This is my fourth year as a travel blogger and my third year doing a end of year wrap up. It’s also the first year I’ve been traveling “full time, ” so I’m at a bit of a loss at how to format this. How do you chronicle your trips when your whole existence is foreign now?

You see, in March, I bought a one-way ticket to Australia. In May, I got on the plane and haven’t looked back.

Things to do in winter in Sydney winter activities in Sydney Sydney Winter Activities

I had a lot of fun in the three years between my university graduation and my move here, but I didn’t realize how stuck and unhappy I’d been at home in Texas until I realized just how happy being here made me feel.

2018 was the year of doing the hard thing. I learned how to let go of tense, temporary comfort in exchange for something better down the line, even if in the moment, letting go made me feel like I was literally going to die.

States visited: Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

Countries visited: USA, Australia

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Met up with Pals in Austin

I love Austin. It’s a blue island in an otherwise deep red state that lives by the mantra “keep Austin weird.” It’s only 2 1/2 hours from home, but I hardly ever visit. I only went twice in 2017 and that wasn’t enough, so I tried to start 2018 off on a better note.

When one of my great friends from university said she was coming to visit, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her and play tourist for the day.  The only downside: I was on day 28 of my Whole30 at the time and there was no way I was giving up that late in the game. So, I had to forfeit the cactus lemonade at Taco Deli and the kolaches at Hruska’s on the drive up. It was hard y’all. Real hard.

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Rode a Longhorn in Fort Worth

I do my best to put crazy Texan stereotypes to rest…but I did really ride a longhorn when my mom and I went to Fort Worth to visit the famous stockyards in early January. His name was Jake and I think about him all the time. Miss you, Jake.

Basically Went to Mexico

My mom works as a children’s pastor, so for spring break, we visited a town right on the border with Mexico to meet with a church there and see about sending a team to help out in the area with various projects. I had a lot of fun on this mini road trip that almost took us south of the border with my parents and my mom’s best friend.

We ate a LOT of good food, I got to pet a few dogs, and I learned that my dad always carries a metal spoon in his briefcase so he can eat ice cream in grocery store parking lots between sales calls. Talk about a life tip.

Went Peak Texas in Corpus Christi

Selena Memorial Corpus Christi

I knew I wasn’t going to be seeing much of my family in the next few years, so before my big move to Australia I wanted to carve out some time to spend with my sister and brother in law, who live about three hours south of the rest of our family.

They live right on the beach, which unless you’re on South Padre Island isn’t much in Texas. However, they do live near enough to the famous Selenas memorial and the two-story Whataburger that I still managed to have a nice time. And yeah, yeah. Spending time with them before moving to the literal other side of the planet was nice too, I guess.

Celebrated Julia Roberts and my Uni Bestie in Mystic

Short Day Trips from Boston on Every Budget

I’ve always been one to make time for the people that I care about. So, I went up to Massachusetts to celebrate another friend from university’s birthday. I knew I wasn’t going to see her for a while since I had my move to Australia planned already, so the trip was very important to me.

I’m also one who very much enjoys eating pizza where Julia Roberts has once eaten pizza (#tbt to going to Naples, Italy and eating where she did in Eat, Pray, Love). So, after we spent the morning exploring the Mystic Aquarium in coastal Connecticut, we had to stop into Mystic Pizza for a slice…since Mystic Pizza is a cult masterpiece and also one of my favorite movies.

Tried Skiing for the First Time in Lake Placid

Do one thing every day that scares you. Okay sure. A great mantra to live by. But not when you’re sliding down a mountain on tiny strips of metal with absolutely no control over your likely impending death.

I’m not a sporty girl by any means. But, when I visited my friend from uni in Lake Placid (a resort town in Upstate New York that has hosted the winter olympics TWICE) I knew I HAD to try skiing. Especially because she works at the Whiteface ski resort.

So, I borrowed some snow pants, rented some gear, booked myself a lesson, and was good to go. Or so I thought.

My friend and I started off on the extreme bunny slope before her shift started for the day. We practiced turning and stopping. I was doing great. We even practiced falling and getting up (which we had also practiced the night before in her living room — I was SO serious about being good at this guys).

When she started her shift and I went off for my lesson, I headed off to the actual bunny slope with sky high confidence. I was doing better than the only other student in my group (a very kind woman from Belgium who kept grabbing my sleeve to steady herself), so I thought, “I’m basically an Olympian at this point.” But then I fell. It was our second time down the green circle run and I just lost control.

Somehow, my hip rotated 360 degrees, one ski got flung 20 feet across the run from me, I was upside down, and my hands were bleeding from the ice.

So I was done for the day. I went and sat in the lodge and tried to shake off the pit in my stomach, but even thinking about getting back on the lift made me feel like crying. But when she finished her shift, she convinced me to give it one more go.

“Why not?” she said.

I have to give her the biggest shout out for her patience with me because I was a WRECK. The run was only one step up from the bunny slope and she could’ve gotten down to the bottom in two minutes, but it took us over 30. The entire time, I was cursing, crying, and stopping before I even started. But I did it! She made sure of that. She even took some sick GoPro footage of me while she skied backwards down the mountain.

That’ll never see the light of day because my mom follows me and I don’t want anyone to ever see how uncool I looked in that moment. BUT, as a personal victory, I see getting down that mountain as one of the proudest moments of my life.

Had a Girl Gang Reunion at Mount Holyoke

This year got off to a really rough start for my best friend Brittney. On New Years Day, my sister and I were driving from Corpus Christi to Houston. It was raining and I was napping on and off, seriously neglecting the navigation and DJ-in-chief duties that come with riding shotgun. I got a text from Brittney that said she was having some stomach pain and was in the emergency room.

Ah, that sucks, I thought. What a way to start the year! But, I didn’t think much about it. The next day, Britt let us know that there was a mass and she was getting a surgery scheduled. I immediately made up my mind that it was a cyst and that she’d be back on the plane to London (where she was getting her masters degree) in no time. I mean, I had just seen her in October. We traveled in London and Zurich together. She was fine! How could anything be different now?

I mentioned this to my friend Lauren a few days later, still treating the situation like a minor annoyance, and immediately got the “Can I call you?” text. I knew what that meant. My heart hit my heels. I wanted to puke.

It’s very unsettling to be so far away when someone who you love so dearly is experiencing such a life changing event. I was helpless. I was also in serious denial. But Brittney wasn’t.

mount holyoke college 2 year reunion

from our second reunion in May 2017

If you ever are feeling overwhelmed by your circumstances or are wondering why you’ve been dealt a certain hand in life, I want to encourage you to watch this interview Brittney did. Sometimes, you have to be okay knowing your situation sucks. Sometimes, you just have to accept that you aren’t able to be strong today, because you need your strength for tomorrow. And sometimes, you have to allow yourself to cry into your bread bowl at Panera because you’re scared about what’s going to happen and it’s not even happening to you.

My core group of uni friends reuniting under such dire circumstances was overwhelming. But it gave us all a very important reminder: never, ever take the people you love for granted. If you truly care about someone, you have to make an effort to keep in touch because if you let time slip away, you never know when you might run out of it.

But enough of the sad stuff. Brittney’s been given a clean bill of health and will soon be back in London. I’m making the trip from Australia to see her in May and am counting down the days!

Took #MammaKamm on a Great Southwest Road Trip

I get my love of travel from my mom. She works so hard and doesn’t get nearly enough vacation time from a job that requires a lot of emotional energy. So it was the least I could do to to take her to see something she’s only dreamed of since she was a little girl: the Grand Canyon.

Las Vegas

I know most people don’t set out to visit Las Vegas with their sober mother, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Vegas is like that cool girl at school that your parents tell you to stay away from she’s a bad influence, but then when you meet her, she’s actually really nice. The only downside: I paid $32 for a drink at the Sugar Factory. And it didn’t even have any alcohol in it.

Grand Canyon

Fun Bachelorette Party Ideas for Non-Drinkers

The Grand Canyon looks fake in person. Also, I saw like four people almost fall to their deaths trying to get Instagram photos. Not very street smart of them.

Hoover Dam

Mom and I had a DAM good time here. We  spent FIVE HOURS exploring the Hoover Dam National Monument today. I was in awe of the modern engineering marvel and its Art Deco interior.

As mom took this photo of me, there was a family to my left also trying to get a picture. One of the little boys (five or six years old?) was not having a good day. “I’M SO BORED! THIS IS STUPID!” he screeched, nearly throwing himself onto the ground. He was so adamant that Hoover Dam was the worst and I nearly spent all day there.

Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend 

If I told you I went to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend for anything other than getting absolutely banging Instagram shots, I would be lying to you. And I achieved this goal, thank you very much. Mostly because Debbie went peak mom and wouldn’t let me anywhere near the edge of the canyon. Always looking out for me.

Monument Valley

forrest gump monument valley filming locations

I only wanted to go to Monument Valley so I could yell “Run Forrest, Run” at as many people as I could. I’m proud to report that I got to yell it at AT LEAST eight people and only almost got hit by a car while trying to take a photo like Tom Hanks once.

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Four Corners

I visited the Four Corners when I was 14, but our hard drive crashed a few years later, so unfortunately the world will never get to see the photos of short-haired, buck-toothed baby Emily experiencing it for the first time. Oh well! Mom and I stopped in again on our way from Monument Valley to my grandparents’ house in southern Colorado. Not much has changed in the past 10 years. It’s still kitschy. But still oh so fun.

Moved to Australia

This is a big one and it takes up most of my year. I don’t even know how to quantify the stupidest, scariest, bravest, most amazing thing I’ve ever done. So maybe, for now, I’ll just hit a few of the highlights:

Fell in Love in Sydney

Things to do in winter in Sydney winter activities in Sydney Sydney Winter Activities

There’s only been a few cities that have knocked the breath out of me. London. Istanbul. And now Sydney…but not at first. I think it’s because when I first got here, I sat alone at Opera Bar and, while watching the sunset behind the Harbour Bridge, the permanency of my decision hit me in the face.

“Oh right…you just moved to the other side of the world alone with no actual plans. Cool cool. Great choice, Em.”

But then, day by day, the easier it got. The more familiar everything became. But even so, as I settled into my new reality, coming through Circular Quay on the train and catching sight of the Harbour or the Opera House still hyped me up and made me feel just like Mary Kate and Ashley, no matter how many times I passed through.

Sydney is still a hard place to pin down.

In the CBD, it’s easy to get shoulder checked by a suit rushing off to an investment meeting while yelling about someone named Cheryl into his cellphone. But then, a mere stones throw away in Bondi, you’ll find that time seems to not exist and there is an endless supply of sunshine. It’s like New York and Los Angeles had a baby, but it has a weird accent and is much more expensive.

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Met My Family for the First Time in Brisbane

My mom has two half brothers who we were recently able to connect with on social media. We got to meet the youngest and his family last Christmas, but my older uncle lives with his family in Brisbane, so we weren’t sure when we would be able to connect. When I decided to move to Australia, one of my very first priorities was to connect with my family. I was so excited to meet them in person after a lifetime of hearing about them and years of Facebook updates.

Getting to spend two weeks together in August was one of the best parts of my whole time in this country. My aunt made tacos on my first night with them because she knew that I missed Mexican food. My little cousins never ceased to amaze me with their intelligence and cuteness. And my uncle introduced me to his “pet” kookaburra named Fluffy who basically lives in their backyard. I can’t wait to visit again.

Celebrated my Birthday on Fraser Island 

My birthday is my favorite holiday. I call it Emilypalooza and every year, my family goes all out to make sure that my day is really special. Some staples of  the celebrations throughout the years have been mani/pedis, ice cream, movies, and dinner at Outback Steakhouse…coupled with however many other activities I can cram into 24 hours.

I turned 25 this year and as a summer baby, it was my first time celebrating not only away from my family, but away from anyone that I knew. Even during university, I was always home for my birthday.  As I wrapped up my time in Brisbane, it worked out that I would spend my birthday on Fraser Island. I didn’t even really know if I wanted to go to Fraser, but it’s what all the other backpackers did, so I booked in.

The 25th Emilypalooza was the best one yet. If I turn 26 or 27 back in the States just watching a movie and eating ice cream, I will be sorely disappointed. Nothing can top dancing in under the Milky Way, fighting off dingos, swimming in champagne pools, and going out with the kindest bunch of people, one of whom (shout out to Caitlin!) even went out of her way to buy me a birthday cake once we got back to the mainland.

Met My Soulmates in Whitsundays 

Never have I ever met a group of such perfect people. You’re never truly aware of when you’re living through a life-changing moment, but while lying in the sunshine on a sailboat in the South Coral Sea, I kind of had a hunch.

I was nervous about boarding Avatar. I shouldn’t have been, since  I knew a few of the passengers from my Fraser Trip, but when you’re traveling solo, the transition into suddenly being social again always gives you jitters. Or it always gives me jitters, at least…especially when I knew I was going to be stuck on a small boat with strangers for the next 72 hours.

But, just like summer camp, after the first hour, none of us were strangers anymore. And we never will be again.  It was such little things that tipped me off to how things were going to be. The fact that two of the girls were celebrating their birthdays as we boarded and one gave me the second half of her sandwich when I said it looked tasty…even though we’d only known each other for 20 minutes.

That us girls were literally braiding each other’s hair after knowing each other for less than two hours (snorkeling, sun, wind, and no shower on board will do a number on you…I was ready to shave my head tbh). Or that no one was stingy with their alcohol and on the second night, your goon was my goon and mine was yours.

It was just the right amount of party and playfulness, of friendly and feisty, and a perfect reminder that random people can easily become very important to you if you just take a moment to get to know them….even if they suck at math.

Earned My Second Year Visa in Cairns 

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I wanted to stay in Australia a second year. When I say I’m in love with it here, I’m telling the truth. But I hesitate to say that I want to stay forever. I’ve been asked that many times, “What are you doing after your second year?” And the truth is, at this point, it’s likely that I’ll be on to my next adventure. Immigration isn’t something you should start the process of unless you’re completely sure. And I’m not.

I felt so stuck that I was suffocating in Texas. There was nothing for me there in this season of my life. And, I think, that if I stay in one place too long here, that it’ll start to feel the same way.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In order to stay in Australia for a second year, most working holiday makers have to work on a farm for 88 days. But Americans are lucky. We, along with a kind of random group of countries like Spain, Slovakia, China, etc., can work in tourism and hospitality instead. But only in certain areas.

So, after I finished traveling up the East Coast, I got off in the bus Cairns and thought, “Okay. This is it. I live here now. I gotta find a job.”

And that I did. I was worried that I wasn’t going to have any friends in Cairns. After meeting such amazing people in Fraser and Whitsundays, I felt a little bit overwhelmed by the prospect of having to meet new people all over again. But, I was blessed to work at a Tour Booking Centre where the staff treated me like family from day one. The perks of the job are unbelievable. I’ve never worked in tourism before, so getting “FOC” agent trips was a new and exciting adventure.

I’ll be sad to leave.

But, it’s almost 2019 and time for a new adventure.

My 2018 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2019:

  • February 

A road trip down the East Coast of Australia to see what I missed on the way up.

  • April 

Two weeks in Melbourne for the Comedy Festival, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and whatever else I can squeeze in.

  • April / May

A trip to Europe to visit friends from university, my brother in law’s family, and friends I’ve made while traveling.

  • July / August

Back to Australia to start round two of my working holiday adventure.

 

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2017 in review. Wow. 2017 was a big year for me! I quit a job a hated. I quit a job I actually liked, but took too much time away from my writing. I started eating better. I stopped eating better. I went on a lot of trips.

In 2016, I paid off my student loans and explored the States in depth. In 2017, I went on my first solo trip abroad and almost died a few times. All in good fun!

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States visited: Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas.

Countries visited: USA, Costa Rica, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

Here’s how it went:

Went to Boston on a Week’s Notice to Surprise my College Bestie

friends in Boston

Friends in Boston. Brittney, the surprisee, is in the middle.

I started off the year by flying to Boston to surprise one of my best friends from college. I got some frantic texts from her sister the last week of December letting me know the entire squad was meeting up in Boston and could I come too? 

I don’t really make good financial choices, so I went! And boy, was she surprised.

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Witnessed a Historic Weekend in Washington DC

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

I went to an inaugural ball, Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, AND got some free mimosas from the Hungarian embassy all over the course of one long weekend. It was wild and emotionally draining, but I’m glad I went.

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Hunted for Pancake, the 1st Puppy of Texas, in Austin

Texas House of Representatives

Looking for Pancake in the Texas House of Representatives

My brother in law graduated as a Texas State Trooper in February, so we all went to Austin for the ceremony. It was pretty cool. But I was more interested in finding Pancake, Governor Abbot’s dog. I didn’t find her.

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Failed at Finding Bluebonnets in Fredericksburg

bluebonnets texas hill country

The biggest cluster we could find.

Texas Bluebonnets are legends, so my mom and I went on a hunt for them over spring break. I had visions of twirling in a field brimming with tall blue flowers. I just knew my Instas were gonna be bangin.

But I got the photo above instead. This part of my 2017 in review is a pretty great representation of my life, actually.  The Texas Hill Country is still pretty though, so I couldn’t be too mad.

Visited Chip and Jo in Waco

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Enjoy a Cinnamon Roll courtesy of Joanna Gaines

I got my braces off on May 1st, so Waco was one of my favorite trips in 2017 because I could finally smile for photos with no more metal mouth. My mom, sister, and I went to Magnolia Market and the Dr. Pepper Museum — and managed not to join a cult in the process.

Caught up with my College Pals at my Mount Holyoke Reunion

mount holyoke college 2 year reunion

We want to recreate this photo at each reunion.

Mount Holyoke does a two year reunion so that you can come back and watch your “little sister” class graduate. Two years is actually the perfect amount of time for a college reunion because no one has actually accomplished anything yet, so there’s a lot of commiserating and not a lot of bragging. I left really looking forward to my 5 year.

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Went Househunting in Newport

newport rhode island

The Breakers

I literally have no idea what I’m going to do if I don’t end up crazy rich later in life. Case in point: casually touring the likes of The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island and thinking, “Yeah. I can totally see myself here.” I mean, what’s a couple billion dollars to a hustler like me?

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Got Bitten by an Iguana in Costa Rica

Iguana Hotel El faro

My little amigo who would later betray me

My trip to Costa Rica in May was a hot mess. I got bitten by an Iguana. My friend Smoky and I got lost in the rain (and not in a romantic way) more times that I care to admit. I saw a man peeing in the jungle. I somehow survived.

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Herded Children in Nashville

parthenon model nashville

Inside the Parthenon model in Nashville

Somehow I pass as an adult out there in the world and was placed in charge of the health and safety of a group of teenagers as we traveled from Houston to Nashville and back again for a week of service work in July. They all survived and I got to eat a lot of ice cream and visit the Grand Ole Opry, so I’d say it was a great trip.

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Got Bedbugs (and had a blast!) in Europe

Sober at Oktoberfest Oktoberfest drinks other than beer Not drinking at Oktoberfest

Me and Smoky at Oktoberfest!

Y’all. My feet about fell off on my grand tour of Europe. I’m not exaggerating. My toes literally started to separate from my body. I also was the proud owner of 70+ bedbug bites and jet leg to beat the band. But I still had a blast! I promise. I braved my first international solo trip and crossed quite a view experiences off my bucket list.

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Got in a Bus Accident in San Antonio

2017 in review

My Texas-sized breakfast at the hotel that morning.

Just imagine your bus breaking down and waiting on the side of the road for two hours while looking after 50+ students. Then imagine getting sideswiped by a guy who fell asleep at the wheel about 90 seconds after you finally got to reboard the bus and having to get off again and wait another two hours in the parking lot to be rescued by a second bus.

At least I got to meet a hot fireman who was working the crash.

Had the Best View in Austin

Hilton in downtown Austin View

Can you spot Willie? He’s there, I promise.

I went to Austin to watch my two baby cousins while their parents attended a Christmas party. We went full on Eloise at the Plaza and spent our evening at the Hilton in downtown Austin eating chocolate covered pretzels, calling the front desk, and admiring the massive Willie Nelson mural we could see from our window. The horses on 6th Street put on a pretty great show as well.

Took my Mom to “Prague”

czech cultural center la grange texas

Just as pretty as the real Prague….right?

My sister went to Prague in 2013 and hasn’t stopped gushing about it. I went in October and became equally obsessed. So now my mom really wants to visit. Prague was still inaccessible the last time she was in mainland Europe in 1978, so she missed it during her grand tour, and I couldn’t quite afford to fly her over — so I did the next best thing. I took her to Prague, Texas!

There are many, many Czechs in Texas (known as HOT (heart of Texas) Czechs) and so the Prague here is basically the same. Basically.

“Moved” my Sister to Corpus Christi

Selena Memorial Corpus Christi

The Queen and I

When I say moved, I really mean came to Corpus Christi over New Years to pay my respects to Selena and took a conveniently timed nap when the moving truck arrived so I wouldn’t have to help unload anything. I’m the worst.

My 2017 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2018:

January

Fort Worth to see the famous stockyards and hopefully pet a longhorn.

March

Taking a great Southwest road trip with my mom to include the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley so that I can run, Forrest, run.

May

Moving to Australia on a Work and Holiday visa.

August 

I’d love to go to Fiji for my birthday, as well we Bali while I’m on that side of the world. I hope it works out!

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2017 year in review

 

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Whew! What a year.

2016 was rough in terms of the global political climate (hello Brexit, Trump presidency, ISIS, and Aleppo) and celebrity deaths (RIP Harambe and literally every single one of my childhood heroes), but on a personal level, it was actually pretty okay.

Well not just okay; it was actually pretty amazing.

I turned 23 this year and was able to achieve the INSANE goal of paying off my student debt. It’s so crazy for me to be #DebtFreeAt23 when I FOR SURE thought I was going to be #DirtPoorAt24 and #BarelyAliveAt25. Paying off this debt opened up a whole new world for me, one which will allow me to travel more freely. I didn’t make it out of Murica this year, but I still had some crazy adventures.

States visited: Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, DC, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee

Countries visited: USA

Here’s my 2016 in review:

Visited Mount Rushmore in the DEAD of winter.

bachelorette party without drinking

With my sister at Mount Rushmore.

My older sister and eternal travel buddy got married in May, so for her bachelorette party in March, I took her to see Mount Rushmore and the surrounding sites. Since my sister doesn’t drink, typical bachelorette destinations like NOLA or Vegas were out of the question, and a heavy “day activity” place was the perfect fit.

Quick tip: Mount Rushmore is the perfect place for a dry bachelorette party. 

No one else wanted to brave the cold.

We spent a long weekend giggling, freezing, and having a blast. Did I mention we basically had the place to ourselves? Yeah, that’s because normal people don’t go to South Dakota in the winter.

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Crashed DC and chilled on the Speaker’s Balcony.

Speaker's Balcony Photo Op

View from the Speaker’s Balcony on the Capitol.

It seems like all of my friends moved to DC after college, including my amazing roommate, so while my sister was on her honeymoon, I took a #TreatYoSelf trip so I wouldn’t feel left out. I was hosted by my amazing college roommate and her girlfriend, along with their charming puppy Roheryn.

As a museum junkie, DC quickly became one of my favorite cities, especially since I didn’t have to pay for most of them. I also stopped by the White House to have Brunch with Barack (not really).

White House Garden View

Up close and personal at the White House.

I also got a private tour of the Capitol from my best friend from high school, who works for a senator. She even took me on the Speaker’s Balcony which belonged to Paul Ryan at the time, so you know I had to keep my eyes open for him. I may not agree with some of his politics, but those baby blues though.

Went on a 12 hour road trip with my dad.

My sister and I have a running joke that whenever we try to talk to our father (affectionately referred to as #PappaKamm) he always manages to sneak “Well, you know it’s actually a physics problem” into the conversation and spend the next 10 minutes talking about concepts from the class I nearly failed in high school.

So spending 12 hours (each way!) alone in the car with my dad as we drove from Houston to southern Missouri for our family reunion made me a little nervous.

What would we talk about?

Family Road Trip

Highlights of the daddy / daughter road trip.

I was nervous for nothing because as it turns out, traveling with my dad is great! His road trip style matches mine perfectly. We both only stop to eat/get gas/stretch when absolutely necessary and combine all three whenever we can.

We did visit University of Arkansas on the way up so I could call them Hogs, and then spent the rest of the weekend goofing off with our cousins, watching the Olympics, and seeing just how fast jet skis can actually go.

I would say the only downside of the trip was dad listening to Rush Limbaugh at full blast because he’s kind of deaf and me having to resist the urge to fling myself onto the interstate.

Found my inner Hufflepuff at Harry Potter World.

Harry Potter Photo Op

Castles and cold drinks.

Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin, but I’m choosing not to live that truth and instead am settling into being a delightfully average Hufflepuff. I had been to Universal Studios once before in 2009, but Harry Potter World was just being built.

The anguish of being able to SEE Hogwarts, without being allowed to go inside was too real. So obviously I had to go back.

Lunch at Publix

A Florida landmark.

My great friend from college invited me to visit her hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Her dad flies for Southwest and graciously sent me a Buddy Pass, which was my first time flying standby. It wasn’t too bad and further cemented that Southwest is my favorite airline (this post isn’t sponsored, I just really love them).

My dog of 12 1/2 years actually died while I was away, so I am really grateful that the weekend was filled with so much laughter, “tanning,” and roller coasters.

Went on my first solo trip to Memphis.

There was a mix up with the Buddy Passes, so at the last minute, I booked a solo trip to Memphis in early November. I had flown and spent all day exploring alone, but I always had someone to come chat to at night.

Sun Studios Piano

“Playing” at Sun Studios.

But what kind of travel blogger would I be if I hadn’t traveled solo? So I went for it. And it was amazing!

Memphis has lots to do during the day (like Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum) and a vibrant nightlife as well (hello, Beale Street). It was easy to get around with Uber and Lyft and I felt SO proud of myself for finally taking a solo trip.

Mississippi River View

The Mighty Mississippi

I did have kind of an awkward solo dinner at Gus’ Fried Chicken because I think my waiter felt bad for me, when he was really just making me even more uncomfortable. Like sir, can you please just leave me alone and let me read this ketchup bottle in peace kthanks.

See also:

I also may have booked way too many trips for 2017.

Now that I’m out of debt, my money goes straight to the bank ( well, okay, some of it goes to Uncle Sam and some goes to Fidelity because I’m out here trying to retire early, but you get what I mean.) Because of this, I’ve made the brave (stupid?) choice to travel travel traaaavel next year.

Here’s where I’m headed:

January:

Boston to surprise friends from college.

DC for the Inauguration and to see friends from college.

February:

Austin for my brother’s trooper graduation.

May:

Costa Rica with my best friend from high school.

South Hadley, Massachusetts for my Mount Holyoke Reunion.

September/October

Germany, Holland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland for my very own #EuroTrip.

Where are you headed in 2017? 

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2016 in review

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