I Don’t Want to Explore Oxford

I wrote this piece last month while traveling through Europe for five weeks.

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I’m in Oxford, UK, and I don’t want to explore. Actually, exploring Oxford is the last thing I want to do right now.

Here’s the deal:
On a family trip to Colorado a few years ago, my mom and two brothers wanted to sit in a coffee shop and relax (I’ve heard it’s called “vacationing”), while my dad and I, ever the adventures, wanted to get out and see some of the beautiful state we were visiting.

So we left the lazy bums behind and headed to Black Canyon, which was covered in snow and SCARY slippery for us flatlanders. We almost died trying to see the view, but in the end we were left with a great memory.

From that moment on I’ve always poked fun at those who go to exotic places and choose to simply sit in a coffee shop or relax in their hotel rather than exploring.

Why would you waste your time doing nothing?

Well today, with one foot in my mouth, I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Oxford, UK, where I am simply sitting with no plans of exploring this quaint and historic university town.

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The C.S. Lewis nature reserve in Oxford

Usually I get up with the sun and hit the city, exploring as many streets as me feet can bear to take me down.

But today I can’t. Today, I’m tired. Really, really tired.

I’m tired of being on the go constantly, tired of a strict itinerary and, as much as I hate to say it, tired of sightseeing.

Today I need to rest, and more than that, I need to be okay with giving myself that luxury, even though it’s against every part of my nature.

Two things I’m trying to keep in mind:

1. I don’t need to see every site, learn every historical fact or take every artsy Instagram picture I can to experience all that a city has to offer.
2. If I want to keep traveling, keep sightseeing and keep up this pace, I need to take a break.

Although my schedule allows me to see amazing sights and experience even more of Europe than I even imagined, it isn’t sustainable. And it’s okay to give myself time to catch up.

IMG_6711And hey, if there’s anywhere I’m going to just sit in a coffee shop, read and write, what better place than Oxford? Some of my favorite authors spent time in this very city doing exactly what I’m doing today.

So, to anyone I’ve ever mocked or looked down upon for relaxing instead of exploring, I’m sorry. While I still don’t think spending an entire trip on your bum is the way to go, I now recognize that rest and rejuvenation are more than necessary to keep going.

And PS, I did end up exploring Oxford once my weary little soul was rested, and I loved it! Definitely a trip highlight that I wouldn’t have enjoyed if I was still exhausted.

How do you find rest when you’re traveling? Any tips for this newbie? 
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Travel Adventures: Paris in Photos

Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies
Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize

That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
-Ella Fitzgerald

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My time in Paris was absolutely magical. I saw the City of Lights in panoramic view from the tip top of the Eiffel Tower, as well as the city’s deep underground in the Paris Catacombs, and as many other things as we could possibly fit into our schedule in between. Also, there were lots and lots of cappuccino’s. Paris, I really do love you. xoxo

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I’m in Redding! …or, What To Do When You Have No Clue How You Got Here

So….Europe. Wow, Europe.

I touched ground in America just six short days ago, but right now I’m not writing to you from home, where I would normally be resting, cuddling with puppies and spending time with my family. Instead I’m sitting on a grey love seat in a house I’ve rented with five roommates in Redding, California for the next two weeks.

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How did I get here? And why so fast?
The honest answer is this: I don’t know.

I know that I’ve wanted to come to Bethel Church’s Worship U for awhile now, but I still couldn’t quite tell you why. I lead worship for years growing up, but then I went to college and church got hard (you can read my church story here), so I’m not currently on a worship team.

But still, when the opportunity came up to attend the two week school this summer, I knew I had to take it. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever just known  you’re suppose to be somewhere, do something or act in someway?

I know I need to be here.

So even though I’m exhausted, and I’ve barely been able to process the incredible and overwhelming past five weeks, I’m here. And I’m so excited.

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I’m excited to learn about songwriting, playing keys in a worship band and leading others into the presence of God. I’m excited to share the next two weeks with my five wonderful roommates and figure out what we are all doing here together. I’m excited to find rest in the midst of a hectic schedule. I’m excited to let the Lord revive my heart for worship.

I’m so excited for this season, even if I’m barely keeping up with the pace.

Friends, if you don’t know how you got to be where you are, get excited about it anyway. Realize that there is a reason you’re there, and you never know how or when your life can change.

“If you have no mystery in your life you are reducing your God to the same level of understanding as you.” -Bill Johnson

Let God surprise you, and enjoy the crazy, messy, confusing and mysterious ride.

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Travel Adventures: Greece in Photos

GREECE – the next stop on my five week European adventure! I can’t even begin to describe all of the sites I saw in Greece, so instead I’ll show you.

But for fun, here are a few highlights: I danced with the Greeks, made animal friends, had a view of the Acropolis from my hotel, beached on Santorini Island & Crete, stood where St. Paul stood on Mars Hill and in Ancient Corinth, shopped till I dropped, ate gyros…lots of them, discovered the beauty of GREEK frozen yogurt, let fish eat at my feet, slept on a ferry boat, saw so many ancient ruins I began to wonder why I wasn’t wearing a toga, danced on the port of Crete, hiked to the top of Santorini Island and Ancient Delphi and finally, I said goodbye to my school friends and met up with my sister-in-law and mom to begin the second leg of this wonderful adventure.

Greece, I love you.
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Travel Adventures: Italy in Photos

Hi friends!

I can’t believe I’m already in my fourth week here in Europe, yet at the same time my first week back in Italy feels like months ago. I’ve struggled to find time to write on this trip, but it’s somewhat of a happy struggle because I’ve had such wonderful, full days soaking up every bit of Europe I can.

So for now I thought I’d go way back to my first week in Italy and share some of my favorite photos. Check out snaps from my time in Rome and Florence below and stay tuned for similar photo stories from Greece, Paris, England and Ireland!
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Photo Credit: Haylee Robinson and my trusty iPhone.
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How to Prepare for Your Next Great Adventure

Have you participated in #MySummerAdventure yet? Check it out here!

By the time you read this I’ll be jet-lagged somewhere in Rome, aimlessly snapping pictures of everything I see.

next adventureRight this minute, I’m on the greatest adventure of my life thus far: backpacking Europe. This week I’m in Italy. Next week I’ll be in Greece. The weeks following will see me in France, England and Ireland.

Not only is this the greatest adventure of my life so far, but it’s also one of the craziest, and it took a lot of preparation. I’m not just talking about getting a passport, calling my credit card provider or neatly fitting clothes for five weeks into one suitcase.

An adventure like this takes preparation on deeper levels. Here’s what I did to prepare myself mentally, physically, financially and spiritually.

Mentally:

I thought about this trip a lot. That sounds dumb, but in the last few months, Europe has weighed heavily on my mind. When I think about the places I will see, people I will meet and crazy backpacking experiences I will have, I still can’t grasp it all.

I’ve finally decided that thinking about it all the time won’t actually prepare be for being there, and in many aspects, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Now I am mentally open and ready to embrace that whatever happens on this trip, despite my own plans, just happens.

Physically:

I did the Whole30 as a way to “reset” my body and gain healthy habits. I’ll definitely think of these habits while I’m in Europe, but I also know that I’ll need to be flexible and experience the culture (nice to meet you, gelato).

I also started doing Pilates, Yoga and Zumba to prepare my body for the physical demands of backpacking.

My roommate and I started doing Zumba videos in our living room, and make fun of us all you want, but it’s a killer workout! In February I did 28 Days of Pilates with Robin Long from The Balanced Life. I’ve kept up with her videos since then too, and I love them. Pilates is definitely my new favorite way to work out, and I love Robin’s balanced perspective on fitness.

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Financially:

I’ll be honest with you on this one, I didn’t do much in the way of saving money. But that’s mostly because I’m not a huge spender as it is. I rarely buy more than food and gas, with a splurge every once in a while. I worked an on campus job this semester, but yet, with my unpaid internship 30 miles away, rent and groceries, expenses got a little high.

Thankfully my trip to Europe is covered; however, my trip to Guatemala in July is not. If you’d like to support that trip financially, you can do so here. No pressure though – that’s definitely not my reason for sharing this with you! If anything, I learned to live on the most realistic budget I can, and trust that the rest will be provided for in time.

Spiritually:

I’ve heard so many stories from friends about going to Europe and coming home with new revelations, insights and closer relationships with the Lord. I’m praying that I’ll have a similar experience, but I also don’t want my experience to look like anyone else’s, so I’m praying for openness.

I want to have an open heart, eyes and mind to all the things the Lord wants to reveal to me on this trip.

Throughout the semester I also tried to maintain an attitude of thankfulness. I’ll be brutally honest and tell you that my spiritual life was a little rocky this past spring. There were times when I felt the Lord was closer than a brother, and other times when he felt more like a distant relative. But despite that struggle, I still know that I have so much to be thankful for.

He is making some of my wildest dreams come true this summer, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this incredible gift. I can’t wait to see how our relationship develops throughout this European adventure.


So now, after months of anticipation, I’m just ready to go. Who knows how prepared I can really be, but I’m ready to begin.

See you soon, Europe!

Are you embarking on a great adventure soon? I challenge you to think of ways to prepare yourself in these four categories. While you’re at it, share your thoughts and methods with me in the comments!
Photo by Haylee Robinson
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This Summer: Want to Come on an Adventure with Me?

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I’ve got a bit of news to share with you today. Really, really exciting news!

This summer is my summer of travel. 

It’ll start with five weeks in Europe. For two weeks I’ll study abroad with my school (and Haylee!) in Italy and Greece, and for three weeks I’ll backpack through the UK with my mom and sister-in-law. Talk about a dream come true!

After I return from Europe I’ll have a few days at home before flying off to Redding, California for a two week long worship training school at Bethel Church. I’m am so beyond excited for this opportunity, and if I’m honest, a little intimidated.

I’ve always wanted legit worship leading training. I led worship for my church in high school because, well, I was the only option and could play keyboard decently well. I loved the experience, so I’m thrilled to have actual training under my belt {with Brian and Jenn Johnson!}, even though I’m nervous.

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circa 2010

After California I’ll have another week home before heading to Guatemala with my church. We’ll be holding an International Leaders School of Ministry for pastors and missionaries on the field. Our heart is to minister to the spiritual leaders of the nation so that they can better pour into the people of Guatemala.

If you’re interested, you can help fund my trip to Guatemala here. I appreciate any and all support!

I’ll return from Guatemala on August 6 and head back to Tennessee for my senior year of college. And that’s my summer! Crazy.

I am aware that I am incredibly blessed to have even one of these incredible opportunities come my way. The fact that all three of them are working out completely floors me.

Thanks to the beauty of scheduled posts, I will still have fresh blogs for you twice a week.

I will also pop in with quick updates from my travels as often as I can, and once I’m back at school I’ll write more about my experiences. But if you want to keep track of me over the summer daily, be sure to follow me on Twitter & Instagram.

I’m so excited for the adventure that this summer will be, and I want to take The College Cosmopolitan community along the ride with me.

What does your summer look like? How are you finding adventure?
Photo by Haylee Robinson.
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Travel Adventures: My Weekend with The Lipstick Gospel

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This past weekend I spent two absolutely lovely days with Stephanie May of the Lipstick Gospel and ten other women with a desire to discover the value of their story and how to share it with others.

Stephanie’s blog is one of my favorites, and out of all of the bloggers I started following this year (which is a LOT), she definitely inspires me the most with the way she vulnerably shares stories of faith, life and love.

She doesn’t write simply for herself – she writes to use what she’s experienced and learned over her lifetime to help others. I love that. 

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When she shared about a potential writers weekend in Atlanta, I was immediately on board. Nothing sounded more perfect than a weekend learning from both her wisdom as a Christian writer with influence and her experience as a blogger.

I was worried about spending the money for a weekend like this, but eventually I decided that what I gained would be worth it, so I just went for it!

I’m so glad I did.

The weekend was so much more than I was even expecting. In a warmly decorated suite on the 15th floor of the Georgian Hotel, eleven women from diverse corners of the US came together for the sake of storytelling.

LGStephanie overwhelmed us (in a good way) with her insight while her fiance Carl cooked us gourmet meals that we shared over laughter, authentic conversation and book recommendations. We skipped straight past small talk and went for each other’s hearts. It was perfect.

Not only did I learn from Stephanie’s story, but I reflected on my own life and learned how to better use my writing to spread authenticity, vulnerability and hopefully a little joy into the world through my stories.

Along with the sessions about storytelling, we also talked nitty-gritty blog basics. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I love blog talk. It’s just so much fun!

I am so grateful for the connection I made with Stephanie and the ten other lovely writers – we created a beautiful community of storytellers that vowed to stay connected and support each other through each of our journeys as writers.

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How lucky am I to have those beautiful women on my team?

So, stay tuned for some collaborations (hint: a giveaway!) and more personal stories from my own life about adventure, joy and faith.

I have a story, and this weekend, in the prettiest, coziest living room imaginable, Stephanie May told me that it matters. So I’m choosing to believe her.

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All photos by the lovely Lottie Brooke.

Travel Adventures: three lessons from NYC

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Welcome to the first post of my latest series: Traveling Adventures! It’s probably obvious, but this series will be all about traveling: places I see, people I meet, things I learn and hopefully some wisdom about how to make the most of your own travels. I absolutely love my local adventures, but I’ve got to get outside my box every now and then.

I just got back from an incredible spring break in New York City, and along with the “Newsies” soundtrack stuck in my head, and Brooklyn style pizza in my stomach, I came home with a few new lessons learned.

1. My desires/career goals/what I want out of life are a moving target. 

New York City is the city of endless possibilities. In the five days that I was there I came up with twenty new ideas for what I want to do with my life. Although, about 17 of those ideas involve working at Hearst Tower, which I got to tour, and oh my gosh, it was magical. NYC is inspiring and overwhelming at the same time, and I had tons to think about on the plane ride home. Have you ever felt this way after a visit to the city?

2. There’s more to the city than flashing lights.

This was only my second time to the city that never sleeps (read about my first trip on my old, kind of embarrassing blog here), and the first time I played the role of a full-on tourist and spent the majority of the trip in Times Square and the Manhattan neighborhood we were staying in. This year we stayed in Queens, and along with some good times in Time Square I ventured out and explored smaller Manhattan neighborhoods, Union Square, Soho, Queens and Brooklyn. I honestly can’t believe how much character and diversity is packed into one city, and when I  got out of the Times Square circus and walked the streets of those smaller neighborhoods, stopping at farmer’s markets and a restaurant that looked like it was right out of “How I Met Your Mother,” I could actually picture a life there. What are your favorite parts of the city? What places should I check out next time?

3. Dreams really do come true in NYC.

Like I said before, while I was there I had the incredible opportunity of touring Hearst Tower, where Hearst Corporations, the owner of Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmo, Seventeen, Esquire, Redbook and tons of other magazines, resides. I was in absolute heaven. At the end of the tour we got to sit down with a group of editor’s at Elle Magazine (!!!!), and I just couldn’t believe how young some of them were. When they described their career path to get where they are today, they were not at all what I expected. Actually, quite a few of them didn’t even major in journalism in school, but through one random job or connection they ended up at Elle Magazine. Listening to their stories taught me that it is possible to accomplish big things at a young age. I’ve always had this idea that I’d have to settle for a less-than-desirable job before making it in the “big time.” I’m not saying it won’t be hard to establish a career, or there won’t be a period of paying dues, but hey? Why not aim high and go for crazy things? If anything, NYC is the city of opportunities.

Do you have any stories or lessons that you learned in NYC? Can you relate to any of my lessons? I’d love to hear them.

*First photo is by my lovely roommate Haylee Robinson; all other photos by Shane Tretheway (he’s lovely too, I suppose).

Lies, cover ups and scandal…. just so I could have a Myspace

Sometimes I feel like I have to prove that I’m an adventurous person. Actually, I probably just need to remind myself that I am, in fact, a cool and adventurous person because for the past week I’ve done nothing but watch Netflix and cuddle with my mom’s puppy. But hey, this is my last week of being spoiled before I go back to school, so I’m milking it.

Anyway, somewhere in the middle of my “Parks and Rec” marathon, I thought back to my favorite adventure of all time (all time being my life). When I was 14 I went to Australia for 3 and a half weeks by myself, and it was the best trip EVER. I stayed with trusted family friends of ours who had recently moved back to Australia. The family has a daughter around my age that I grew up with, so there was always an open invitation for me to come stay with them. I asked my parents if I could go, and by some stroke of luck that I still can’t explain to this day, they said yes!

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Australian Gold Coast

My parents, by the way, homeschooled me. I know, I know. You’re all wondering how I came to be such a well-rounded person. Being homeschooled meant I was protected from the evils of the world like Halloween, Harry Potter, Britney Spears, and, worst of all…. Myspace.

According to every Christian home school parent ever in those days, putting your name on the Internet was the most dangerous thing in the world, so Myspace was off limits. But … I had one anyway. Rules smules. I snuck onto my Myspace at any chance I could to share pictures, talk to friends, and … well I can’t actually remember what else, but it made my feel really cool.

Anyway, in the summer of 2007, my secret Myspace and I went to Australia, and it was amazing. I climbed the Brisbane Bridge, pet kangaroos, held a koala, tried vegemite and spent a week in Sydney at a Hillsong conference. However, there was one little detail of the trip that wasn’t so perfect. A detail that kept me up at night, haunted my thoughts, and made me feel evil for having such a great time. My secret. My parents sent me to the other side of the world just for the sake of experience, and I was lying to them? I felt awful.

My friend that I was staying with also had a Myspace, and her mom knew about it and thought it was pretty cool. This gave me hope! Maybe my parents would think it’s okay for me to have a Myspace since my friend’s parents thought it was fine. That’s how it works, right?

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Kangaroo nap time

So one night in Australia I got up the courage to e-mail my mom about it. After filling her in on all of my adventures, sending her pictures and letting her know how much I missed everyone, I wrote my confession. I maturely told her that I already had a Myspace, was sorry for keeping it from her, and I understood if she wanted me to delete it.

The next few hours waiting for her response were horrible. It finally came, and it read something like this:

Hey Caroline! Thanks for sending the pictures – it looks like you’re having a great time! We miss you! It’s okay that you have a Myspace, and thanks for being honest with me. We saw the new Bourne movie yesterday. I think you would like it. Love you!

That was it. One sentence. I made myself crazy, and she wasn’t even mad? Didn’t she know that I was the worst daughter on the face of the planet?!

Oh well.

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The moral of the story is that my parents are awesome, and the thought of disappointing them made me so crazy that I had to confess via e-mail, from another continent. Wimp.

But I promise you I am adventurous! All of my Myspace friends thought so, anyway.

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