10.14.2018

 

Photo creds: Sydney Rueppel + Zach Fossier

When Your Boyfriend Goes to Basic

When Your Boyfriend Goes to Basic – VIDEO

Hey my peeps!
At the beginning of 2018 my boyfriend, Solomon, shipped off for 3 1/2 months of basic training after joining the Army National Guard.  The experience of being apart and only communicating through letters was incredibly challenging but even more so rewarding, so we decided to film a video telling you all about what it was like!  To be honest, this isn’t really an “advice” video because, honestly, neither of us are qualified to give relationship advice and everyone’s situation is different.  BUT if you are currently (or will soon be) going through a similar experience, hopefully this video makes you feel a little bit better about what it might be like.  Ultimately, we are both so thankful for those few months; they challenged us and pushed us to grow not only as a couple, but also as individuals.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you take it as an opportunity to explore and grow and thrive, rather than just an obstacle to get through as quickly as you can.  Enjoy the experience as best you can!
I hope you enjoy this video, and if you enjoyed having Solomon on the blog let me know – maybe I’ll let him back on in the future 😉

 

Life Updates – Junior Year + Moving

Hello all!
It’s been a hot minute since I last updated the blog – between school, work, and spending time with friends and family, it’s been a busy spring semester.  Here’s what I’ve been up to and what’s to come:

  • I wrapped up sophomore year and made the decision to transfer colleges – the past year, I’ve been at Young Harris College, a small (I mean, small) liberal arts college in north Georgia.  Although I made some lifelong friends and took some really interesting and challenging courses during my time there, I just didn’t enjoy the campus or the vibe of the school as much as I wanted to.  After lots and lots of prayer and discussions with family, I’ve decided to transfer to the University of North Georgia for my last 2 years of school.  I love the UNG campus and already have some friends there, plus they have lots of opportunities for backpacking and rock-climbing!
  • My parents are preparing to move to Seattle – towards the end of last year, my dad accepted a position with Microsoft and my parents made the decision to move to Seattle.  To be perfectly honest, I was not on board to begin with.  The idea of my family leaving to move across the country was straight up terrifying, and I was convinced I wasn’t ready for it.  After some time to think and pray and prepare, though, I’m so excited for them!  Plus – how cool is it gonna be to visit Washington all the time?  Recently, we’ve all been super busy preparing to sell the house, and they’re gearing up to move hopefully within the next couple weeks.
  • I’m getting ready to live on my own – although I’ve been out of the house for the past year of college, I haven’t really been out of the house, if you know what I mean.  Once my parents move to Washington, I’ll be living in Dahlonega full-time as I’ve been blessed enough to find an apartment near the college that I’ll be moving into at the end of summer.  I am so excited to begin this next chapter of adulthood – and most importantly, I’ll finally have my own kitchen to cook in!
  • My boyfriend joined the military – at the beginning of the year, my boyfriend shipped off for 3 1/2 months of basic training for the Army.  Saying “see you later” to my best friend was one of the hardest experiences I’ve been through, and the transition to communicating solely through weekly letters and minute-long phone calls once a month was incredibly daunting.  Those months ended up being an incredible blessing, though – they challenged us and strengthened our relationship in so many ways, and I am beyond thankful to have him home as of a couple weeks ago.  That time apart not only strengthened us as a couple, but also as individuals, and I’m so grateful to have had those months to push myself and grow in ways I couldn’t have experienced otherwise.

As for the rest of the summer – I’ll be focusing on working a lot to save up for the fall semester and spending time with my parents and friends.  Although I’ll be staying in Georgia for most of the summer, I am planning to fly up to Seattle once my parents have moved to help them settle in.  I’m also hoping to spend some time exploring the southeast and hopefully getting in a few backpacking and rock-climbing trips!
The first few months of 2018 have flown by and, sadly, I don’t think the rest of the year will slow down much.  I can’t wait for what’s to come and I plan to share my adventures as they unfold.
Until next time!

 

How to Deal with Anxiety in College

Towards the middle of my first semester living at college, I began to experience a lot of anxiety.  There were entire days where I felt like my heart was constantly racing and my mind was unable to focus on anything.  What few moments of peace I did have were tainted by the fear that they would be short-lived.  I was struggling to get simple things done or enjoy experiences that should have been fun and lighthearted.  Although I’ve experienced anxiety before, I had never felt it to this degree.  But instead of letting it dictate my time and emotions, I made an effort to work through the experience and address it.  If you’re someone who experiences anxiety or even just struggles to find peace in the hectic schedule of college, here are some things that worked for me (and most of these work whether you’re a student or not!):

1. Confide in someone

Whether it’s a friend at school, a family member, or a pen pal, it’s always important to have a person you can rant to without judgment.  Sometimes they will have advice or a different perspective you wouldn’t have thought of yourself – but sometimes it’s just nice to let it all out.

2. Manage your responsibilities

If homework, job duties, or other to-do’s start piling up, it will only fuel your anxiety.  Take the time to sit down and make a list of what you need to work on, in order of priority.  Don’t try to do it all at once or you’ll just fizzle out – schedule manageable amounts of work throughout the day.

3. Create a relaxing environment to work/live in

My dorm room often becomes the “meeting place” for my group of friends and even though I love hanging out with everyone, I know that if I need to get work done, I can’t do it with a lot of other people in the room or I’ll just get distracted.  Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself to get stuff done, even if it means stepping away from the fun for a minute!  Similarly, I try to make sure my dorm always feels cozy and inviting so that I can de-stress.  (Check out my Dorm Room Essentials post for tips!)

4. Commit to a wellness routine

One of the best ways for me to channel my anxiety is through working out and getting active.  Whether it’s going to the gym or taking a hike, grabbing a friend to knock out a killer workout will refocus your mind and make you feel refreshed.  If working out isn’t your thing, try yoga or gentle stretches.  Yoga with Adriene has some fantastic 30-day series on Youtube, but even taking 5 minutes in the morning to stretch and wake your body up will make a difference in the tone of your day.  Don’t forget about nutrition too – make a point to eat fresh foods and try to avoid the greasy, processed foods, at least throughout the week.  Treat yourself when you really need it, but take everything in moderation!

5. Go to therapy

For a lot of people, the idea of therapy can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.  Most colleges will offer free counseling or therapy sessions – take advantage of them!  Everyone will get something different out of the experience and you may find that it’s not for you, but it’s always valuable to take advantage of the resources available to you.  Having a neutral party you can discuss your life with can be very cathartic once you get past the initial awkwardness.

 

Dorm Room Essentials

Hello all and happy 2018!

To kick of this year, I wanted to share some off my dorm room essentials with you.  Let’s delve in!

 

 

An oil diffuser – I got mine as a Christmas gift and it has made a huge difference in the coziness of my dorm room!  I love mixing up what oils I put in depending on my mood that day – sometimes I prefer something with peppermint to give me energy, while other days I like a touch of cinnamon to fight off oncoming sicknesses.  There are tons of oil diffuser and essential oil options out there; I have the AromaSphere by Serene Living which is great because of how small and easy it is, and I received a kit of Seasonal Change essential oils from NOW Foods which have proven amazing.

A pin-board (or something else to display memories from throughout the semester) – once you start attending events, taking pictures, or receiving letters and cards, it’s nice to have a cute reminder you can look at throughout the day.

A low-maintenance plant – I always have some sort of plant in my living space, whether it be bamboo, flowers, or succulents.  Right before the semester started, my boyfriend gave me this grafted cactus (which I’ve named Frijole in honor of my favorite food).  Hopefully I have better luck keeping this one alive than the one I had last semester which I managed to overwater….

A planner and/or journal – Although I need to keep a calendar and reminders on my phone to keep on track throughout the day, I also find it helpful and stress-relieving to have an actual paper planner where I can see big-picture plans and events and actually write things out.  Additionally, I think it can be really beneficial to have a small journal or even a penpal who you can write letters to – it’s so cathartic to take the time to write out what’s been going on in your life and what your thoughts/feelings are.

A reusable water bottle – My water bottle goes with me everywhere: classes, car rides, workout sessions, hikes.  Not only is it a cool place to collect stickers and a handy reminder to stay hydrated, but it’s also better for the environment!

Non-traditional sources of light – While lamps and overhead lights are obviously helpful and sometimes necessary, I also make a point to use unconventional light sources, like salt lamps and string lights, to help brighten my room.  They feel cozier and more welcoming than a harsh, overhead light, and they’re a lot cuter!

Your favorite movies/books/board games – Honestly, you may not have much time to take advantage of them, but having them around is still great for those rare days you have some free time to kill and want to unwind with an old favorite!  (Pardon my inclusion of Twilight and the Hannah Montana Movie, it was a moment of weakness with my fellow dorm-mates.)

Personal wall decorations – I didn’t stress too much about having a “theme” or “design” for my room; instead, I found some cool prints, postcards, and wall decorations I liked that didn’t clash, and I used those to add a pop to my otherwise boring dorm walls!

 

 

College Updates and Weekend Adventures

To check out a video of my weekend adventures, click below!

College Updates and Weekend Adventures

Hi everyone!  It’s been a hot minute since I’ve updated the blog.  Since college has started I’ve been pretty slammed keeping up with school, work, and spending time with friends and family.  This weekend I finally had a minute to relax, sleep in, and laze around… but of course I decided to take that downtime and do some exploring instead of catching up on sleep.  Be sure to check out my video from this weekend at the link above!

My first stop on Thursday was Blood Mountain, where I decided to take an overnight camping trip.  Although I’ve hiked Blood a bunch of times, I’ve never had the chance to camp at the summit.  It wasn’t until after I made all my plans and prepared all my gear that I realized I would be camping the night of Friday the 13th.  Alone.  On a mountain literally called Blood Mountain.

 

Somehow, I made it out alive.  Friday morning I stopped by Mountain Crossings to shower off, grab some food, and get directions to Amicalola Falls, where I met my longtime friend, Hannah.

After hiking the falls, we made our way to a nearby apple orchard for some apple picking and to enjoy some fried pies.

The next day, my friends from school (Hannah and Mckayla) and I decided to check out Minnehaha Falls, about an hour from the school.  The short hike had an incredible payoff, as the waterfall is one of the best in the state, in my opinion.  Although there were lots of other people at the falls, it was still beautiful.

On Sunday, my boyfriend Solomon and I hiked up to Rabun Bald, a trail we first explored last summer when tackling Georgia’s 5 tallest mountains in 48 hours!  Although the trail is short at 1.6 miles, it’s pretty steep.  The views are absolutely worth it (it is the second tallest summit in Georgia).  Although I didn’t get many photos or videos from the top because there were lots of people, the views are always stunning.

 

Hopefully I’ll have more time to update the blog as the semester goes on.  I have lots of ideas for future adventures and blogs so stay tuned!

 

The Coolest Filming Locations to Visit in Atlanta

It didn’t take long for me to be convinced that Baby Driver is one of the best Atlanta-filmed movies out there – from the energetic soundtrack to the witty characters and the sleek, exciting car chase scenes, what’s not to like?  After seeing the film, I was inspired to adventure around Atlanta and check out some of the filming locations.  Take a look below to get all the info on where (and how!) to visit some of the spots from Baby Driver and a few other Atlanta-based movies and shows as well!

Baby Driver

Before making the drive to Atlanta, I took some time to plot a course for the spots I wanted to hit in the city.  Although I wasn’t able to visit every single location from the film, I had a really fun time finding some of the spots and imagining the city from Baby’s perspective!    Here’s everywhere I was able to visit, in order of the first to last place I stopped by:

*Most of the places I decided to just check out in passing or from the street for the sake of saving money on food/parking.

Bacchanalia/JCT Kitchen – 1198 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA.  Although Baby takes Debora on a date to Bacchanalia, a confrontation scene with Kevin Spacey was filmed outside JCT Kitchen right next door!

Octane Coffee – 1009 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA (there are several Octane locations)

Margaret Mitchell Square/GSU – I followed my GPS to Margaret Mitchell Square and then entered the address for the GSU bookstore (66 Courtland St NE, Atlanta, GA) to get a good driving route through some of the chase scene areas from the film.

Goodfellas Pizza – 615 Spring St NW, Atlanta, GA

Debora’s Apartment – 921 Myrtle St NE, Atlanta, GA

Bo’s Diner – 5116 GA-85, Forest Park, GA.  The actual Bo’s Diner is called Uncle Chucky’s Diner, and although I couldn’t visit it myself, my friend and fellow blogger Olivia was able to – check out her blog and social media for more pictures and info: olivia-frances.com, @aivil0livia on Instagram.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 & 2

(Photos courtesy of: bizjournals.com and movie-locations.com)

Atlanta Marriott Marquis – 265 Peachtree Center Ave NE, Atlanta, GA (recognize that elevator?)

Swan Coach House (aka President Snow’s home) – 130 West Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta, GA – located in the Atlanta History Center

Bellwood Quarry – located in Westside Reservoir Park on Chappell Road Northwest.  Although currently closed to the public, work has begun to transform the quarry into a park!  You may also recognize the quarry from “The Walking Dead”, “Stranger Things”, and The Fundamentals of Caring.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – 1750 Mt Vernon Rd, Lithia Springs, GA.  After paying a small parking fee, take the short path from the visitors center that follows the creek to reach the mill ruins featured in the film.

“The Walking Dead”

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(Photo courtesy of: amc.com)

Jackson Street Bridge – Jackson St NE, Atlanta, GA.  One of the most iconic views of the city skyline and a popular spot for photographers, this bridge was featured heavily in promotion for The Walking Dead as well as the first episode.

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (aka the CDC) – 2800 Cobb Galleria Pkwy, Atlanta, GA

Senoia, GA (aka Woodbury) – though not located in downtown Atlanta, the town of Senoia acted as Woodbury in the series.  Walking tours of the town are available.

Bonus Locations

(Photos courtesy of: firstwefeast.com and scoopotp.com)

Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” is obviously a hotspot for filming locations around the city, including Zesto Drive-In (377 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA – one of multiple locations) and J.R. Crickets (129 North Ave NE, Atlanta, GA – again, there are multiple locations).

New Netflix show “Ozark took over a former restaurant on Lake Allatoona in Canton (6979 Bells Ferry Rd, Canton, GA).

Outside of Atlanta, the town of Jackson, GA was featured in “Stranger Things” while Juliette, GA was the location for Fried Green Tomatoes (check out Whistle Stop Cafe at 443 McCrackin St) and a scene from Baby Driver (filmed at the Round Oak Juliette Road bridge).

Countless other movies and shows have been filmed in Atlanta, from big-budget superhero flicks to small-scale indies and successful comedies and historical biopics alike.  Next time you’re in the city, be sure to check out some of these locations and keep an ear out: new projects are being filmed all the time!

 

 

Sometimes the Hike Isn’t Right

Last night around 10 p.m., about 12 hours before I was supposed to begin a 4-day-long hike of the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, I canceled the trip altogether.
From the start, I’d held reservations about taking the trip, which is something that doesn’t usually happen for me in regards to backpacking trips.  I’ve taken several solo backpacking trips before and although I had a reasonable amount of nervousness leading up to them, I was always excited more than anything.  This time around, I was struck with fear whenever I would think about the trip, and I struggled to get excited about the idea of hiking alone in the woods in the dead of summer for several days.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good reasons to take this trip.  I was looking forward to the experience of hiking the Georgia section of the AT in one push (which would have been my longest backpacking trip to date), and I had even planned to attempt to hike the approximately 80 miles of trail in 80 hours, just for kicks (and to minimize the amount of days I would have to be away from home and ask off work).
Despite all the reasons in favor of taking the trip, my hesitation and uneasiness only grew as the weeks went by and I continued with preparations.  I spent most of yesterday seized with stress, fear, and almost dread about beginning the trip.  After some tearful conversations with family and friends, I decided to cancel the trip.
Although the decision brought me a lot of relief, it was a hard one to make.  I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge or not honor a commitment I’ve made.  A part of me was incredibly frustrated and disappointed with myself for “wimping out” and canceling the trip.  “You’re capable of doing it and you already made all the preparations, so why are you backing out?!” I told myself.
I consider myself a fairly rational person, so it’s never been easy for me to listen to my gut, especially when it seems to be telling me something illogical or irrational.  But after taking some time to settle into my decision, I realized I made the right choice.  Sure, on paper, maybe I should have taken the trip.  I’m sure if I had forced myself to go, I would have enjoyed it after the first day or so once I was back into the rhythm of backpacking.  And sure, it would have been cool to be able to say I hiked 80 miles in 80 hours.
The fact of the matter is: backpacking is something I do because I love it.  It challenges me, it excites me, and it teaches me things about myself and the world around me that I couldn’t learn in any other way.  More than anything, I choose to go backpacking because I think it’s fun.  I don’t believe this trip would have been fun.  I think I was going into it with the wrong motivations, and I think God was trying to tell me to dedicate these days to something other than a solo backpacking trip.
There was a time in my life when I felt like backpacking was all I had.  I believed it was the only thing I was good at and the only thing I was really passionate about.  Although I still love backpacking and I know I will do much more of it in my life, I’ve also come to recognize the other incredible things I have in my life.  I value my relationships with loved ones way more now because of backpacking (it only takes a couple days of being alone in the woods to realize how much you appreciate someone) and I’ve also discovered and developed many new hobbies and talents outside of backpacking.
I’m sure I would have left the trail feeling accomplished and cool for completing my goal.  But to be frank, backpacking is not my career and it’s not vital to my happiness or success or worth as a human being.  I am incredibly lucky to have the resources and the freedom to be a backpacker, and I plan to take advantage of backpacking opportunities as often as I can.  But for today, I’m glad I chose to follow my heart and stay home.
There’s a lot in my life that’s going to be changing soon, from moving to starting college to living on my own for the first time.  I want to spend my time with the people I love, doing the things that I love, and for now, that’s going to take me off the trail for a little awhile.  I know it’ll be there for me when I decide to come back to it, and at heart, I know I’ll always be a backpacker.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned while backpacking is to “hike your own hike”.  This means that whatever you do, do it at your own pace and for your own reasons.  To anyone reading this, backpacker or not, I encourage you to always listen to your gut, even if you don’t exactly like what it’s saying.  Have courage to make the right decisions for your own wellbeing and happiness, and surround yourself with supportive people who love you and can help you recognize your strength and worth, even when you can’t.
At the end of the day, no one is going to hike that mountain or carry that pack for you.  Don’t underestimate yourself.  Trust yourself to know what’s best for you.  Push yourself to take on challenges (but only the fun ones – you have enough stress and discomfort in your day-to-day life to try and pursue something that will only add to that with little reward).  And more than anything, do what makes you happy, brings you peace, and helps you grow, even if that means staying at home to watch TV in your pajamas with your family.

 

My Experience Taking a Gap Year

Confession: I miss being in school.  I genuinely miss the routine of going to class, finishing homework, and studying for tests.  I miss the stress of having a challenging class and the sense of accomplishment in getting a good grade on an assignment.  Watching my friends study for final exams and prepare for class presentations is bittersweet for me: it makes me realize that I’m excited to return to school (although I’m sure this excitement will die once classes actually start) but also that my gap year is coming to an end.  Although I still have the summer to spend time with loved ones and (hopefully) go on some adventures, I’m also preparing to move to college in the fall.  I’m going to be reentering the world of school after a year off while also readjusting to living on my own  for the first time.  So instead of focusing on how unprepared I feel and how much stuff I need to buy for my dorm and how long I have to register for classes and ahhhhhhh – I’m choosing to take some time to reflect on the past few months.
Here’s a summary of what I learned from taking a gap year:

  1. I learned how to budget and save money.  Being financially responsible is a habit you can never start too early.  In high school, I was motivated to work hard and get good grades because I knew it would increase my chances of getting scholarships which would then give me more freedom in choosing which college I wanted to attend.  My hard work resulted in me receiving a full ride scholarship to my top choice college, which is honestly a bigger blessing than I could have ever imagined.  As for personal expenses, I’ve worked steadily since last summer and made a point to spend less and save more, all for the purpose of being as prepared and financially independent in college as possible.
  2. I learned how to take better care of myself.  I’ve always been someone who likes to have a lot going on; I feel most fulfilled when I have a balance of school, work, and personal projects.  There was a month or two of my gap year before I was working that I had waaaaay too much downtime for my liking.  It made me realize that I had been using school and work as distractions to avoid addressing some personal issues that have been around since high school.  Realizing this was a difficult and humbling experience: I felt incredibly lost, uneasy, unmotivated, and unhappy.  I opened up to my family about what I was feeling and told them I needed help which resulted in me beginning therapy on a weekly basis.  Getting the help I had needed for a long time was, more than anything, a huge relief.  While being honest about what I was feeling was terrifying and sometimes embarrassing, I know I’m in a much better place now than I was last year.
  3.   I learned to be more flexible.  I entered my gap year with no concrete plans, only a desire to spend time with loved ones and go on a few adventures.  I ended up accomplishing much more than I expected, from hiking the entire Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail and taking my first solo-backpacking trip to exploring the mountains of Colorado and getting tattoos with my family.  I have so many beautiful memories from this past year, and many of them were unexpected or unplanned.  On a more difficult note, I had many plans fall apart over the course of the year: my plans for college changed for reasons beyond my control almost every couple of months, and unexpected family medical emergencies led me to cancel a potential thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  However, every frustration and change in plans helped me realize the importance of remaining flexible and trusting that God is in control of my life.  As long as I focus on the things that are really important in life, everything else will be taken care of.
  4. I learned what kind of person I actually am.  Towards the end of my time in high school, I began to envision the type of future I would have: I pictured myself being a loner and finding a job that required constant travel so I wouldn’t need to depend on anyone else.  I’ve always been independent and that quality still remains, but over the course of my gap year, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty and importance of having relationships with others.  While I still value my alone time, I now also prioritize my relationships with loved ones, and I’ve come to recognize their importance in my life.

Although there have been a lot of difficult times throughout these past few months, I believe taking a gap year was the right decision for me.  Every difficult lesson in the past year has better equipped me to tackle the future and, most importantly, I got to spend time making fantastic memories with my friends and family.  I wish I could say I spent 6 months backpacking through Europe or road tripping across the U.S., but I trust I will make the time for those adventures in the future.  I’m still proud of everything I did over my gap year, and I’m looking forward to my last summer before college.  And to everyone trying to make it through finals week: next year, I’ll be struggling right alongside you.

A Conversation on Solo Hiking

Check out the video at the link below:
A Conversation on Solo Hiking – The Video

Hi friends!

Today I want to have a conversation with you all about solo hiking.  Solo hiking is exactly what it sounds like – going out and hiking, or camping, by yourself.  It’s an experience I first tried in 2016 (check out my video about the experience here) and fell in love with, and it’s something I hope to do much more of this year and beyond.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people nowadays are afraid of the thought of traveling or hiking alone.  While there is absolutely a lot of risk involved in solo hiking, I don’t think we should be afraid of it, and we should instead see it as an opportunity to challenge and learn about ourselves.  If you address the potential risks and prepare as much as you can to minimize them, you can have an incredible experience solo hiking.

Make sure to watch the video above for my thoughts on solo hiking and my top 3 tips if you want to try it yourself.