january 1st.

january 1st.

there is something about the significance of this date that causes you to feel… more. it causes you to feel nostalgic. and hopeful. and proud. sometimes sad also. and regretful. and maybe heartbroken. looking at 365 days in review gives a new lens to look at the year through. it’s important to utilize this lens and appreciate what the last 365 pages of your story entailed, but to remember to pick back up the pen to write the next 365 pages.

so, here’s to taking a second to appreciate the chapter that has just closed.

simply put, when i outlined my own stats for 2018, it averaged out to be a pretty bad ass year.

in the last year, i left the country for the first time. i flew alone for the first time. i visited 7 countries, and fell in love with them all in a different way. albania, montenegro, croatia, bosnia and herzegovina, serbia, macedonia, and kosovo. i saw beautiful things and met incredible people through this experience that have changed me irreversibly.

i visited 3 states. minnesota for spring break, illinois for a josh turner concert, and florida to visit some of the close friends i gained from my experience in kosovo. i got to spend special time with friends in minnesota that later that year would part ways with for a longer period of time. i got to experience josh turner in illinois with one of the closest friends that i gained during my first year of college. and in florida i got to visit some of the people i grew so close to in such a short amount of time in kosovo.

i got to experience 7 different artists. in march i found my way to wells fargo to see jon pardi and miranda lambert with my mom. april was a bit busier with two concerts. i got to see bryce vine and timeflies with two of my closest friends from central college, and a week later found my way back to Wooleys with my music SOULMATE farah to see the wrecks, the technicolors, and the maine. and finally in may, dayne and i made the drive to illinois to bond over our mutual obsession for josh turner.

as well, i ended my first year of college in may. i made the decision to move on from softball and transfer from central college to uni, where i began my second year in august. in the time i had at central, i gained lifelong friendships and made unforgettable memories. some of the less impressive stats that i hold closer to my heart are the des moines trips, soccer bopper games, study sessions (kind of), and coffee dates with the friends i made in my time at central. parting ways with these people gave a heartbreak unlike any other, but have taught me an unparalleled amount when it comes to appreciating true friendship.

fast forward to august. from august to des moines, it seems unbelievable to realize the amount i have gained in just the last 5 months. i gained a new family on tiffany lane when i began nannying for the sweetest family in cedar falls, and renewed friendships with once great friends who also attended uni, who have again become great friends. but the most important gain i have experienced during this time came in september. in september i FINALLY gained sisters when i joined alpha phi!!!!!!! i gained the best pledge class, the best big, the best phi fam, and the best sisters through this chapter that i had no idea i needed so much. being a part of a sorority wasn’t a thing i had an intention of doing until i actually did it, and once i did it, i instantly became to incredibly grateful. i quickly became involved with alpha phi, and in december entered into my executive position as the vice president of community relations! i have opened this opportunity to serve and give back to my chapter with the most open arms. with all of this craziness the cherry on top of a great semester was earning all A’s in my first semester of classes at uni.

2018 wasn’t all gain however. there were many hardships in 2018. leaving the country alone was scary. leaving my new-found kosovo friends at the end of 5 weeks broke my heart. transferring schools as a sophomore was intimidating. making the decision to rush was difficult. there were many friendships and relationships damaged, and some lost. but in all the bad there has been good. braving the trip to kosovo resulted in gaining one of the most important people i have met thus far in my life, and the countless possibilities 2019 has in store with this person bring me nothing but excitement and hope.

george-2.png

so while it’s important to look back and to appreciate, i’m now ready to look forward and be hopeful. significance and metaphors are things that have always gotten through to me, and maybe that’s because of all the books my grandma read to me. but nonetheless, getting to open a new page titled 1.1.2019 signifies to me many things that can be summed into one word. opportunity. it’s simply not possibly to express my excitement for the opportunity that 2019 will be.

here’s to learning. here’s to living. here’s to growth. here’s to opportunity.

hh

distance.

something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is the concept of distance and how we make relationships work despite it.

very few of those that hold pieces of our heart are typically within arms reach of us a large majority of the time. as a student, my family is a 2-hour drive away. my friends, in-state, are any combination of 1-3 hours drive. one of my best friends is in Oklahoma, another handful in Florida. some in New York, California, etc. you get the gist. a few others have impacted me greatly this past summer are a whole ocean away.

so how do we even fathom making this relationships work? after asking these questions, there’s a few key elements I’ve discovered.

the first is communication. this one is obvious. you’re not going to have a relationship of any sort if you can’t communicate. this can be difficult sometimes, because you don’t have the ability to draw from the interactions a lot of what you can in person. it falls upon you a lot as an individual to take the time to communicate “hey, today is going to be busy. i may not be able to text you as much.” or “i am not in a great mood today, something happened to ruin my mood.” in these cases the other person will almost always understand, as they experience similar situations in their own lives. they will give you your space, or let you talk it out. not communicating however will likely create bigger problems like feeling ignored or like a nuisance. communication is really key.

as well, maturity. we are busy people. we live busy lives. i know i frequently look at my phone to see i got a text and while i am doing homework, before my workout, before i go to a meeting, before dinner, before i get ready for bed. some days are a lot, and as simple as it is to send a text saying “i am busy, i will talk to you soon” it really does slip my mind sometimes. realizing that not talking every day, or sometimes not even every week, does not mean that a relationship is nonexistent. probably my best example of this is my friend Liz. we will go numerous weeks without speaking sometimes, but a simple “it’s been a while, what’s new with life?” text is all it takes for us to catch back up and reassure our friendship.

lastly, recognizing that some relationships are not supposed to withstand the distance is important. some relationships just aren’t meant to continue following high school, following college, following a job, etc. they served a point at that point in our lives, and for that we should be thankful. that does not mean they need to hold a place in your current life. a friendly wave and short catch up is all you really need to give some people when you cross paths again later in life. we are all on different paths; some are just meant to grow apart. there is no use trying to fit two different stories into the same book in some cases. and that’s okay.

the vast majority of my distance relationships are incredibly successful. FaceTime has become one of my greatest resources lately as the second best thing to being with someone is being able to see their face and hear their voice.

growing up is hard. school is hard. work is hard. being the parent to a fat cat who won’t cuddle you when you come home from college is hard. we need each other. with that being said –

reach out to those you care about. ask them about their day, and listen to their response. genuineness is hard to come by, and rarely forgotten. this is the most important way to maintain friendships of any distance. πŸ™‚

hh

little happinesses.

ive been thinking a lot lately about the every day things that bring me joy. these can be really big things obviously like bigger events such as birthdays or really small things like when the perfect song comes on when im running and i actually have to stop myself from dancing crazily. i mean the kind of dancing saved specifically for the privacy of my own room and for songs like “mr bightside”.

i started making lists of these things a while ago and add to it whenever i remember and am not crazy busy, two things that don’t happen all that often. but i thought id share some of the things on my list.

firstly, my friend jacey has surprised me with coffee enough times for it to be worthy of its own album on my VSCO. just last friday she picked me up to go get my car and had a Dunkin coffee waiting for me because she’d gotten herself one too. plus we both get iced coffee with caramel and sugar. it’s actually to die for so 10/10 recommend.

working out has been another thing. i got really on board w this last year about this time but kind of fell out of sync until recently. im reminded again though how great you feel after a good workout (and also how much like death tbh) and how awesome it is to see results!! id lost 15 pounds originally when i started working out last year and after falling back into bad eating habits and less working out gained some back. getting back on track w that and being healthy has been a really awesome up to my days lately. πŸ™‚

another one lately has been lectures. and i know you read that and think “lol what” but the excitement of listening to a prof talk about something so interesting that you find yourself getting caught up and forgetting to sneakily text during class or even take notes, but still remembering everything because you were so immersed, is actually incredible. stuff like this lately has made me more sure than ever about the career im entering.

LETTERS. this feels so retro to write but making writing letters to my friends lately a priority has brought me a lot of joy. sitting down and writing stuff out has always been easy and even enjoyable for me (probably why i started a blog???) and my gaining of many friends in different states has brought about letter writing again. and also, checking my mail. getting and sending mail is an actual highlight to my day.

lastly, FaceTime. my gained appreciation for this one has been really recent but really prominent. now don’t get me wrong, texting is awesome actually, and ive always preferred it to other forms of communication like Snapchat. but being able to actually see someone and hear their voice even though they may be anywhere from 2-18 hours away has become super special to me. getting to talk to people regularly using that outlet has been so enjoyable for me and honestly highlights a lot of my days. also, George and I started FaceTiming to watch Seinfeld and not only does this alone make my days, but highly recommend Seinfeld for anyone looking for a new binge show.

my list is WAY bigger than that, but those are just a few of the big ones on it. πŸ™‚

life is great. a certain quote that’s been in my head lately has also been in relation to happiness and it’s simply that

you are the decider of your own happiness

incorporating this idea into my every day has made a significant difference for me. give it a try. πŸ™‚

hh

life updates galore

SO many exciting things have happened in these last few weeks that i am just so excited to share!!

first – i went through sorority recruitment. now for starters, this was never really something that i had pictured myself doing. i had this stereotypical idea of what sororities are all about and let me tell you.. i was so wrong. throughout rush week not only did i get to find in my home in ALPHA PHI, but i got to meet amazing women throughout all of the chapters! my new sisters are all absolutely incredible and i already feel so home. i know how cliche that may sound but it really is the very best feeling to be surrounded by so many awesome women who support you, are so FUN, and are so driven to accomplish awesome things!! the atmosphere you put yourself in does so much to alter your own development and i am SO thankful to be in this environment because i foresee it pushing me to thrive even more than i had ever imagined. if you have even the SMALLEST interest in greek life i cannot encourage you enough to give it a try. of course, here’s pics. πŸ™‚

on a non-aphi related note – i haven’t really been able to get over lately how perfect of a campus uni really is. after not giving it virtually any thought prior to this year, and being super skeptical of it in general even when i did decide to transfer, it has completely exceeded all of my expectations.

1. this campus is the PERFECT size. there is such a big campus vibe, along with it feeling perfectly manageable and non-intimidating at the same time.

2. getting involved is SO easy. there is literally a book for everyone here and since there aren’t an overwhelming number of students on campus, it’s really easy to start recognizing people from your classes at different events, clubs, etc.

3. the people. maybe i am just out-of-this-world lucky with the people ive gotten the opportunity to meet this summer into this school year but wow. from my classes, to clubs, to alpha phi, i have meet INCREDIBLE people all over and i am so freakin thankful for that.

classes have been going just as well and i am only experiencing a small amount of stress since actually deciding what i want to do with my life.

ALSO something that i forgot to mention was that i got approved for a volunteer trip to fiji this coming summer with one of my best friends, jacey! im already so excited for that. another international trip may also be in the works.. stay tuned. πŸ˜‰

i have decided recently upon a double major in psychology and political science. as well, im seeking out a double minor as well with mental health and international affairs. FINALLY ill be rounding out the bottom with a certificate in international peace and security.

my overall goal with that is to initially work as a counselor primarily focusing on refugee children and victims of domestic violence, but i hope to later venture into the field of humanitarian intervention on the global scale.

i am so incredibly excited for all that is to come in these next years at UNI already – and it’s only been a month here!!

stayed tuned for more updates. πŸ™‚

hh

anything but easy.

well, that title about sums up the entire premise of this post – but it feels necessary to write. only a sentence in and the words to write this are already hard to find, because there’s no easy way to talk about any of it. but that’s why it’s necessary to talk about.

i am currently 19 years old, and since i can physically remember knowing what depression was, ive known that i suffered from it.

i remember being in 7th grade, and already at that age, looking up the symptoms in my bedroom of depression and anxiety and feeling the familiar build in my chest at the realization of something i didn’t want to admit to myself was true.

only crazy people are depressed. my thoughts and problems aren’t worthy of a therapists time – these are the kind of things that everyone goes through – they have real problems to worry about.

i was vehemently against telling anyone that i was depressed. i didn’t want to tell my parents how bad the bads really got, because they saw my good. they saw me succeed, they saw me push myself, they saw me happy. they saw the class president, the team captain. my friends saw that too. as did friends, other parents, peers, teachers, you name it. acting like i had my shit together on the outside got to the point where it was so easy that even as an 8th grader, not even able to drive yet, sometimes i forgot too what was just under the surface.

because the roller coaster usually didn’t stop once it started going down. sad wasn’t just sad, it was debilitating. when the spells hit, they lasted days and weeks. and they typically came with the same panic attacks that i wouldn’t even admit to being panic attacks until years later, the disinterest, the paranoia, the loss of appetite, etc., but they also came with the thoughts.

you all know what thoughts i mean. the “what if’s”, the “maybes”, the numerous “whys”. i remember laying in bed on so many occasions working myself into a panic attack, with the recurring thought of why can i not be normal ringing through my ears.

this is not normal. other 14, 15, 16 year olds do not do this. why do i do this.

and after that, the guilt, because after all, i really had no right to feel this way. i was class president, i was invited to sleepovers, i had people that wanted to sit by me at lunch. boys always liked me, my Facebook posts got like, 30 likes (because in 2012 that was the epitome of popularity), and i played on the a-team for volleyball. i was literally everything i could’ve put myself up to be & this was still my reality, laying in bed at 3 am on a wednesday sobbing uncontrollably for a reason entirely indescribable.

and it wasn’t always 3 am on a wednesday. sometimes it was 2 pm on a monday, or after a good game, or walking down the hallway on any insignificant day. what they don’t tell you is that depression doesn’t give you a warning. there is no “ring for service” bell and it waits in a comfy chair, reading magazines until you’re in the comfort of your room, alone, and at least somewhat prepared to deal with it.

no, this is not depression. it barges in during science class and you have to excuse yourself to the restroom because you can literally feel the panic attack escaping from your chest. you feel it in church, in the locker room, getting ready for school, and getting ready for bed. you can feel it anywhere, at any time, and it does not apologize for interrupting, because depression is the ultimate consumer.

of happiness, of futures, of love, and of lives.

depression has robbed me again and again, for years. depression still continues to pick pocket me, just as a reminder to never forget it’s presence. there are still days that it gets the upper hand, and to lie would be saying that i have lived through days where i didn’t believe it would ultimately win the game. but to this day, it hasn’t. and to this day, it is the hardest damn game i have ever played in.

at 19 years old, i have suffered from depression and anxiety since at least the age of 14, formally being diagnosed as a sophomore in high school. since this point in my life, i have taken medication to assist with my depression and anxiety. this is something that i have been incredibly ashamed to share for the last 4 years, because in a way it still felt like a loss. i didn’t really get over it on my own. finally, am i coming around the idea that this has been the opposite of a loss. it has been an important step towards the most important win.

every day is a battle. numerous days go by sometimes without hiccup, while sometimes the same happens in regards to the bad. and i will be the first to tell you that i know it is not easy to talk. it isn’t easy to reach out, but it is worth it. as someone who feels this stuff every day of my life, when someone reaches out to me, the last thing i think is anything negative. i want to wrap them in the biggest hug in the world and remind them how much i love them, how much everyone loves them. i want to remind them how many dogs there are to pet in this world and how many funny videos there are to find on facebook and how beautiful sunflowers are and what it smells like outside right after it rains and how big their grandmas smile is when they come in the house and how if they weren’t here they wouldn’t get those beautiful little moments that make all of the rest worth it. these are your weapons in this battle, found in the most unlikely of places. this little “island-of-misfit-toys-like” compilation of happinesses has literally saved my life. find yours. find it, write it down, keep it in your pocket, hang it on your fridge, and read it every god damn day.

you can win this fight. you will have set back and little victories alike. you can and you will cross mountains and valleys, and you will come out the other side. whether it be skipping, running, walking, or crawling, you will come out the other side. we will come out the other side.

to all that feel the radiating effects of depression & anxiety in so many countless ways, i love you. i don’t even know you, & i love you. i am rooting for you from the very bottom of my heart. i implore you in every way, stay.

the balkans in 7 days: serbia & macedonia

the last recap in this series is a mashup of the last two countries we visited during our week around the balkans. due to the extremely short amount of time we spent in macedonia, and the reasonable amount of time we spent in serbia it seemed easier to combine the two.

belgrade, serbia was much different to me than the other areas we visited throughout the week. belgrade had a vibe much more of a modern city than any of the others. belgrade was booming with busy streets, towering buildings, and the overall feel of a busy city. while other areas, namely albania and montenegro, had a much different feel of a more calm and relaxed city, almost from a different time, serbia was much the same but also much different.

our first night in the city of belgrade was spent exploring. we found a mcdonalds and embraced our true american-ness by having it for supper. the next day was much more of an event. we departed early the next morning to visit the House of Flowers, along with its accompanying museums. this memorial to the late Josip Broz Tito, former leader of Yugoslavia, was brilliant. it was absolutely beautiful and gave a comprehensive history of the former Yugoslavic nation.

in the middle of the memorial lies tito’s tomb, while off to the side, and scattered throughout the house and museum, are all of the batons from the relay of youth. this event was carried out in yugoslavia annually. for the relay, an original baton would be carried from town to town throughout the town before it was finally given to tito on the day of his birthday, may 25. this event became incredibly popular throughout the nation and even became a national holiday. a large number of these batons are showcased at the house of flowers and they are all incredibly unique. we also made a nice furry friend outside of the house. of course, pictures. πŸ™‚

we next met with artist vladimir miladinovic of belgrade. we spent time in his studio where he informed us of his yugoslav based projects, in an attempt to showcase a history that had the possibility of dying out if not preserved. vladimir’s studio was incredible and there were numerous different projects going on all throughout the building.

we went out for dinner that night at a nice restaurant and had the absolute best time. the band played throughout the entire meal, giving us lots of laughs and serenading some of us more than others (Isabella). after the meal we went out to the zone club on the barge. having never been to a club in the states before, this place was wild for me to say the least. we got back to the hotel incredibly late from this club, but rose again bright and early the next morning to make our way to macedonia!

due to some difficulties, being a sharp stop that led to Dr. Dan having to visit the hospital for stitches, our trip to skopje, macedonia largely consisted of eating lunch, walking around a bit, and getting back on the bus to finally end an incredible but tiring week back in prishtina! the city was beautiful and if not for the unfortunate events of the day we’d have gotten to do a bit more exploring, but i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t so ready to go back to kosovo for a rest and to start classes the next day!

getting the experience the balkans region through the course of a week was an incredibly unforgettable experience. never before had the balkans been on my radar as an area where i wished to visit, but is not one that i am so thankful that i got to experience. each country was so unique in its history and its culture. i learned so much from this week that i could never get from a textbook. i almost feel guilty for the amount that i gained out of this first week alone, because it really is unparalleled. i met life long friends, saw the most incredible places, delved into new and interesting history, and got to experience growth in a new and fascinating way that i have been yearning to feel again since i got back to the states. my newfound travelers heart is sure to find new adventure soon, but for now, my first year at UNI has begun! i am studying psychology and political science (an area i found passion in due to my experiences in the balkans) and i am making strides towards my future career!

stay tuned.

hh

the balkans in 7 days: bosnia and herzegovina

short hiatus on this recap thread- but i’m back!

bosnia and herzegovina was one of the more historically rich areas that we visited in our week around the balkans. we spent time in the cities of mostar and sarajevo getting to see countless sights, taking tours, wandering around downtown, trying way too many types of cakes (pictured, of course), and indulging the moment.

the first night we arrived in mostar really late. we slept at the hotel then made the bus ride to our first meeting of the day. afterwards we got to see the Old Bridge. the view from the bridge is incredible. of course, i have pictures. πŸ™‚

we next made our way to sarajevo where we spent more time. the night of our arrival we were given a tour by easily the BEST tour guide i’ve ever had on any occassion. his name is enes, and he laid out the history of the city for us in such an incredible way and in a way that is different from most tour guides you would come across. he showed us countless areas of historical importance (i.e. the place where archduke franz ferdinand and his wife sophia were fatally shot, the eternal flame, etc.) and gave us an incredibly deep context to associate with these places. he pointed out things as well that i would not have picked up on otherwise. we saw the bullet holes in the side of buildings, evidence of the siege of sarajevo that only happened in the last 30 years. this raw visual of a city that had undergone such hardships of war was incredibly moving and eye-opening. to think people had lived, and continue to live today, in an area where the history is very much still plastered on the walls is a really indescribable feeling. enes offered us such a unique view of the city and opened our minds up in such a way to its history – i would absolutely recommend him if you ever find yourself in sarajevo and wanting a tour! i even included a picture of him. πŸ™‚

we spent the rest of that night getting dinner, getting more gelato (of course), and exploring the old town. after meetings the next day, we did much of the same. we had the awesome opportunity to meet with he office of the high representative and at the OSCE offices!

the next day, we visited the memorial site for the victims of the 1995 srebrenica-potocari genocide. this was an event that i had no been previously aware of, but was one that deeply moved me as we walked through the memorial, learning the history of this awful event in history. if you’re not familiar with this event either, i would encourage you to do a bit of research and familiarize yourself with the genocide. while it is distressing to read about, knowledge is power and it is better to familiarize ourselves with these events in order to prevent them from happening again. another added wonder was that our tour guide at this memorial site was a survivor of the genocide. as i mentioned, it only happened in 1995, and what really struck me as our guide was talking was that he was not much older than my parents, and not even as old as my grandparents. to think such an atrocity had happened within their lifetimes was such a gut-wrenching thought.

bosnia and herzegovina was a state rich in historical context. this area sticks with me more for the atrocities we observed there, but still the beautiful way the city has been rebuilt. though a beautiful city stands still in sarajevo to this day, the hardships it has faced are very plain to observe if you look. even as much as the eternal flame, which serves as a memorial to the military and civilian victims of the second world war, serves as a constant reminder of a dark past, but a bright future for the region.

thirty-five days.

though my revamping of 7 days around the balkans is not over, my time abroad is, and for this reason, it felt appropriate to have a post that summed it all up.

that’s been the hard thing though- summing it all up.

the 35 days that i spent abroad are collectively among the best of my life thus far. compared to the amount i paid for this trip, what i got out of it feels like I got the best deal on earth. not only did i get to visit 7 different countries, study with some of the most intelligent profs, visit areas of incredible historical context, and pet COUNTLESS dogs – because these were all key parts to this incredible experience – but what i really gained is not as easily summed into words.

i gained perspective. i gained the ability to look at this world around me and appreciate simple beauty in unexpected places. i gained the ability to look at the last 35 days and, though it breaks my heart that it is over, it also makes my heart burst with happiness to think how incredibly lucky i am to have experienced what i did.

as well, i gained friendship. in every post i’ve written about how the people on this trip are truly what made it for me, and in this post again i will stand by that. at the end of 35 days, leaving people who had unexpectedly taken up huge parts of my heart was literally heart wrenching. in the last 35 days, i’ve gained some of the purest relationships i’ve ever known. i’ve learned what it is to truly live in the moment and give up control for just long enough to really feel. if you have never done this, and are presented with the opportunity, do it. it’s hard to describe the way in which my heart hurts now as a result of this, but it would be impossible to regret it. vulnerability is something that i have gained a new appreciation for following the last 35 days.

i knew going in that this trip was going to change me. this is to be expected when all you have ever know is small town in iowa and within 35 days you are entirely immersed in all things new. but i had no concept of how much it was going to change me, or how permanently.

for 35 days, i got to experience something so entirely special that it’s impossible to truly describe in words. i got to experience something that makes my heart wrench so terribly as i write this, because i already miss it so much, but that i am so incredibly thankful for.

scrolling through my social media yesterday i ran across a post and it resonated with me when i thought about it in relation to the last 35 days.

it read: it’s hard when you miss something. but if you miss them, it means you’re lucky. it means you had something special in your life. something worth missing.

and i feel beyond special to have experienced who, and what i have in the last 35 days. kosovo & the people i met there hold a place in my heart that won’t be going away any time soon. this does not just include the friends i got to share this program with- but Beznick at the hotel, Daut who makes the BEST macchiato’s in the world, Erol, Elda, Engin, Mark, Mjellma, Albina. Thank you to you all.

always see you laters, never goodbyes. faleminderit.

the balkans in 7 days: croatia

dubrovnik, croatia was one of the places where we spent the least amount of time, but that held one of the greatest beauties out of all the places we visited in 7 days.

the difference between dubrovnik and the other places we visited is that dubrovnik is much more touristy than other areas of the balkans, even regarded as one of the biggest tourist hubs within the balkans region. specific to dubrovnik, there are countless draws within the city that are easily at the cause of this increased tourist travel; including the Walls of Dubrovnik, the seaport, the museums and monasteries, and personally my favorite, the gelato stands on EVERY CORNER. i would tell you that we didn’t get ice cream 3 times within that day.. but i’d be lying.

croatia

the most beautiful aspect of dubrovnik that we got to experience would have to be the walls. the walls surround the city of dubrovnik and from the walls, you can see the city in the most incredible way. the walls were mainly constructed during the 12th-17th centuries, but have been maintained incredibly well up to this day. they stretch 1940 meters long and it took about 2 hours to see the whole thing. if you ever find yourself in dubrovnik, the walls are an absolute must to add to your list. you won’t find a more unique and incredible way to view all aspects that dubrovnik has to offer (old town, the harbour, the beaches, the incredible Adriatic, etc.). of course, i’ve included numerous pictures but they really do not give the incredible views any justice.

i largely spent the day with my new friends exploring the city. isabella, jenna, austin, liam, george, and myself grew really close over this week and they incredibly enhanced this experience for me. we walked the wall together, visited museums, ate too much ice cream, and made countless jokes together. i’ve included pictures of them too, just because i’m so thankful for the incredibly positive way in which they added to my week.

also yes, we are in front of the stairs where the “walk of shame” scene from Game of Thrones took place. fun fact. πŸ™‚

this was one of the funnest days that we had throughout the week, easily. though it was much less structured than some of our other days, it was spent growing closer to our new friends and getting to explore the beautiful city together.

towards the end of the day. we found a neat little restaurant of the side of the wall. we climbed down onto the rocks and sat for a while, watching people jump off the cliffs nearby. it was a great ending to the day, getting to soak in the beauty of dubrovnik away from the masses. overall, the day was incredible and the people i got to experience it with made it even more incredible. i knew even on this 3rd day in the region that the balkans had already captured a piece of my heart.

the balkans in 7 days: montenegro

out of my 7 days exploring the balkans region, my time in montenegro may have been my very favorite.

first of all, let me start with how BEAUTIFUL this country is. everything about it was so incredibly stunning in the most simple way. montenegro was a little different from every other day of our trip, in that we had the whole day there free to do whatever we wanted. this freedom quickly became a trip to the beach. the water so so incredibly clear and blue, and the beach we found came with floating seats about 30 yards out. we spent the next 5 hours lounging in these seats, bobbing with the waves, appreciating the mountain view, and developing incredible new friendships.

i’ve said it before but i’ll say it again, i really cannot stress how much i appreciate the people here. in the few hours out in the water, i had one of the most open talks with a relative stranger, who has since become a close friend. we traded life stories and asked questions to the point we lost track of time, and it was easily one of the best moments i can pinpoint from this trip so far.

later, we took a trip up to old town. it seems like every area we visited during this week had an area of the city known as “old town” that resembled a much more retro feel and not the feeling of a booming city that the other areas conveyed. we spent the next few hours walking around old town, eventually settling down on the stone wall and continuing our “get-to-know-you” conversations. i found myself talking to another member of our group and having conversation very similar to the one early. we spoke of books, movies, family, relationships, and virtually everything else under the sun. we traded our outrageous life stories and i would honestly say this too was a highlight to the week. these conversations have proven to be so insightful and getting to know people in a different context is an experience that i really cannot describe. i found myself going hours without looking at my phone, or even thinking of it, and becoming totally invested in the conversations happening.

that has actually been one of the things about this trip that has been truly unexpected. no lie, i use my phone a lot at home. this habit has changed since coming to europe for a couple of reasons. firstly, it’s difficult to use your phone considering data charges and the such. instagram is cool y’all, but not when it comes at such a price to idly browse Β internationally. secondly, the interesting conversations are SO abundant here. so many times i have caught myself holding lengthy conversations with people that a month ago, i had no idea existed, and it is incredible. one night on the bus i sat next to another peer who looked at me and said “so tell me about your life”, and we spent the next two hours engrossed in deep and meaningful conversation. it is incredibly rare to see these raw sides of people, but i have experienced that more in the last few weeks than ever before. i’ve learned an incredible amount not only about myself through these conversations, but about the world through the eyes of others. the people i’ve interacted with on this trip range in origin from florida, to the dominican republic, to prague, and various other areas. yet these have been uniting factors in conversation.

of course i’ve included pictures from this beautiful place, although i don’t have many. this place was so incredible and the conversations were so engrossing that i honestly forgot to look at my phone for hours on hand.

the greatest thing about Montenegro that i can pinpoint is how much of a beautiful surprise it was. i’ve had a list of places that i wanted to visit forever, and it’s largely made up of the regulars (Paris, Venice, Spain, etc), but Montenegro was never on my list. Yet, it ended up being the most amazing place I have visited in my life thus far. It had the most unexpected, simple beauty and brought me some of the mot simple, raw conversations and friendships that I have ever had. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the 24 hours in Montenegro actually changed me in the most positive way.

the below pictures show the beautiful island town we got to see, as well as the area of Budva in the distance, where we spent our day in Montenegro. the other pictures show the amazing roommates i’ve gotten to spend this trip with, and another group picture! i really cannot stress enough how much the people have enhanced this experience for me. thankful doesn’t even cut it.