of heartbreak stronger and more powerful than she could have ever dreamt. I’m so proud of the woman I’ve become. I’ve always been strong but I can’t get over just how strong I am. How I can do this life and do it well, all on my own.

I know that I frequently reference this period of my life; this relationship.. And while I’m not defined by it now, it did define my life and who I was in it for a third of my life. So, I think it’s okay to refer back to it because it will always be there and it’ll always be a stepping stone of chapters in my long life of book. I’m only 30. I have so many more pages to grow from.

Thank you, dear readers, for coming on this journey with me. I’ll leave you with a quote by an Icelandic Nobel Peace Prize winner. Our tour guide recited it to us on one of our magical days traveling through the land of fire and ice:

“Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there anymore, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns there, beyond all demands.” – Halldór Laxness

Day 7: Home Sweet Home.

I landed in Fargo around 10:30 a.m. today and a friend from work picked me up. We grabbed lunch and then I finally made it home around 1:30 this afternoon. It’s been a productive day, too. I have successfully avoided jet lag upon my return home as planned. My bags are unpacked, my clothes are in the dryer, and my Christmas tree is up and fully decorated!

Both Agnes and Bodhi are glued to either side of me as I type this and have been transferring my journal entries to a blog format. I’m going to call it a night and enjoy their company; I love that they are the family I can come home to. As I type this, I have one last post to fully put together and a couple days left to type out from my journal, then this adventure will officially be a wrap!

I’ll elaborate more on my “What I Learned” post that I typically do at the end of each trip but for those reading now, thank you for all of the comments, texts, and snaps spreading words of encouragement and love as I’ve embarked on this international solo adventure. It’s been a whirlwind of unbelievable moments and the cheering from afar means more to me than you’ll ever know. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many good people in this world.

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!

Day 6: Eég mun sakna þín svo mikið.

The title of this post translates to “I will miss you so much” thank you and brought to you by Google Translate.

Today I leave Iceland and I can already see the teardrops on my guitar. Or ukulele, I should say.  We got back very late from hunting for the dancing lights in the sky. I have no idea the time but I would guess 1:30 a.m. (or so). I had intended on waking up at a semi-decent time to at least get breakfast but I missed my alarm completely and woke up around 9:45 a.m. It was too late to get dressed and grab breakfast so I decided to just relax and enjoy the last moments of quiet in Iceland.

I stayed in bed until around 10:30 a.m., took my last long hot Icelandic shower. Water is their number one resource here and they have more than enough to go around so I took full advantage of it. I packed my bags after getting ready for the day and watched out the window for a little while. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it but my view is of the Atlantic Ocean and Mount Esja, a volcanic mountain range just north of the city. Watching out the window from my hotel was so peaceful and the perfect way to soak in and reflect on this adventure.

I brought my things down to the lobby around noon to check out and visit with my fellow travelers one last time before we all got on the bus to head out. For the third or fourth time this week, I could feel my eyes filling with happy tears once again. I didn’t expect to meet people on this trip; it hadn’t even occurred to me that I would. Hugging everyone goodbye at the airport was bittersweet. I was sad to be saying goodbye, not knowing if I’d see anyone ever again but full of glee to have met so many like-minded people.

In the airport, I filled up my water bottle one last time with the precious and absolutely delicious Icelandic water. I may need to ship some to my home, I’m not even kidding. I don’t care how Real Housewives that makes me sound, you have to taste it to understand.

On the six and a half hour plane ride home, I forced myself to stay awake so I could beat jet lag. Time will tell if I succeeded. I started watching Outlander after being encouraged to watch it for some time by a friend of my moms. Ya girl is on episode 6 and I have a feeling it will overtake my entire weekend back home.

I can’t believe I’m almost already home.

Oh! I flew over Greenland! Unless or until I visit Iceland again, I don’t know that I’ll ever see Greenland in my life so I had to snap some photos. Stunning and completely untouched!

Night 5: The Glorious Aurora Borealis.

There are no words to describe the incredible nighttime beauty that Iceland embodies when the dancing lights in the sky appear. One thing I found fascinating and never really realized before is that what we see with the human eye is lighter and more dull than what a camera can capture. I don’t know the science behind it but that’s the way it is.

That’s not to say that witnessing the Northern Lights in Iceland’s night sky wasn’t worth seeing; it was. After falling short the evening before on the Atlantic Ocean aboard an Elding Whale Watching boat, our entire group was eager for the weather to cooperate with us. Of all the bucket list items I’ve ever written down, seeing the Aurora’s in a Scandinavian country was one of my top 5 and it happened. IT HAPPENED! The aurora forecast was strong at a 4 and the clouds stayed at bay which made the evening a perfect one for viewing.

And with that, I’ll leave you with the visuals of that evening. I wish I could transport every person that sees this back to those moments with me. We were the only group in a man-made Icelandic forest about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik (I’m guessing on the distance). The driver, Igor, and our tour guide, G, were perfect hosts to their country sharing this event with us.

To read more about the Northern Light’s in Iceland, check out this article by Travel & Leisure. Or to learn more about the Aurora’s in general, Wikipedia is always my go-to starting point.

Day 5: The South Coast.

Today’s post is going to be a little different. I’m going to directly transcribe my scribbles without fashioning them into comprehensible paragraphs. I don’t think I’ll regret it but also, they might not make sense. 🙂

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Waterfall is inside a glacier (whaaa!). Got soaked walking behind the waterfall but holy shit, worth it. Waterfalls are life, ya’ll.

Skogar Museum: Cool huts and I found a mini-hut village after exploring. Giant boat inside, loads of Icelandic artifacts. Took videos of the inside because ’twas fascinating to see how people actually lived and.. were they super tiny? One family would have a handful of small huts because it was easier to heat the small spaces than one large space.

Reynisfjara Beach/The Black Sand Beach: Game of Thrones reference, I really should figure out how to watch this show. First Ireland, now Iceland? Basalt caves; wicked current and waves. Lots of danger signs. Were advised to stay away from the water because our girl G said it’s dangerous AF. 10-4.

Skogafoss Waterfall: 2nd waterfall of the day! Saw a full rainbow over the glacier AND it was 11:11 at the same time; made the biggest of wishes. Folklore about 1st settler had taken all his gold and threw it into the waterfall. Peeps tried to find it but only go the handle.. the handle was a on church for along time but now resides in the Skogar museum.

Reykjavik Kitchen: Goodbye dinner cue waterworks. We had lamb Carpaccio (omg gross but I tried it) and pan fried cod on a bed of potatoes with delish sauce (all the yums). Dessert; chocolate brownie and vanilla bean ice cream (omg blueberry sauce is so good!).

Other scribbles from my journal today, in no particular order:

  • G made us “Marriage Cake” which was delish. I think it had some type of rhubarb in it? She also had us try this super duper smelly fish jerky and chocolate licorice candy. I think I found the souvenir to bring back home to everyone!
  • Outlet glacier nicknamed Solo; most glaciers are in the south because of the amount of precipitation; 4 glaciers in Iceland. Oldest part of Solo is from 1100 ad. Multan (sp?): water drills it into a glacier; outlet glacier pushed out under the weight of the main glacier
  • Tonight, The Northern Lights.

Day 4: All the colors and such extremes.

Today was a perfect leisurely day all around. We were supposed to head to the South Coast today but due to the weather, our guide opted to swap days 4 and 5. I think this was a perfect decision because yesterday was jam packed and tomorrow will be too. A less physical day is a good break between leg day and.. leg day, haha!

The morning was my oyster. We headed to the Blue Lagoon today (which I’ll get to) but weren’t slated to leave until around noon. With that, I met up with four of the gals I’ve met on this trip for breakfast. Valerie, the timely solo chick she is, arrived first and I second. Sylvia, Sharon, and Theresa joined us shortly after. The breakfast at this hotel, Haust, is on point! A full breakfast buffet that is longer than my apartment is wide welcomed our hungry American stomachs each morning.

We all ate more than we probably normally would on a Tuesday morning but meh, we’re on vacation and we bouje. Once we were finished, we decided to roam around downtown Reykjavik for a couple of hours. It was still dark, have I mentioned how dark it is here? The sun doesn’t fully rise until after 10:00 a.m. and nothing was open quite yet. The only place we happened upon that was open before 10:00 was a quaint little bookstore with a store cat named Lucy. We wandered in there a bit and then continued on our way past a bizarre penis museum (ask me about it, and I’ll indulge you) and along the narrow streets decorated in full holiday attire. I felt like I was in a storybook.

We found what we dubbed the Hipster District. Turning the corner, all the buildings were fashioned as works of art. From a black and white house that looked like a Sharpie sketch come to life to a pride-inspired dragon pathway. I felt like I’d been transported into the minds of Salvador Dali and Lewis Carroll. I could have spent the entire day walking up and down each street but we eventually needed to continue on our way. Nearing our hotel on the way back, we captured the amazing views of the mountain in the distance from the hilltop streets we were on between the tall apartment buildings. Could you imagine waking up to that each morning? What a treat.

Bláa Lónið aka The Blue Lagoon was next up and man did it deliver. No article or photo I’d ever seen of the Blue Lagoon does this place justice. Seeing the bright blue ribbons of silica filled water and steam run through a lava field is otherworldly. As soon as we started on the pathway towards the entrance of the building to this geothermal spa, before we even entered, I immediately felt a sense of calm. I couldn’t believe I was there. We were welcomed by beautiful white birds just wandering around minding their own and got a glimpse of the water up close before we hit the doors. (I don’t know my birds so forgive me but I just want to refer to these dudes as swans. If they are swans, whoa.)

Once inside, we were given sweet wristbands in case we wanted to buy anything; we didn’t have to carry money with us. Checking out with the wristband seemed supes high tech and just furthered my level of impression. There are two ways to enter TBL; the spa way or the Nordic way. Once you exit the locker rooms, you walk down the steps. If you continue walking straight, you approach TBL inside, the floor dips down and you walk into the 100+ degree water while still in the building and making your way towards the wall eventually exiting outside fully submerged. If you go that way, you’re welcomed by a lava wall cave and bridge once outside. This is known as the “spa way.”

Or, you can enter The Blue Lagoon the Nordic way; wild and free! Through a bit of coercion by Sharon in our group, a handful of us decided to do as the Nordics do. We hung up our already soaking wet towels (you have to shower before entering the Lagoon), shivering, feet bare, and left only in our swimsuits.. we opened the building doors to the outside. The air temperature was sitting right at freezing and we felt like Nordic Queens as we walked the path from the building to the shimmery blue water in front of us, the steam rolling far higher than we were tall. And wow, what a feeling. From catching our breath because we were shivering to feeling the warm, healing-esque salt water hug our bodies was unexplainable.

The Blue Lagoon goes on and on and on. There are nooks and streams everywhere you turn. There are two bars; a mask bar and an alcohol bar. After applying mud masks, we made our way to the bar where I tried some Somersby Cider. Between the two places lies a waterfall that you can stand beneath and get a waterfall water massage, it was incredible. The water isn’t deep. Standing at 5’8″, I think it reached my neck at the deepest. We visited with others on our trip, floated aimlessly on our backs, eyes closed and took in as much as we could in the time we had. Iceland has so many “worth it” factors and this one is right there at the very top of the list.

Tonight we hunt for the Northern Lights but before that, I hit up the Bjór Garðurinn for dinner. I went down alone but found some people from my group that I hadn’t had a chance to talk to much yet. Deb and Dan and then Eric and Rosanne; both mother/son duos which I found very sweet. I travel with my mom at least once a year and I know I’ll forever cherish those trips so seeing other parent/child pair-ships makes my heart warm. Our conversations over dinner were great ones and the food was good to boot.

Following dinner, everyone met in the lobby bundled up in our warmest of clothes. We were about to embark on an Atlantic adventure off the coast of Iceland in search for the dancing lights of the north. I stayed on the top deck for most of our excursion visiting with Eric and G but also made my rounds and visited with a few other people while patiently waiting for the Northern Lights. There were these cool suits people could put on to keep warm, they looked like astronauts walking around. It was mighty brisk outside but I didn’t end up grabbing one.

I definitely have a vaca-crush on the Croatian tour guide, Lucas, of Elding Whale Watching. While we didn’t end up seeing the lights tonight, his commentary was delightful and his wit was on point. Only a certain type of person can make safety protocol instructions sound interesting enough to listen to. It’s the accent, I’m sure of it.

The trip out to sea wasn’t for naught, though. We saw the beautiful lit up skyline of Reykjavik from the boat and were the closest we’d been yet to one of the mountains we could see from shore. Even in the dark, it seemed majestic. We could also see the Imagine Peace Tower really well. Yoko Ono created the Imagine Peace Tower in memory of John Lennon in 2007, it holds the wishes, wisdom and peace of millions around the world. We didn’t get an opportunity to physically visit it but I still sent my wishes to it the same way I do when I see a shooting star.

Since we didn’t see the lights tonight, we go hunting again tomorrow but via bus instead of boat. The forecast was really good tonight but the cloud cover eliminated out chances of seeing anything. Thanks for reading!


Day 3: The Golden Circle.

Where do I start? As I may have already mentioned, for the first time, I didn’t blog on my trip. Rather, I journaled and am now transcribing those scribbles upon my return to the States.

Though, my notes are brief at times, I remember day 3 as one of my most cherished. It was a busy day from sunrise to well past sunset as we ventured The Golden Circle. Here we go..

Þingvellir National Park: No big or anything but I spent the morning walking through 9000 year old LAVA WALLS. I seriously feel like I’m watching someone else live this life. Water thousands of years old flowing from glaciers.. Paths carved out of lava fields for us to explore; the same fields are more vast and higher in the air than most buildings where I live. This National Park is on North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates. When we arrived, we entered on the North American side and when we left, we were on the Eurasion. Who knew science and the Earth we live on could be so facinating? Like, where was I in school when they explained this stuff?

Friðheimar Tomato & Horse Farm: Stationed near Reykholt, I met two sweetheart Icelandic horses, learned all about their lineage and about tomato farming in Iceland. Did you know that there are 100K Icelandic horses in Iceland and over 160K in the rest of the world due to exporting? Also, Icelandic horses are the only horse bred that lives in Iceland.

Here, I sipped savory homegrown tomato soup with a dollop of sour cream and paired it all with the freshest of baguettes. Anyone that knows me, knows a good tomato soup and grilled cheese will put a smile on my face.

At any given time, there are over 600 bees pollinating the tomatoes of Friðheimar. One neat thing to know, is that the tomatoes grown here, are only sold in Iceland for Icelanders; they don’t export them.

This was actually one of the trip itinerary items I was least interested in initially and it turned out to be such an awesome way to experience Iceland at a much slower pace. Inside a warm greenhouse full of tomato vines and yellow lights among a group of people who were strangers just two days ago, somehow, felt like home.

Gullfoss aka The Golden Waterfall: Gullfoss literally took my breath away. The wind was strong today and there were talks of the waterfall being closed to the public because of it. Praise Jesus and his apostles for a break in the weather. Waterfalls are my kryptonite. While I’m not the epitome of health, I will cross any barrier no matter the difficulty to witness a waterfalls rushing waters and transformative powers. The trek to Gullfoss was the most difficult (there and back) that I’d ever taken. The winds were some of the fastest i’d ever experienced, the rain and snow mixture was in full force and the amount of people at Gullfoss was beyond countable. At one point, I saw a small woman, she couldn’t have been more than 5′ 3″ and 105 pounds. She was crawling up the hill holding on for her life to the ropes just to get a glimpse. I could barely keep upright myself, imagine the core strength on that woman. But, at last, I made it. And I took in ever single second I could. I’m sure I’ve said it and I’ll likely say it again but this view was one for a lifetime. One full of words that I don’t have the vocabulary for and one, that a photograph cannot do justice. P.S. This beautiful Golden Waterfall is the largest in Europe.

Strokkur Geysir: Next up was a hot spring geothermal park, another first. The short hike to the geysir was quiet and easy but getting TO the geysir was a different story thanks to my nemesis, ice. At one point, I took a step and, like in a movie, I slowly slid backwards about 20 feet. It probably took me 10 minutes just to get those 20 feet. Thankfully, a couple fellow travelers making their way back down found goodness within them to help a struggling me make my way to the geysir. For a moment, I felt embarrassed but then, the geysir erupted and any sense of who I was in that moment or how I felt disappeared. It’s okay to ask for help and accept it. If you don’t, you might miss one of the biggest moments in your life.

That concludes day 3 of Iceland; the Golden Circle. On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped in Hveragerði for hot dogs and ice cream, which, is a PERFECT combo if you ask me. Later in the evening, a couple of us took a stroll to grab a late night snack. We happened across Íslenska Hamborgarafabrikkan and landed there. Each time a baby is born in Iceland, a bell rings in this restaurant and automatically adds to the population sign near the back of the building. The bell rang a handful of times when we were there, so cool!

I don’t know if I’ve yet mentioned it but the water in Iceland is hands down, the best water in the entire world. It is Iceland’s only natural resource and it is so clean and crisp. I’ve already ordered myself a case of Icelandic glacier water to be shipped home. It should be there the day after I arrive.

Day 2: Jet lag is real.

I’m HERE! I’m in ICELAND! Is this real life?! I feel like my heart is going to jump right out of my chest.

I was welcomed at the airport by Gunnur (G), the tour guide for the week. I can already tell she’s going to be awesome. She welcomed everyone with the sweetest “Hello, Hello” and I love it; her voice is so clear and it’s soothing to the ear. The few people I met in Chicago during my layover arrived shortly after I did in the waiting area.

Once everyone arrived, we were ushered to the bus which was a lovely bright pink EF tour bus, we won’t be able to miss that this week! The drivers name is Ivar and I think he’ll be our driver all week. There were already a handful of people on the bus, I’m not sure when their flights arrived.

When we arrived at the hotel, it was still morning but I’m not sure of the time. The day is a little bit of a blur, I’m so tired. I did my best to sleep on the flight but I’m finding out that I didn’t succeed. We had to hang out in the lobby for an hour or two before the Welcome Lunch at 11:45. Most people, myself included dozed off multiple times as we waited. There’s a restaurant in the hotel called Haust and the lunch was, as they described it, a luxurious Christmas buffet including local delicatessen. It was elaborate and beautiful. Everyone loved the food; I’ll refrain from any criticisms because my taste pallet is that of a 5-year old so I can’t really provide a legit review. The dessert was hella bomb though. Icelanders know how to do dessert, that’s for sure!

We went around the table, I think there are 27 of us, and introduced ourselves. I think I may be the only person in the world not to have been to Australia and New Zealand, ha! Quite a few people in the group have traveled there and they said it’s just wonderful.

In addition to Valerie from earlier today (last night?), I have a feeling I’ll hit it off with two other ladies here together too, Sharon and Theresa. Theresa is a relative of Sharon’s husband and they’ve traveled together quite a bit it sounds. They’re both from the Baltimore area and have very inviting personalities, which I appreciate.

After a filling lunch, we headed out for a city sightseeing tour to jump-start our time in Iceland. We toured the grounds of the Ásmundarsafn Art Museum and Hallgrímskirkja Church. The museum’s grounds were filled with mostly naked and abstract statues created by an artist by the name of Ásmundur Sveinsson. If I remember correctly, the museum used to be his home and opened as a museum sometime after his death.

We also visited Perlan Observatory Deck where we had the most beautiful and picturesque 360 degree views of the city from above.  This definitely helped to wake me up. My favorite photo is at the end of this post. I captured a beautiful fall meets winter photo of Mount Esja. It was just stunning.

Our last stop was near the Parliament. Some of the people on our tour elected to walk to the Parliament. Others, including myself, took a walk along the river to catch the sunset (at 3:45 p.m.) and visit an abundant amount of birds flying every which way.

I don’t know what to expect these next few days but this city has already exceeded any expectation I could have had. The jet lag is hitting me so hard, I can barely write so I think I’ll call it a night. I don’t even think it’s dinner time yet but I need to crash. Tomorrow is full and I’m in ICELAND. I’ll never get used to this.

Day 1: That airport life, though.

It’s nearly 5:00 PM and I’m at gate M20, terminal 5 in O’Hare. I’m tired and I’m hot. Why is it every time I visit O’Hare (this is only time numero dos), I have to walk thirty thousand miles? Gate M20 is the last M-gate at the end of a marathon length hallway with nothing to eat or drink. The struggle! But it’s whatever dude, I’m almost to Iceland.

YES. ICE ICE, BABY. I can’t believe it either.

On my trek back towards M-something-that-is-not-20 but basically at the beginning, I ran into this really cool couple. They were cool because they were wearing a light blue, almost periwinkle Schrute Farms sweatshirt. Why is that cool? Because I’m wearing the SAME exact sweatshirt. We have a club now.

I’ve also met a few people on my tour. Sue and Jim, they’ve been everywhere, man. I’m not kidding. Paris, Australia, New Zeland, Kenya, Egypt, China.. you name it. Oh Hawaii too; Greece next year. Sue doesn’t stop talking. Jim doesn’t talk.

I also met a chick named Valerie. I spotted her Go Ahead tag about 20 minutes ago but I didn’t know which level of creep was acceptable. Eventually Sue and Jim found her too and they connected the four of us.

That’s about all for now. I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done on this solo adventure. I received two travel journals as birthday gifts this year so I’ve packed one along. I have a feeling I’ll be writing in that and transcribing my ramblings into a blog format when I get time after returning home. I’m trying this really foreign thing called living in the moment. It’s pretty cool.

We board IcelandAir in about an hour or so. I’m going to catch up on an Elevation Podcast and re-fill my water bottle. Bless (bye in Icelandic).

Pre-Trip Feels.

I never used to have anxiety. If I did, I think I pushed it way way down into the pits of my soul. It started creeping in about two years ago which coincides with a significant choice in my life. Of course it does; when something shifts, all of you shifts. That was the case for me, at least.

Anyway, while I acknowledge that I struggle with anxiety, I don’t and won’t allow it to define who I am. Example: The night before my trip (last night), I had two meltdowns. One on the phone with my mom and one as I tossed and turned throughout the night. Who needs sleep?

Both were over things the good-frame-of-mind version of myself would think are ridiculous but I can’t help when it creeps in. Praise Jesus for my mother. I know that she doesn’t always “get it” but she does always know how to bring me back down to reality. I’m so grateful for the life I have and the opportunities I’ve been given and allowed myself to have so when I start feeling anxious about those same things, I get so frustrated. Like, I just want to shake it out of me.

Anyway, to sum it up; similar to my last trip just a couple of months ago.. my pre-trip feels were filled with self-induced stress and anxiety. Why though? I really do firmly believe hugs solve so much. In those moments, all I needed was a hug. Hugs weren’t available but my kittens were. I’ll miss those two this next week.

Oh, I haven’t even said what this trip is! I’m going to ICELAND! Shut up, I know. I can’t believe it either. I’m sure I’ve annoyed my co-workers to death talking about it, and my family too, but I’m just so excited!

This is my first international solo trip and I’m freaking out a little! Okay, I’m freaking out a lot. I had tossed around the idea of doing a solo trip to the UK since returning from an international voyage with my mom last fall. I wanted to visit Scotland again and hit up the London area. But I’ve been so busy with life and work that time was ticking and I hadn’t planned a single thing. I didn’t want this entire year to go by and not go on a solo adventure that I really felt like I needed.

I remembered visiting with a gal earlier this year about EF (Education First) and kept finding myself back on their travel sites. I kept switching between Ultimate Break and Go Ahead (both EF companies). The main difference was that UB is for those 29 and under. It was already late September by this time and after analyzing my calendar, the only time I could make a trip work before the end of the year was a very specific timeframe in November. So here I am! Go Ahead Tours it is! I hope to give a thorough review of GAT once my trip concludes so I can share all the deets from pre-trip to post then. So far, 10/10 recommend.


Thank you for all of the calls, texts, Happy Birthday songs, posts, gigantic balloons, and love this last week and weekend! The world sure knows how to help a girl ring in 30 with style.

Last year, I made a promise to myself to let 29 be the best year yet and on a rare occasion, I saw that promise to myself come to fruition. I checked off another state on my bucket list traveling with my mom to Arizona and watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. I embarked on my first solo trip up the North Shore and took the most beautiful photos, if I do say so myself. I joined community events, took all the classes I could to feed my creative needs, and found adventure often on my own because I decided some time ago that didn’t need to always wait for someone else to be interested in things.

I strengthened relationships with those I love and because of that get to stand next to my future sister when she marries one of the best men in this world (my brother)! I went to plays and concerts and a ballet. I brought Bodhi home a little sister kitten and we named her Agnes.

This year I found my home church and in it, a passionate community filled to the brim with sunshine I didn’t know existed. I advocated for myself in my career, I went to sleepover summer camp, and I went on some weird dates but I also found out that you find genuinely good people, turned friends, in the places you’d least expect it.

To really send my 20’s the best of farewells and with the inspiration from a beautiful soul I met this year, I started an adventure journal a little more than 30 days ago. Each day leading up to my birthday, I did something new. Some days were small like a new gold eye mask, some days were life changing and some, humbling. I plan to continue my adventues moving into year 30, but on a weekly basis. Doing something new every single day is harder than you’d think!

Before I share my top 9 (because Nov. 9, duh), if you’ve made it this far in my ramble, I hope you’re living your best year yet and if you’re not, you deserve to be.

If I’ve learned anything in life this far, I know that I was always the only person ever holding myself back from happiness. You have to choose it daily. I used to (and sometimes still do) let people determine my mood and my choices. Some days will suck but that doesn’t mean weeks or months or years have to. You’re more kickass than you give yourself credit for! Remember that.

And to ground this post a bit when it might be sounding too peachy keen for those that forget we’re all guilty of a filtered social media life: I have had a lot of shit days in the last year (and decade) too. I lost friendships I thought I’d have forever and I still haven’t lost weight. Honestly, I’ve gained even more. I’ve had my heart broken and I struggle with bouts of anxiety especially when trying something new. Sometimes I can’t look at myself in the mirror because I can’t find a single thing to love. I get sad when everyone I know shares photos of thier beautifully blessed growing families and I’m afraid I’ll never find love in the ‘swipe right’ world we live in. But I do my best not to let all the stuff that bums me out determine my quality of life. Because deep down, I know that I’m so worth it and guess what? You’re so worth it too.

Okay, here my top 9 favorite things of that last 30+ days:

  • Joined a Grow Group at church.
  • Got my first tattoo!
  • Learned how to quill.
  • Went to a Sound Bath Meditation class.
  • Bought lunch for the person behind me in line.
  • Took pole dancing classes!
  • Learned how to play the ukulele!
  • Bought someone flowers “Just Because.”
  • Surprised one of my oldest friends for her birthday!

Thank you again to every single person that has cheered me on this year. You’ve impacted and influenced my life more than I can express and I’m grateful. Here’s to the next 365+ days! I’m excited, God is good, and laughter solves most everything. ♥️

#Last90Days but like, my style.

So, to preface.. I know that Rachel Hollis/her cool hubby, Dave/The Hollis Co have a #Last90Days challenge. Did it start last year? Or is last year when all the people jumped on the badwagon? Either way, I was slow to the knowledge roll and didn’t get on board mostly because I didn’t hear about it until the end of October last year. Where was I? I couldn’t tell you. But I’ve heard of it. I know minimal information about it and I think it’s awesome that people are raving about their #Last90Days.

This year has come and just about gone too. But I’m not going to do the #Last90Days challenge because I don’t want to just do it because everyone else is doing it. I’ve been a follower more often than I’d like to admit in my life thus far. However, I am nearing age 30 here in a few weeks, November 9th to be exact, and I want to do something to wish my 20’s farewell and start off this next decade feeling like a million bucks, or close to it. My 20’s have been rough and while I’ve made a lot of progress over the last couple of years, a lot of this decade is overshadowed by sadness and not good feels. I want to change that before it’s too late.

I have a 30 before 30 list. Actually, I have a 90 before 30 list because I’m an overacheiever. (Or underahicever? Because I haven’t acutally competed my 90 before 30.) Backing up, in case you’re wondering why I have 90 before 30, let me fill you in on all that is Ori. I am SO indeciesive. LIKE. SO. INDECIDISVE. I can’t even pick out a super cute poof that I’ve had my eye on from Wayfair because I can’t decide if I want light pink or light blue (both match my rug) or if I want a round poof or a square one. Can someone pick for me, plz? This is why I enjoy exchanging Christmas gifts/lists because I can see something that reminds me of someone else and purchase it no problem but when it comes to myself? I can’t ever make a deicison.

So, ramble aside.. 90 before 30, what? I have a 30 before 30 for “Travel,” a 30 before 30 for “Lifestyle,” and a 30 before 30 for “Other/Hobbies.” Did your eyes get big? Mine did writing that. I know, forgive me, I’m aware of my obsessive list-like nature to control everything. I made this master 90 before 30 list about a year and a half ago, after a near decade long relationship ended. I forced myself to put my actual life in the front and center, THE STAGE IS YOURS GIRLFRIEND spotlight. 90 pretty hefty lifts in less then 2 years was stupid unattainable even if I had the means nessisary but whatevs. I know if I review my entire adult life as a whole, I should be impressed. I’ve crossed off far more things than I give myself credit for. I’ve crossed off things not even on my list and I’ve crossed off things I didn’t think I could.

I’m a badass. (And so are you, boo.)

This post is getting away from me already. What I’ve been thinking about doing is launching a “30 before 30” challenge for myself. 30 adventures or challenges or new things; cool things; something! 30 days of doing things that improve my life for the 30 days leading up to my birthday. BUT because I initially created a 90 before 30 bucket list and I keep hearing about this last 90 days of the year hoopla, why not combine the two?

So, I introduce you to: Last 90 days, but like, my style.

I’m not sold on the name but I’m rolling with it. I’ve already done so many AMAZING life-changing things and have so much more planned for the rest of the year. I don’t want to just zone in on the 30 days before my birthday and enter the new “birth” year without intentionally improving my life. That seems a little morbid. I’m constantly working on myself to improve my life but it’s just like the New Year; we get so excited for the New Year, we make lists and resolutions. We have all these dreams but how many of us give up by day 5? I don’t want to be feeling “meh” 5 days after I turn 30!

I want to start now. I want to live intentionally every single day. I want to start checking things off my stupid long lists. Lists that extend far beyond 90 and lists that I haven’t even written yet. I want to improve myself inside and out; mind, body and soul. I want to do things that freak me out a little like face my fears and call a therapist. I want to do things that I’m too ignorant to understand, like volunteer at a homeless shelter or provide food to those in need. I want to learn how to play the ukulele and declutter my closet and buy myself some GD flowers. I want to give blood and buy someone a nice dinner. I want to grow and lead my life with intention and purpose. I want to feel good about helping and giving; I want to continue to accept myself for who I am; to channel Lizzo’s #badassbitch vibes when I start body-shaming myself.

So, fuck it. I’ma do it. I might fail but I might not. How cool would it be if I can kick the last few weeks of my 20’s in the rear end like a sexy little booty slap on the ass rather than a whoopin’? AND welcome my 30’s feeling like I can achieve anything and everything I set my mind to? Old year, improving me; New year, even better me.

What I learned.

I’m writing this post long after my trip occurred but I am predating it so that it fits snugly at the end of my series.

As soon as I arrived back to work this past week, I got swept away in the day-to-day of a working girl’s life (get your mind out of the gutter). But I did learn something on this trip and I need to record it for my future-self.

I learned that I am a lot more independent and both mentally and physically stronger than I give myself credit for and I learned that there truly is peace and solitude as described in day two.

Through reflection, I think what I’ve been most scared about is becoming too comfortable with being alone; I’ve been single for roughly a year and a half. There have been a couple of dates here and there, I was seeing a guy for about a month or so last fall, and I had some kind of weird FWB thing with a dude but nothing really stuck. Nothing ever really felt “real” so even during those blips, I still felt alone.

I don’t like feeling alone, I don’t like not having a person, but I’ve been okay lately. I had a blast on this trip up the North Shore. I enjoyed the alone time with myself; I enjoy my own company. I slept when I wanted to, I cried when I needed to, I sang at the top of my lungs without judgement. I moseyed and lingered around as long as I felt whenever I felt, wherever I felt. I did relish in the fact not having to appease someone else.

I know that, by nature, I am a people pleaser and I seem to, without a choice, mold my behaviors or moods into whoever I am surrounded by. I really want to change that because I’m slowly finding out that I’m pretty freaking great. But I know that I always think whoever I’m with is better than me, that their ideas are better than me or that their opinions or feelings or frame of mind is more superior than mine. I always let the other person in my life whether it be a friend, a family member or significant other.. I always let their presence be the dominant one.

I am definitly not dominant by nature but through this trip, I realized that I am just as important as the people that I surround myself with and should give myself more credit for that.

I know that this is becoming ramble but I guess to sum it up.. I’m okay for real. I think I’ve said that before in a previous post but I feel it more and more every day. At the beginning of this trip, I was feeling a level of anxiety that I had never felt before. I was too stressed to think, too busy to plan, and I completely changed my trip the day before I was supposed to leave which is so unlike me. But maybe I’m not the same “me” anymore. A lot has changed.

Now a week+ after this trip, I’m not feeling that same level of anxiety, I’m feeling more peaceful. I had a really really great time, by myself.

With that being said. I am still so afraid that I will be alone for a long long time and a part of me is sad that I don’t have anyone to share memories with on this trip but it’s okay.

I don’t want to rush into finding a relationship, I want it to find me. I don’t need to have a warm body to feel whole. I might want one, but I would rather wait until it’s the right one than to just fill a space in my bed. So, with that being said, this is where I leave you: If you’re reading this or if my future self is, you’re badass and so flipping cool already. I wish you could see what others do. You’re getting to where you need to be in this world and you won’t be alone forever, if that’s your fear. Having a fulfilling life alone will make you a better person when that one awesome dude comes along. You’ll have so much more to offer then than you do now. Love this time, girl.

Day 5+6+7: Backyard fireworks and chill.

Happy belated birthday, ‘Merica! Ugh, I hate myself for just saying that. I cringe whenever I see that slang. Not because I’m super patriotic but because it’s annoying and now, by default, I’m annoying. Great.

Today’s post will be shortish because I’ve actually been home now for a few days so my “adventures” are more locally sourced and have been filled with family and the love they exude.

Thursday was the fourth of July, if you didn’t gather that in ‘graph one. I bought a hot dog from a food stand because I don’t think you’re really embracing your birth right if you don’t celebrate by indulging in an American staple. Right?

My brother, Nick, and his now-fiance (newly engaged cuties!) invited me over for some backyard fireworks and cocktails with my cousins at some random persons house. One of my cousins is house-sitting thus the randomness. The bottle rockets and air troopers didn’t last too long but they were fun to watch. They’d been there a bit longer than me but we ended up heading out to catch some real magic in the sky at MSUM in Moorhead.

A very interestingly assembled band called Post Traumatic Funk serenaded the crowd of people on the bleachers facing the football field until dusk. The place was packed and it was my first time celebrating the 4th there. My best memories during this holiday fall in a little place up north called Warroad. It’ll always be nostalgic for me but I can see this presentation becoming a new tradition. The ‘works were beautiful tonight. 🙌

Friday, Katie and I went to get our nails done for the first time. I have had them done in the past, circa prom 2008 and square tips, but we’re sophisticated women now and I love them! I need to check out my budget but I hope this can become a regular thing. I feel so much more feminine with my nails done and shaped nicely. Goodbye pudge sausage fingers, hello cute lady nails!

Today, my youngest brother, Logan, his daughter (my best friend and niece), Emma, and my mom came to visit. We played at the park, grabbed lunch, and visited Nick. ‘Twas a beautiful day and the perfect way to “end” a vacation.

I’ll share more sap and love in my WIL post tomorrow.