2022 in Review: I’m Very Sorry and I’m Back

My friends, it has been a while.

The last time I wrote one of these was for 2018.

We have all slept many sleeps since then. So much has happened.

Last time we spoke I was living in Cairns, Australia earning my second year visa extension. Well, I ended up getting that, and staying in Australia for a third year on top of that. I fell in love. There was a global pandemic.

You were probably there for that last part, too.

But through all the adventures, and bad dates, and bills — the work that took care of the last bit took over. Investing in my blog was investing in money down the line that I couldn’t guarantee.

So I stopped posting. And the longer I waited, the more overwhelming picking it up again became.

And that’s how we lost out on four years together.  But I am back now. And I missed you all so much.

States visited: Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri

Countries visited: USA, Canada, Australia, Scotland

Flew to Florida for My Best Friend’s Memorial Service

My best friend Brittney Anthony died on March 13, 2021.

She battled Ovarian Cancer for over three years and endured surgeries, chemo treatments, and clinical trials — all without somehow losing her smile.

I thought about that a lot after she was first diagnosed and all the times I saw her or spoke to her since. She was always herself. Her kind, cheerful, feminist, opinionated, funny, whip-smart self.

I know that we can rise to occasions, but I was so angry when Britt was diagnosed and even angrier now that she’s gone. It’s so unfair and her disease was so, so horrible. I kept thinking, “of all the people in the world — the horrible people — this happened to Brittney.” And yet she had joy. The entire time.

But that was Britt. Happiness. She introduced herself to me in the lunch line in the Blanchard Great Room on our first day of  Mount Holyoke College. She was standing behind me and my stomach already hurt because I missed my mom. It was the longest I would’ve ever been away from home.

We accidentally made eye contact while I was getting myself some salad and she beamed at me. “Hi! I’m Brittney from Connecticut!” Thus began a beautiful friendship that lasted for nine years and was only interrupted by her death.

That night, she invited everyone back to her room for her 19th birthday party. We played “Just Dance,” but she didn’t actually have the game, so we just watched it on Youtube. Brittney created our friend group.

She was so welcoming and inclusive. I struggled to figure out life so far from my family as an 18-year-old. There was a time we were walking out of our Sherlock Class later that semester and she said, completely unprompted, “Hey, we live near the airport, so if you ever need a ride, don’t stress — we can do it!”

Brittney adopted me into her family and I took my honorary Anthony status very seriously. It was so easy to understand why Brittney was so lovely when I met her family — her amazing parents Kim and Jeff who took me to Boston to get my visa for study abroad and included me in their family Thanksgivings and Christmas Tree hunting when I couldn’t afford to fly back to Texas for break. And her sister Cassidy. Who is now my sister, too.

Brittney introduced me to Bubble Tea, which is basically my entire personality these days. She loved movies, comics, games, and tv shows that I considered nerdy — but she was so enthusiastic about them that I sat through all of them because she made them fun. And now I know that nerdy isn’t a bad thing.

I was always late to Sunday brunch and she was always nice about it. She gave me countless back rubs at college when I had bad days because she was such a caretaker.

I spent a lot of my time at college being looked after by Britt. Crying on her dorm’s floor when my childhood dog died (Britt arranged for her parents to bring their dog to campus the next week to comfort me), crying because I was involved in a major roommate conflict, crying because Latin was hard. Her room was a safe place for anyone. I spent most of my time there and walking back to mine at 2AM from Ham, The Delles, or Pearsons — wherever she lived is where I was.

Britt started school pre-med, but was brave enough to ditch biology and dive headfirst into film instead — because she was so, so creative and had a visionary mind.

She did the Disney College Program and finished her Masters in London, even after she was diagnosed. It’s a real kick in the gut to think about all of the things that Brittney didn’t have the chance to create. I know the world is missing out.

I don’t have any regrets about my relationship with Brittney. We saw each other every chance we could — even after college I came to see her in Boston, Connecticut, and London and she came to me in Rome and Zurich. She knew how much I loved her. I told her all the time.

But now I mourn for the future. There are so many big events yet to come in my life that she’s not here for. I wanted to be there for those same things for her. I wanted to stumble through the video games she designed and have her patiently help me. I wanted her to stand up with me at my wedding. I wanted to visit Mount Holyoke as shriveled up old ladies and reminisce about the good ‘ole days.

We went through so much together. Bad haircuts. Bad grades. Big life choices. I so valued her opinion and advice and it’s such a loss for all who knew her to lose her perspective.

I’ll miss my best friend for the rest of my life.

On January 22, 2022, what would have been her 29th birthday, I gathered with her family in their new home (and longtime favorite place) of Orlando, Florida to celebrate her life. We sat on their couch and attended a Zoom with her friends, family, and loved ones from all over the world. There were so many amazing people online — it was such a testament to how loved Britt was and the kind of people who were attracted to her energy.

Sure, it was a little strange to go to memorial service in the morning and then head to Disney World, but that was so, so Britt. When went to EPCOT since she worked there during the college program, but had gone to the Magic Kingdom the day before, too.

Hosted My Australian Boyfriend in Houston

I left behind love when I moved home in 2021. Dating Michael was like staring in my very own Hallmark movie, so I was excited when he came to Texas. He ended up staying almost three months and I was thrilled about it. Not so thrilled that I had to give up my room because he’s six foot four and wouldn’t fit in the tiny twin in our guest room…but still thrilled.

We went to the Houston Rodeo, a Dynamo game, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Austin, the Alamo, my grandmother’s house — the whole kit and caboodle. It was so nice having him around and I was sad to send him back to Sydney

Took My Aussie Bestie on a Southern Road Trip

  • Houston, Texas

I was thrilled that my friend Charlotte made the long journey from Sydney to Houston to spend her winter school holidays with me. She flew from Sydney to LAX, and LAX to IAH — almost 24 hours of travel — in a middle seat. She really loves me and it shows. So, I had to go out of my way to show her a good time.

I enjoyed introducing her to my family and showing her around where I grew up.

  • New Orleans, Louisiana

Despite growing up just five hours west of the Big Easy, I had never actually been. I’d just driven through as a kid on the way to somewhere else. So it was great going gator hunting, partying on Bourbon Street, and taking a jazz cruise on the Mississippi with Charlotte.

  • Jackson, Mississippi 

We needed a stop between New Orleans and Memphis, so we popped into Jackson and liked it a lot more than we thought. The city was out of drinkable water while there, but I remember Charlotte being shocked by just how cheap it was to buy a 24 pack of water bottles at Walgreens. We are definitely not in Sydney anymore girl.

  • Memphis, Tennessee 

I’ve been to Memphis before. It was actually the very first place I ever went on a solo trip! I visited Graceland and took a tour of Sun Studio, where the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and even Jerry Lee Lewis recorded. It was fun, but it was even more fun visiting with Charlotte and taking it all in again. They had remodeled Graceland, so it felt more like a themepark and less depressing.

  • Little Rock & Hot Springs, Arkansas 

When I was little, we always just drove through Arkansas on the way to get somewhere, but never really stopped to poke around much. When Charlotte and I got to Little Rock, I realized why. It wasn’t great. But, Hot Springs was really nice. We enjoyed the restaurants and the historic bathhouses. I almost fell to my death in one of them, but I’ll write a seperate post about that.

  • Dallas & Fort Worth, Texas 

Took Charlotte to Dallas to see the Grassy Knoll (she’s more of an All the Way with LBJ gal herself) and Fort Worth to see the Stockyards. She paid $10 to ride a mechanical bull and fell off immediately because it was 105 outside and the plastic burned her leg.

  • Austin, Texas 

We almost didn’t get to go to Austin because my gas cap got stuck on the way there. I called my mom and apparently, the trick is to hit the button 37 times in a row pretty frantically. Luckily, it worked and finally popped open, so I got to take my cowgirl in training to explore the Capitol Building and Lady Bird Lake.

Visited the Canadian Rocky Mountains

  • Calgary, Alberta

Growing up in Houston, I went to the rodeo every single year. It’s something I always look forward to and encourage visitors to the city to come during March so they can eat a deep fried pickle and watch three year olds ride sheep with me. But, there was one not-so-fun-fact that always stood out: apparently, the Calgary Stampede is bigger than the Houston Rodeo?

One of my guy friends from Australia was doing a working holiday in Canada, so I flew up to visit him and we went. And let me be the first to say that going to the Calgary Stampede was far from my first rodeo, but it will definitly be my last outside of Texas. Most of the competitors were from the Lone Star State anyway.

  • Banff, Alberta

Tbh all my pictures from Canada just look like I photoshopped myself into a screensaver, but I really did go — I promise. It was so great to see the area that normally costs thousands of dollars on the cheap cause my friend had spent nearly two years living up there and knew all the secret tips. And made me sleep in a McDonald’s parking lot and call it camping.

  • Jasper, Alberta  

The drive to the Jasper area was my favorite part of the trip. Plus, we got to take a really cool cruise on Lake Maligne and learn more about the First Nations people of the area. The Pope arrived in Canada the day I left to issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s behavior towards the community, so my visit was interesting timing.

  • Radium, British Columbia  

Enjoyed seeing some mountain goats and soaking in the hot springs here. I also got to cross another Canadian province off the list.

Caught up with My Dad’s Family in Missouri

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma 

The drive from my house to the part of Missouri where my dad’s siblings live is about 12 hours, but that’s if you drive how my dad likes to. Combine restroom, gas, and food stops into one and mark a car on the highway to catch back up to. So with all us girls along, it usually takes longer, so sometimes we stop and spend the night along the way.

This time, we stopped off at Oral Roberts University where my sister went to college. She hadn’t been back in a while and wanted to give her husband a tour of a place that is so meaningful to her.

  • Shell Knob, Missouri 

A great long weekend catching up with my dad’s side of the family. Some of my cousin’s have started having kids, so it was fun to have little ones around to play with. I hadn’t seen my dad’s family since 2016, and before that 2012, so it was great to have a chance to see how everyone was doing.

Took a Healing Trip to Australia

  • Sydney, Australia 

Leaving Australia in 2021 was hard.

It felt SO WEIRD being in the international terminal of Sydney Airport.

Covid restrictions were ramping up throughout Australia as a largely unvaccinated population (at the time) had to deal with out first real outbreak of the pandemic. No one had really been sick, we had like three or four cases a day for months on end. Then it was suddenly in the hundreds, then thousands.

So we stayed home. BUT my working holiday visa was expiring. I had quit my job to travel my last few months in the country (lol) so I wasn’t really eligible for a further stay emergency visa since I didn’t have work, plus I needed to come home to Texas for family stuff anyway.

Flights were soooo restricted in and out of the country. Citizens and PR needed to file permission paperwork to leave cause flights back were so scarce. My flight home kept getting canceled. I had to sob on the phone with multiple airlines so get it sorted. I kept telling them if I couldn’t buy a ticket on a confirmed flight they would be flying me anyway when I got deported.

Luckily it worked out. United got me home. The streets to the airport were empty and the airport was empty. It was so weird. It felt like a zombie movie or like being on a movie set. It was a huge plane, maybe a 777? There were maybe ten people on it. It’s definitely something that was … cool to experience. Being on such an empty plane. But I’m glad that era of Covid travel seems to be over.

But I wasn’t ready to leave. It felt like having to go to the bathroom in the middle of a great movie and not being allowed back into the theater.

So traveling back this year felt like finally seeing the ending.

I loved seeing my friends. Doing normal things like going out to eat and having movie nights in.

I helped my old housemates host the Halloween party of the century and looked after their sweet Corgi puppy, Toast. He’s the cover photo, in case you were wondering.

My friends and I went to musicals and had tea on Sydney Harbour. I saw a show at the famous Sydney Opera House and attended the proclamation of King Charles III, accidently meeting Dominic Perrottet ( the Premier of NSW)  in the process.

  • Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales 

My dear friends Finn and Zoe were finally married in the Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney. They were engaged in 2018 and planned to marry in 2020. But the pandemic had other plans and through multiple rescheduling mishaps, had the most beautiful and heartfelt ceremony I’ve ever been to. I don’t have any photos of the ceremony, so this is my friends Scott, Miranda and me reenacting how nice it was.

  • Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales

I went on a weekend away with my boyfriend to enjoy one of the best places to see wombats in Australia. We had lots of success. I probably saw two dozen.

This trip was also so great because I worked for the Wildlife Information, Rescue, and Education service (WIRES) for about 18 months while I lived in Australia. I really liked the work and enjoyed helping volunteers across NSW get back on their feet after the Black Summer Bushfires. I also liked helping all the unique Aussie animals — especially the wombats.

One of my biggest projects was speaking to the leadership of all 26 WIRES branches and determining the best places for wildlife warning signs. I then had to convince each local council to pay to install the signs if we paid for the signs themselves. It was an uphill battle all the way. As signs began going up, Sydney plunged into one of the world’s strictest COVID lockdowns.

We couldn’t really go anywhere, so I couldn’t go see the fruits of my labor. The clock ran out and my visa ran out. I moved home to America without ever seeing one. But there were like three right next to where we stayed. And never have I ever felt so proud.

Long after I left Australia, the work I did is still making it a better place!

  • Great Ocean Road, Victoria

My friend Meg and I met at Mount Holyoke and now she is living in Australia with her amazing partner Tash (and Tash’s dog Charlie, who is the best boy). She came to Sydney to hang out with me and I flew down to her new home in Victoria to hang out with her. It was so great to catch up with each other, especially over 10,000 miles away from where we first met.

  • Wilson’s Promontory National Park, Victoria

Like me, Meg is also a big fan of wombats, so we spent a few rainy days camping at Wilson’s Prom to see some more of them and the most southern point in mainland Australia.

  • Bundanoon, New South Wales

The Southern Highlands of New South Wales are probably one of my favorite parts of Australia, so it was great to do a quick overnight trip to take in the cute Scottish town of Bundanoon. Which was perfect because two weeks after landing from Australia, I was off again to Scotland.

Attended an Old Friend’s Wedding in Scotland

  • Glasgow, Scotland

My sister Kerry was on work exchange in Woking, England for most of 2015. I spent the summer with her after I graduated from Mount Holyoke and enjoyed getting to know her coworkers. We’ve gotten to meet up over the years and this time it was for a very special occasion — a wedding!

Sara and Richard are a match made in heaven and it was SO fun to attend their Cèilidh ( you say it like kaylee) and learn all the proper dances. It was amazing to hang out with Hana, Emma, and Ross too (even if he didn’t remember me from 2015) as we rented a house near the wedding venue for the festivities. It felt a bit like being at summer camp. 

  • Edinburgh, Scotland 

My friend Melissa (who I met on the boat in the Whitsundays, Australia back in 2018) lives in the UK, so she flew up to Edinburgh and I met her there for a fabulous girls’ weekend.

Another friend, Blair (who I also met on the boat), lives just over the bridge in Fife and came down for a day to catch up with us and to introduce us to his CHILD (I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this). His fabulous mum, Ms. Mary, was also in attendance. Special shout out to her for being so amazing.

  • Loch Ness, Scotland

What’s a true trip to Scotland without a day trip to the Highlands? Mel and I had the best time hunting for Nessie, although the time of year (end of November) meant that our 3pm Loch Ness cruise was a sunset one.

  • KLM Crown Lounge, Amsterdam Airport 

My brother in law Chris upgraded me to business class for our connection in Amsterdam home to Houston.

When you fly economy, there is just something SO MAGICAL about having an empty seat next to you … let alone an entirely empty cabin. I left Australia during lockdown in 2021 and basically had the plane to myself.

I thought I’d never experience it again until this November when my United aircraft was once again practically empty due to cancellations and equipment changes. I thought … this must be what it’s like to fly business class. Space wise, I was kind of right! But food and level of service wise? It’s so different! What a treat it was to have access to the lounge and fly up front.

My 2022 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2023:

  • July

Fly to New Zealand to start my working holiday there before I turn 30 in August!

  • September

Visit friends in Australia.

  • October

Maybe a South Pacific Island or two? Or three?

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