The First 6 Months of 2020

An open letter to the first 6 months of 2020 and a reminder of where we started and where we are now. With Coronavirus and Civil Rights protests, this year has tested us in more ways than we thought possible.

Dear 2020, 

We are halfway into you, and what a year you have been. You’ve hit us with a global pandemic, a major recession, civil unrest, and constant protests. This year hasn’t all been bad, but it is a year that has already etched itself into the minds of so many. The stories that people will tell will be passed on for generations and the lessons we have learned will hopefully continue to make us a better global society. If ever there was a time for Mother Nature and the power of the people to take control, this was the year. 

January started with a seemingly distant health threat, that no one could have imagined the consequences or magnitude it would have on us, not just as Americans, but the World. Month by month, the Coronavirus, aka Covid-19, seeped into our lives and forced us into a new normal. It is now the end of June and it appears that we still do not have control of Covid’s first wave as the number of cases continues to rise due to the fast reopening of many States – perhaps we never did. 

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**As of June 28 7:20pm

By March, Coronavirus took over the World. At first travel was limited for anyone going to or from China, and then eventually like a domino effect, there was no travel period. Any and all flights for the near future were cancelled and rebooked for a later date or given a travel voucher. Northern Italy was the epicenter for Europe. In the States, New York City was being hit the hardest; cases skyrocketed due to the city’s density of people. First, it was travel that was taken away from us, followed by the closing of just about every business, school, park, restaurant, and bar. From state to state, the rules were at times contrasting, but the main message everyone understood was to take this seriously. Stay home, social distance, and wash your hands. 

Our lives came to a screeching halt the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, as the invisible threat of Covid was finally in our backyard and finally feeling real. The number of cases in the States, especially Florida, were rising quickly. It was finally here, and now it was our turn to see how well we dealt with this invisible monster. We isolated ourselves from everything and found our new normal as the months rolled along. 

The new normal was different for everyone – businesses transitioned to working from home and students learned remotely as schools were closed for the remainder of the school year. The role of parents extended past normal parenting responsibilities to include being the teacher at home along with completing regular work tasks. People were tired, frustrated, and anxious of the unknown future.  But we adapted. Not everyone was lucky enough to work remotely. For many, their jobs were known as “essential” which made them more exposed to the virus, but many millions were laid-off or furloughed as businesses were stuck in limbo. No work meant no money coming in, which just added to the stress.

With life on hold for everyone, Mother Nature began healing herself from the way we humans have treated her. The waterways in Venice returned to their aqua blue hue as dolphins were seen playing among the canals; animals boldly wandered empty cities and parks around the world from Japan to Kruger National Park; and smog lifted due to the lack of vehicles on the road to reveal blue skies in India along with monuments once hidden behind thick smog. Without humans going about their normal lives, Nature could finally breathe again.

Before and after of a monument in India as smog has lifted

Oh and there’s also a possible wave of Murder Hornets in the Pacific North West, which could have drastic consequences on our own bee population and in turn our environment. The verdict is still out on their scale of damage thus far, however.

Size comparison of the Murder Hornet (top) and the Western honeybee (bottom)

There are several positives that Coronavirus has brought on us. People as a whole have learned to slow down. We have spent more time talking with loved ones. We have reconnected with friends near and far. We have learned the art of baking bread and experimented with new recipes. We have picked up and even finished books that once laid on shelves forgotten and unread. We have been more creative when it comes to being social – Thank you, Zoom. We have even remembered what it was like to spend time outdoors riding bikes. Although Covid has altered the lives of so many, it has also brought families closer. 

Overall, I’d have to say the shutdown due to Covid has not been terrible, but it definitely weighs on you. Besides the lack of social freedom, there’s a constant worry. Do I feel sick? Have I lost my sense of taste or smell? Do I have shortness of breath? Make sure to not breathe for 5 seconds as I pass this person. Am I 6 feet apart from this person? Why isn’t this person going around me or wearing a mask? This person just coughed, do they have Covid? The questions and worry never fade. And probably never will until there’s a vaccine. 

Set of Different Types of Masks
Different masks we can wear while in public

Our lives had been turned upside down and our movements restricted like nothing we could ever imagine. Yes, it wasn’t all bad, but no one knew how much social distancing due to Coronavirus would affect society as a whole. 

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend. Some States, including Florida, who have not seen the type of Covid numbers NYC had seen, reopened in phases as beaches, restaurants, and small businesses welcomed patrons back. The hope was to spur the economy to prevent an even worse recession; but at what cost? The risk of contracting Covid was and still is real. It had not disappeared, yet people acted as if it had. And that was the scary part. 

People have been stuck inside for 2 months, if not more at this point. I understand the frustration and people feeling stir crazy. I understand small businesses wanting to reopen to ensure their livelihood is not lost. I also understand people continue to have bills and rent to pay, yet have not had a paycheck. Life has just gotten more complicated. There’s a virus, millions of people have lost their jobs, everyone is stuck indoors, and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Sounds bad, right? Well, all this only acted as fuel for what’s next. 

George Floyd. Protests. Black Lives Matter. 

Meet the artists behind the Black Lives Matter artwork on ...

For 4 weeks there have been national, and even global, protests over the killing of George Floyd by 4 police officers in Minneapolis. For 4 weeks, we have seen people of all color, race, gender, age, religion, socio-economic background, take to the streets to fight for the civil rights that were fought for back in the 1960s. Like any movement, there were some riots and looting, but that was overshadowed by the enormous peaceful crowds that gathered to stand up, and often kneel, for what is right and just. The compounding of social distancing and the loss of jobs due to Covid did not help the situation, but only made people more impassioned to gather together in solidarity despite the virus. It was like a trifecta. 

The 4 weeks since the killing, the protests have yet to let up. Thousands continue to pour into the streets, peacefully protest calling for change in policing, and even call out to “defund the police.” The name sounds misleading, but it’s just meant to spread the funds that police are granted to social organizations in cities to help with certain matters that go beyond the role of the police. It is evident that true movement and change is happening. Many cities across the country painted 20 foot wide “BLACK LIVES MATTER” across streets, laws are being discussed and instituted, and talks at the local level are already taking place to ensure policing practices are changed. It will continue to take years to get to where we should be, but we must start somewhere.  

The killing of George Floyd opened the eyes of many to see the injustice and prejudice that people of color (POC) have had to undergo for centuries. Corrupt and prejudiced actions of those in power, whether local, state, or federal, should not be tolerated and should be held accountable. Covid made our lives slow down, and these protests made people, especially white people, truly listen to stories of POC and what they have had to live with since birth. This movement united us and sparked the desire for true equality for all. 

With LGBT ruling, Supreme Court hands liberals a surprise victory ...
Supreme Court favorable vote on LGBT rights

Amidst the protests, there was some good news to come out of Washington. First, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 vote that gay and transgender individuals cannot be discriminated against, especially in the work place. Secondly, in a 5-4 vote they declared DACA is constitutional and those brought here at a young age would not be deported. This is the year 2020, and we still do not all agree that everyone in this country is equal no matter who they love, their race, or even their gender. Two wins down, now onto the next one! 

Don't count on the Senate to save Dreamers from SCOTUS - POLITICO
Supreme Court Favorable vote on DACA


This brings us to the present day and half of 2020 still ahead of us. The fears of Covid are still high, if not rising exponentially, protests will remain a constant I believe for more weeks to come, Murder Hornets may return, and in November we vote for president and hopefully true change with real leadership. I don’t know which half of the year will be more monumental, but one can only hope for brighter days ahead. 

2020, you have tested us in various ways, but we will continue to be resilient. Your first 6 months have been filled with Covid and protests, so I can’t wait to see what you throw at us these last 6 months. 

For now, countries remain closed off to Americans, so that just means it is time to explore our own country and give back to local communities and businesses. So to kick off the start of the second half of the year and the July Fourth holiday, Justin and I will be getting away from it all and taking a week road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains to camp, hike, and explore new surroundings. 

Will write to you again in December!

The Magic of Budapest

Budapest was everything I envisioned and more. No matter the time of day or which part of the city you wander to, you’ll be amazed with Budapest and it will have you coming back for more!

Oh, Budapest! You were everything I envisioned and so much more! 

 

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Chain Bridge and Buda Palace at night

I had wanted to visit Budapest for the past 2 years, but the stars didn’t align to make it possible until this year. I can officially report that I finally made it happen and it was everything and so much more than I could have ever imagined. 

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Looking out over the Parliament from Fisherman’s Bastion at sunrise

Here is a city that stands in the shadows of Paris, Rome, London and Berlin as  one of Europe’s most underrated cities. But it may not stay that way for long – it is easy to see why more people are being attracted to this magical city on the Danube. This is a MUST on anyone’s bucket list, as you will leave Budapest wanting to come back for more! You’ll know what I mean when you get there.

Budapest is two different cities divided by the Danube: Buda and Pest. In 1840, the Chain Bridge was built to connect the two cities which made it the largest in Hungary. Today, the city is alive and thriving. Whether you watch the sun rise over the Parliament from Fisherman’s Bastion (highly recommended!), wander the streets to take in the sights, sounds and smells, spend an afternoon at the thermal baths, or watch the sunset on the banks of the Danube as the white lights of the city turn on, there is something for everyone in this city. 

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Sunrise on the Chain Bridge

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An afternoon at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath

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Sunset on the Danube – Shoes on the Danube and Fisherman’s Bastion

A typical vacation for me is usually busy and on the go because I want to see as much of a place I visit within the limited time I have. However, Budapest made me want to slow down and be more in the moment. That’s really the best way to experience it.  This city has a lot to offer, yet retains a quaint and underestimated feeling of exploration. Could I have seen the entire city in two days? Yes, but I had planned on spending three days there to really immerse myself in it more. Exploring a new city at a slower pace and taking your time can really make you appreciate things more.  And Budapest didn’t disappoint.

This is an easy city to explore by foot.  I tackled a different part of the city each day and sometimes visited the same area twice, walking up to 14 miles most days and enjoying every step of it. Slowing down and being more present helped me soak up the city’s energy; something I think most of us forget to do while exploring new places. I took in my surroundings while wandering, never fearing of getting lost. I fell in love with the countless alleyways brightened by string of lights hanging wall to wall and lined with restaurants, bars, and unique cafes. Even the hole-in-the-wall cafes or bars somehow are arranged to make it feel cozy and welcoming. I was in my happy place discovering this beautiful city on foot. 

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Walking from the Pest side to Buda side of the city

As I walked down the various streets, whether to the thermal bath or to the central market, I observed a city that was mixed with the old and new, tattered yet well groomed. While appreciating the beautiful architecture that dates back to the 17th century, I sensed Hungary’s tragic and sometimes violent history they had endured. The restoration of older buildings were evidence of Budapest’s story of revival and rebirth. The city is continuing to develop, which means it will only continue to get better. 

Hungarians and tourists alike gather in the city center’s green space to take in their surroundings while enjoying food, gelato, or a cold beverage during a hot summer day. I too grabbed a freshly made margarita pizza while sitting on the lawn reading and watching all the various groups of friends play cards, dip their feet in the pool, or just talk with one another and even with strangers. The city center gives off tantalizing energy that is intoxicating. I couldn’t help but feel content watching the sun’s light blanket the city with different shades of colors, as I observed humanity enjoying the simple things in life. 

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Green space pool by day

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Green space pool by night

It is hard to say what part of Budapest was my favorite. Every bit of it was an adventure of discovery. If I had to suggest one thing that a visitor must do, it would be to experience sunrise from Fisherman’s Bastion. Sunrise comes early, especially in the summer, but it is well worth a 4am wake up call to see the sky turning pink and orange to blue as the sun slowly rises above the beautiful Parliament building. I had the beautiful space nearly all to myself, and what a memorable experience it was to capture images of the sun rising over the city. As I gazed out to the Pest side of the Danube, there was a slight haze over the city as the sun continued to rise. The sun grew larger with every minute, and the bubble of pure exhilaration that I was experiencing in that moment nearly popped from all the joy I was feeling.

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Enjoying the beautiful sunrise from Fisherman’s Bastion

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Parliament from Fisherman’s Bastion

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Parliament from the Danube

Enjoying sunrise and wandering the streets without a care in the world are the reasons why travel brings me so much happiness. It feeds my soul. It fills me with pure joy. I cherish the memories I create during my travels and I can’t imagine a life without experiencing other countries with unique landscapes, customs, and cultures.

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Exuding happiness from watching the sunrise

I encourage you to visit Budapest to experience for yourself just how magical it is. Enjoy a coffee at one of the many adorable cafes and walk along the Danube to see the lights of the city turn on at night and you’ll feel the energy of this city. I fell in love with Budapest.  For me it no longer sits in the shadow of other popular European destinations. I’m sure you’ll feel that way too, and come back again.

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Shoes on the Danube at sunset

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Why Everyone Should Hike Bright Angel Trail

The Grand Canyon is a must do Natural Wonder of the World. There are so many things to see and trails to hike. I strongly believe, no matter your skill level or the length of time you have available to hike, you should make Bright Angel Trail a must do hike. It will change you in ways you did not expect.

If you live in the United States, you are lucky to have 58 National Parks available to visit without leaving the country. Without a doubt, the Grand Canyon, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, should be on everyone’s bucket list. It will leave you speechless. It will leave you in awe. And it will be a moment in your life that you will never forget. I’ve been three times in my 32 years on this wondrous Earth, and have remembered every single time so vividly. 

There are four areas of the National Park one can visit: the North, South, East, and West Rim – each with its own spectacular viewpoints, activities, and hiking spots. 

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Map of the 4 different rims

Glass Skywalk
Glass Skywalk

West

The West Rim is where the Glass Skywalk juts out 70 feet over the canyon and is the second most visited rim, due to its proximity to Las Vegas. This part of the canyon is part of the Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands, which means it is actually not part of the National Park. 

East

The East Rim has become more popular due to Horseshoe Bend. This part of the canyon is technically 7 miles before the Grand Canyon, but provides views of the canyon rim with the Colorado River directly in the background. Horseshoe Bend is definitely worth a small detour if you have the time.

Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend

North

Look out point on the North Rim
Look out point on the North Rim

The North Rim is perfect for those looking for a quieter and calmer atmosphere as it receives much fewer visitors. There are only three major viewpoints that show the width of the canyon rather than the depth and only a sliver of the Colorado River can be seen by walking through Angel’s Window, a natural archway in the rocks.

South

The South Rim is the most popular rim due to its vast, expansive views. This rim is where the first tourists came to visit the park back in the 1850s, which is why it has been built up with large visitor centers, lodging, and family-oriented activities. There are about two dozen major viewpoints that allow visitors to peer down into the Colorado River. 

Sunset at the South Rim
Sunset at the South Rim

I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Grand Canyon in different ways. For a quick glimpse, a short four hour road trip from Las Vegas just to peer at the vastness of the Canyon’s West Rim is well worth the trip. But the canyon deserves much more of our time. 

In 2009, I stepped into a raft along the East Rim and spent seven days rafting down the Colorado River rapids, jumping into the river from various cliffs, and sleeping on cots looking up at the night sky with the Milky Way peering back at me in its full splendor. This is a trip I will never forget; but even then I knew I was still missing a crucial adventure from this natural wonder. I needed to hike into the canyon. Ten years after my river trip, I did just that. 

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers many trails to explore and choosing one can be overwhelming. I contemplated doing a trail that was not frequently ventured in order to be more “one with nature.” I had read about the popular Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim. that provides rest stops with bathrooms and water stations making it one of the most frequently trekked. I strongly considered the trail, despite the possible crowd of people and because of its accessibility to other trails. As fate would have it, I found a cabin in the village at the Bright Angel Lodge, steps away from the ever popular trail head and the rim of the canyon. While getting settled at the cabin and taking in the constant changing colors of my surroundings, I knew I was not going anywhere else to hike. I determined that at sunrise I was hiking Bright Angel Trail. 

Sunrise came early, at 5:10 A.M., and I had already situated myself along the rim of the canyon with my camera in hand, ready to capture the beauty of the day’s first light touching the red rocks from the rim down to the canyon below. The sun rose slowly above the canyon and highlighted the beginning of the trail I was about to hike. At 5:45 A.M., I took my first steps onto the famous Bright Angel Trail. I was filled with energy and excitement, despite the early hour, and eager to see where the trail would lead.

Sunrise with Plateau Point in the distance
Sunrise with Plateau Point in the distance

Gazing into the South Rim Canyon at sunrise
Gazing into the South Rim Canyon at sunrise

One of the biggest advantages of an early start is the fact that not many people begin their day so early. The canyon itself was slow at waking up: the air had a slight chill, the sun was gently rising. The steep decline zigzagged through the many rocky switchbacks and the towering rocks above provided me with shade. I was well aware that shade would be a high commodity in the hours ahead of me, so I welcomed the moment. Up to this point, the canyon rocks above me changed in size, color, and formation at every turn. The sheer size of them did not even seem real or possible. The canyon’s immensity made me feel as tiny as an ant. 

The start of the journey down Bright Angel
The start of the journey down Bright Angel

The further along the trail I got, the more I found myself turning around to see just how far I had traveled, and how deep into the canyon I had reached; it is an elevation change of 3,000 feet after all. With every new switchback the views grew increasingly more majestic. I encountered a rest stop with bathrooms and water stations nearly every 1.5 miles down the trail and the first campground was around mile 4.5. At this point, the iron-rich rocks changed from rusty reds to light browns; the vegetation expanded to include pink and yellow blooming cacti; acacia trees filled the air with a honeysuckle-like perfume; and the sound of a trickling stream welcomed me to a natural oasis filled with life that has hardly been touched by man. This haven, known as the Indian Gardens, stood in dark contrast to the vast desert surrounding this area. 

 

 

At the south side of the Indian Gardens, a fork in the road indicated to either head to Plateau Point, that offers views of the river below, or continue on Bright Angel Trail towards the river which can connect you to a multitude of different trails including a connection to the North Rim. No matter the choice, the majesty of the Canyon will never waver. Since I had spent 7 days floating on the river 10 years earlier, I thought gazing at the Colorado River from above would complete my Grand Canyon experience. After pushing an extra 1.5 miles to Plateau Point from Indian Gardens, the expansive panorama of the North Rim across the way and the aqua blue Colorado River raging 1,000 feet below was an image that will forever be ingrained in my memory. 

By making it to Plateau Point and after a six mile trek under the sun, I felt exhilarated, strong, and full of life. I had made it to the point that I set out to accomplish. I had made it to a viewpoint that most people will never get to see. From this spot, I felt so miniscule and insignificant as the canyon from both the South and North Rims engulfed me, and the busyness of daily life seemed to be forgotten. There was no thought of the responsibilities I had back home, or even back at the top of the rim. Any concern or worry dissipated into the expansive contours of the canyon, and I was left with just the feeling of happiness in that moment. I was my best self, as I think everyone is when they push themselves to accomplish something filled with mental and physical challenges. It is a feeling we all need to hang onto and not forget. Granted, this feeling of pure contentment and strength quickly depletes as you realize there is a 3,000 foot elevation gain still ahead of you, but that happiness and strength comes back once atop of the canyon looking back down to where you had just come from. 

The immensity of the Grand Canyon with the North Rim on the other side
The immensity of the Grand Canyon with the North Rim on the other side

Plateau Point and Colorado River
Plateau Point and Colorado River

Hiking back to the top of the South Rim, I wanted to remember every step I had taken. I frequently turned to look back at the path I had just left behind. Leaving the plateau and now back on the switchbacks, the greatness of this trail began to hit me, and I realized it was there the entire time. I had spent the better part of a day on the Bright Angel Trail, but it wasn’t until I was nearly back at the top that I really noticed the vast beauty of it. The way back to the top, also put the strength and determination I had into perspective, as I now realized the many people I encountered on the switchbacks had no intention of making it past the 3 mile or even the 1.5 mile rest area. The 8 hour, 12.2 mile round trip trek on Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point was worth every bead of sweat and every foot step. The trail is dynamic and peaceful and reminds you of what is important – living in the moment and cherishing the experience.

Switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail
Switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail

View of Bright Angel Trail
View of Bright Angel Trail

My challenge to you, dear reader, is that you travel to the Grand Canyon. Whether you hike the 12.2 miles to Plateau Point, head to the river, or turn back somewhere in between, may you feel that complete bliss that comes with hiking Bright Angel Trail. I am willing to bet that the magic of the Canyon will change you and leave you with an everlasting memory that will never fade. 

Bright Angel Trail from Above
Bright Angel Trail from Above. Can you see the trail leading to Plateau Point?

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My First Solo Trip

I’ve traveled since the time I was a baby, but now I was ready to do my first solo trip. I bought a ticket, grabbed a bike, and traveled for 3 days across France to experience a trip that would open my eyes to new discoveries of myself and what I was capable of.

Over the years, I’ve been to so many places, mainly with family then with organized group trips. I didn’t feel ready to tackle being in a new country or city on my own…until not too long ago.

I was lucky to find a great roundtrip ticket to Paris during peak summer season with Scott’s Cheap Flights that I couldn’t pass up. Discovering Paris the November before, I knew I wanted to get out of the city to discover a new part of France. After much research, I landed on Alsace; but honestly, I don’t think I could have gone wrong with anywhere.

Next was the hard choice of what to do and how to get around. You can only get so far each day on foot and I didn’t want to be tied down to a train schedule too much. So I settled on a bike! I found Detours in France that helped me set up my trip. I highly recommend to anyone interested in this type of exploring. The company is entirely self-paced and sets everything up for you prior to arrival, including my 4 nights in hotels and 2 dinners. This allowed me flexibility to wander different little towns along the way and go at my own pace. Now, most people I told about my upcoming solo biking trip seemed to be in disbelief that I would even consider something like that. Ok, maybe it’s not the first travel idea a majority of people have, but I was excited to take on this new adventure and make my own memories.

My Bike Tour: Highlights from Strasbourg to Colmar

First stop: Strasbourg. I had seen so much of this unique city in pictures and it was the sole reason I decided to come to Alsace region and bike for 3 days.

I knew as soon as I walked off the train in Strasbourg, I was going to love this little corner of the World. The cobblestone streets, the flowers, and all the colors of the buildings made me feel as if time had stopped. I walked from La Petite France to the cathedral in the city center at least 2-3 times to really soak up every angle of the city. Just my tripod and me.

I was filled with so much excitement. With each step I took, I was more confident and more carefree. I learned to stop and take in my surroundings, take as many pictures as I could, and have fun with it even though I was on my own. I learned to laugh at myself, especially when I was trying to the get the perfect picture at the perfect angle with my tripod as people passed by probably questioning why I was sitting on the ground next to a bridge or laying on a ledge. There’s something about being in a different city other than your own and feeling as if you can do anything out of the ordinary. There should be no regrets. Get out of your comfort zone and make memories you want to share with others and memories you want cherish for a lifetime.

All 3 days of my bike trip were very different from one another; but the scenery, colors, and excitement never wavered. I passed swans enjoying their morning bath, an amazing amount of corn, wheat, and hay fields and adorable little towns along the way. No matter if I made a wrong turn, (which happened frequently), I was filled with so much joy and confidence. I’m sure I added at least an extra hour or 2 to my journey each day with the number of stops I made to take pictures, but that’s what I was there for. I wanted to learn and absorb as much as I could.

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Hay fields at every turn

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Sunflower field. Best sighting of the entire trip!

Obernai was filled with history and castles…and by far the best meal of the trip! This town was so prosperous back in the 1500s that it had 2 fortifications around the city, 20 towers, and 4 tower gates. I was lucky enough to stay at Hôtel Le Gouverneur with a bedroom overlooking the mote on the wall of the old fortification. The town itself has so much charm from the buildings to the people. If you walk around long enough, you’ll notice the buildings start to change colors and have a more alluring feel to them as sunset get closer.

This trip was the epitome of adventure. Besides the fact that I was on my own, I allowed myself to wander and say yes to things even if it would take me off the suggested path. The best diversion I had was a nearly 2 hour round trip hike to the top of a mountain to explore and take pictures of the remains of an abandoned chateau that I could see from the road. I was determined to see it no matter how long it took me. I wanted to see the view of the countryside and vineyards from that perspective – plus it was a welcomed break from pedaling. I didn’t have a map of where to go, so I was hoping I was following the correctly painted signs up to the top. At times the images would change slightly, but I just trusted that my feet were heading in the right direction. And they were, because when I made it to the top, the abandoned stone structure was so impressive. Walking over the draw bridge into the roofless chateau I felt like a little girl creating my own castle fairytale. There were windows on the 2nd story I knew I wanted to look out of, but there was no other way of getting there except to free climb the wall. And that’s just what I did. I found little grips and holes in the stone for my hands and feet and up I went. This detour was not planned or expected, but it will remain as a major highlight of the entire journey.

From Obernai to Ribeauville the colors of the buildings just seemed to get brighter and the flowers decorating the many fountains became more beautiful.

Despite how tired and sore my legs were, I still had one more stop on my grand solo adventure and I was ready to get to Colmar to walk around La Petite Venise. I was lucky enough to also be able to catch the quarter finals of the World Cup where France advanced and eventually won the Cup in the end. The streets will filled with people and there were so many flags everywhere you went. It wasn’t very hard to figure out where to watch the game, since as I turned a single street corner I found the hoards of people grouped around bars and red, white, and blue smoke bombs going off everywhere. From the overly excited atmosphere of people to the gorgeous building facades, the experience of watching a championship soccer match in Europe was one of a kind.

La Petite Venise and the streets surrounding it were magnificent. If one could construct a gingerbread village of all sorts of colors and shapes, I imagine it would look exactly like this. La Petite Venise was a lot smaller than I had anticipated, but there was still a lot to take in such as the smells and sights of the covered market hall right off the river. It was filled with all the things you want to take home for dinner. I grabbed some cheese, a fresh baguette, and grabbed a bottle of wine for myself, found a little spot next to a fountain to eat and watched children play and the locals hang outside their windows while watching the tourists down below. I was lucky enough to not only see Colmar at dusk, but also in the early morning when there was no one around. I had all the streets to myself to play and wander. I found streets that I hadn’t discovered the day before and may have been even more fantasifull. I imagined the locals starting their day by singing “Bonjour” from “Beauty and the Beast” and dancing on those cobblestone streets.

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Canals and color at every corner

Loving all the color of the buildings
Loving all the color of the buildings

Entering Le Petite Venice
Entering Le Petite Venice

I wouldn’t change anything from my first solo trip as I made the most of each day and made my own memories that will last for a lifetime. I learned a lot about not just the towns I biked through, but about myself and what I am capable of doing. There’s no looking back now, only forward to my next big adventure!

What Does Traveling Mean to You? Here’s What it Means to Me!

Traveling means something different for everyone, but we all have a common theme. Traveling broadens our minds and shapes our idea of life. Have you ever sat down to think, what traveling means to you? Here’s what wandering to far off places means to me.

Wandering to far off distant places has different meanings for everyone. For me, traveling is a way to be spontaneous, learn, and get out out of my comfort zone. I think if we love traveling it’s because we all seek some sense of adventure no matter how big or small. I have been lucky enough to travel since I was a little girl. I had parents who instilled in me qualities all independent travelers need – open mindedness for others and their culture, as well as confidence. I don’t think if I had these qualities I would be where I am today. Neither for my passion for travel, nor my daily life.

Snorkeling in Phi Phi Islands
Snorkeling in Phi Phi Islands

People often ask which place I have visited is my favorite. I honestly can’t answer that. Every country is so unique and I will always have special memories linked to them: the “firsts” of something, throwing catch in front of Buckingham Palace, stepping into elephant tracks while drinking tea on safari, snorkeling in crystal clear water to find Nemo’s, waking up before dawn to watch the clouds dissipate to unveil Machu Picchu, or even a first solo trip biking through France. The list goes on and that is why I can’t have only one favorite.
These experiences shaped me into who I am today and have fueled my desire to seek adventure and have more of those special moments. For this reason, I am inspired to travel more each year and sometimes to places not as well-known. It is also important for me to share my adventures with friends, family, and any other traveler I may be able to inspire. Traveling has many ups and downs, but in the end it’s only the ups we remember. Exploring unknown areas, either with a group or by yourself can seem daunting for many, but I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it. You will survive and you will only become more confident from each trip you take.
I hope you come along this journey with me, because I’m far from hanging up my carry-on just yet!

Solo Biking through Alsace, France
Solo Biking through Alsace, France