Why I’m Not in Guatemala

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Remember when I first wrote about my Summer of Travel and announced that this summer I’ll visit Europe, California and Guatemala?

Well, change of plans: my trip to Guatemala is cancelled.

For many reasons, mostly due to bad timing, the church rescheduled the trip for November, which I won’t go on because I’ll be in school.

When I found out I had two very different reactions. My first reaction, as much as I hate to admit it, was relief.

After five weeks of non-stop travel in Europe, only six days of rest and then another two weeks in California, my body, soul and mind are just done.

I knew that another trip would leave me even more exhausted and not at all ready for the quickly approaching fall semester.

And I know this is my favorite topic lately, but I need time to process all that has happened this summer. My head is still spinning from events that took place in May! I need time to ponder, evaluate and unpack all that all that I’ve learned.

How did this experience change me? What does that change mean, and what does it practically look like to incorporate it into my daily life?

We have to process through experiences and feelings in order to make them more than mere sightseeing excursions. 

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Traveling is about more than seeing pretty places. It’s a beautiful way to learn and widen our view of the world, and when we aren’t treating it like an edifying journey, we cheapen our experience and waste frequent flyer miles.

When we give ourselves time to process everything we’ve seen and learnt, we can discover new truths about our beliefs and ourselves. Then, we can pack those truths into a metaphorical daypack (go with me) to carry around on the rest of our journey.

Our journey, whether it looks like traveling to distant lands or navigating daily life, can become connected. We don’t have to leave our incredible experiences in the past; longing for the day we can hop on another plane and set off on another incredible adventure.

You can continue your adventure right where you are by processing the experience and applying what you learned.

Don’t leave truths in the exotic places where you discovered them. Take them with you, and then, instead of constantly reminiscing and longing for your past adventures, you can live a thankful, present-minded life.

So friends, give yourself time to process your adventures. Look for lessons and find the hidden truths.

As much as I was looking forward to my trip to Guatemala, I’m thankful for the time to process and write through the most incredible summer of my life.

How do you process? What truths have you learned through your travels?

On Thursday I’ll talk about my second reaction to the cancelled trip: what to do when you lose an adventure. 

Photo Credit: Guatemalan volcanos from Anna Eaton; Florence, Italy by Haylee Robinson. 

What I’m Reading on the Web

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Hey friends!

I just got home from two weeks in Redding, CA at Bethel Church’s worship school. It was an incredible experience that I can’t wait to write about, but first…rest.

My mind  and body both need a little breather before I dive in, so in the mean time I’ve been catching up with blogs and articles circling the web this week.

Here’s are my three favorite articles that I’m reading on this day (ok, two days) of rest.

1. Networking for Introverts by Cupcakes and Cashmere.
Why I like it: I get lectured about networking all the time during the school year, and this piece was a great way to sharpen up those skills even though school is out. It’s also great for newbies like me who may be a little intimidated by this whole networking thing.
Favorite line: “If the connection is real, it won’t require a calendar reminder.”

2. What I Instagram vs. What Was Really Happening, or My Entire Life is a Lie by Olivia Muenter
Why I like it: This lighthearted and sarcastic piece reveals a truth that most selfie-lovers are afraid to admit: we stage our Instagram posts to make our lives look prettier. This piece will make you laugh and think twice before you post your next gym selfie.
Favorite line:  “I start my day with green tea and fresh fruit everyday, at the crack of dawn. I like to check my emails as the sunrises, right before I head to yoga.”

3. Love and Lynchburg by Lexie Daché
Why I like it: I met Lexie and the Living Room Writers Weekend back in May, and I’ve loved following her blog ever since. Her writing is authentic and captivating, and I love the way she wrestles with life and always offers hope in the end. Her latest post, “Love and Lynchburg,” is definitely my new favorite.
Favorite line: “Physical surroundings and dream jobs and cool people are no comparison for God’s presence.”

Bonus: Fairytales are Real: These 12 Photos Will Change the Way You Look At the World by World of Wanderlust
Just because I felt like throwing a little pixie dust into the mix. Sometimes, when you’re as worn out as I am, it’s just nice to look at pretty things and dream.

Enjoy! I’ll be back soon with brand new adventures and stories to share with you.

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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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My 5 Favorite College Cosmopolitans

Today I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite people. There are friends who one way or another, embody what it means to be a college cosmopolitan. If you haven’t already, read about what The College Cosmopolitan is all about here.

Caroline K

Caroline KI’ve lived with Caroline for my entire college career. Little did I know when we were randomly assigned as roommates that I’d gain a same-named best friend. More than that, she’s my confidant, biggest cheerleader and the girl I can question life with.

She also embodies a cosmopolitan lifestyle because of her beautifully simplistic, yet full, way of life.
She also doesn’t ask for much, but yet she is open and vulnerable when she needs to be.

She makes her own way and grapples with questions until she’s found her own satisfying answers. In the past three years, she’s gained the ability to accept everyone no matter their lifestyle, and that’s a trait that I think could take her all over the world.

JennaJenna

My friend Jenna is the queen of pushing herself outside of her comfort zone.

She spent a summer studying in Oxford, England in high school before moving thousands of miles away from her hometown in Texas to Malibu, California for college.

After a year in Malibu, she dove head first into a year long study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Talk about a citizen of the world!

I love catching up with Jenna when we’re both home in Texas and hearing stories from her travels. With each new adventure there is an evident change that takes place inside of her. She grows, transforms and becomes more herself each time she explores another piece of the world.

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My younger brother Zach is making West Texas laugh a little harder, one stand-up comedy routine at a time.

He moved away from our suburban paradise of a hometown last year to the crux of small town Texas: Lubbock. And he loves it!

He’s truly made a home for himself in his college town, and even though he’s only a freshman he’s pioneered several new comedy initiatives at his school. He definitely isn’t afraid to put himself out there. He also lived in the Middle East for three months. No big deal.

MarshMarshall

This ever-so-handsome guy that I’m dating is a great example of a cosmopolitan.

He spent three months studying abroad in the UK this past semester, and even though his time was limited, he still got involved in a church and experienced life as a local when he went on a weekend retreat with the college group.

Along with pretty pictures of historic places and souvenirs, he returned to the US with new friends and a broader understanding of the people that make up our world.

DebDeborah

Deborah inspires me as a college cosmopolitan not because she moved out of state for college, or even that she spent a semester studying in Vienna, Austria (although that is pretty dang awesome), but because after high school she chose to take a year off and stay home, and she rocked it.

She had plenty of options after graduation, but she chose the one that would prepare her best for her future, and after a year of nannying she was able to pay for her entire first year of college.

What I love most about her story is that in that year, even though she wasn’t in a new place, she grew. She met new people and experienced things for the first time in her own hometown.

She embodied what it means to grow where you’re planted. She didn’t need anything but time and a little space to look inside of her and figure out who she is.

Who are the cosmopolitans in your life? Tell me about them! 

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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 Stay Connected to Home When You Move Far Away

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I wrote this piece when I was home in Texas last month.

I’m currently sitting on my parents’ large, brown leather sofa while a small fluffy dog sleeps next to me. I’m home.

I love this place.

I love spending quality time with my family and reconnecting with the sweet hometown that raised me.

I moved 900 miles away from this place for college three years ago, and while I will never regret that decision, I often find myself longing for home.

I miss the people from home who made my life so full. I miss the smell of Carolina Jasmines in my backyard. I miss the tree-canopied streets that I first learned to drive on. I miss everything about home.

But I also love my new home. I love the community I’ve found in college. I love my little house and the independence it gives me. I love finding my way in this world and making a place that is completely mine.

It’s a strange line to walk: loving where you came from and where you are. How do you stay connected to your roots and still dive headfirst into your new life?

Here are my tips:

Daily reminders

The best reminder I have of home is my thirteen-year-old truck that belonged to my grandpa before he passed away. It was the first car that was ever completely mine – it took me to school, football games, church and eventually, Tennessee.

My truck reminds me both of Texas and the wonderful grandfather that I lost too early. It’s my favorite earthly possession.

Daily reminders could look different for everyone. Maybe it’s the coffee mug you drink from everyday, or the home state drivers license that still sits in your wallet. Whatever it is, use those daily reminders to produce remembrance and thankfulness.

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Work for the relationships you want to keep

When you move far away, some relationships will naturally fade like the traveled road in your rear view mirror. But it’s okay.

Some relationships are meant for certain seasons, and if they aren’t fitting into your new life, don’t try to make them. I’m not telling you to drop all of your childhood friends; however, forcing old relationships to fit into a new mold leaves them strained and disconnected.

There are also some relationships that transcend distance. No matter how far away you are from each other, you will always share a close bond. Instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to maintain every single relationship, identify the ones that transcend the distance, and work to maintain those.

Invest into those people at least weekly, and see them in person whenever you can.

You should also fearlessly pursue new relationships in college. By the end of your four years you will have a full community of lifelong connections.

Cherish every visit home

When you move far away from school, weekend visits home aren’t possible. Instead, we live for the weeklong school breaks and Christmas spent at home.

Cherish these visits.

Use them to rest and reconnect. Spend time with your family, see old friends and hit up your old favorite restaurants. Netflix bingeing and sleeping the day away has it’s place, but you also want to use this time to soak up as much home as you can before school starts again. When you head back, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to jump into college life.

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My sweet friend Deborah visited me in Tennessee. We’ve been friends since 4th grade!

Bring your two worlds together

Last week one of my best friends since fourth grade visited me at school, and it was almost a euphoric experience watching her meet my friends and see my new world for the first time.

I used to think that my two homes would always be separated, but in the past three years I’ve taken roommates and friends home to Texas with me, and had family visit in Tennessee.

When these opportunities present themselves, jump. There’s no experience like introducing the people from your childhood to the new world that you have made for yourself, or showing people from your new home the world that made you who you are.


Moving far from home for college isn’t always easy, but it’s also nothing to be scared of. When done with careful effort, it’s possible to stay connected to home and make a place for yourself in college at the same time.

How do you stay connected to home? Let me know in the comments. 
Photos by Haylee Robinson and my 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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