Limitless

Denver, CO

It’s been a few weeks since I arrived in Denver and it already feels like the beautiful, creative, energetic home I was longing for. Although most days are filled putting in hours at work, I have started to really find my flow here and have begun to figure out my place in this totally new community. The excitement of moving somewhere new and putting myself out there to meet new people hasn’t come without its struggles or lonely moments, but for being so new to a city I feel welcomed and perfectly at-home.

Although my house is old, it is perfect. It felt right the moment I walked in with its white lights hung everywhere and its eclectic mix of furnishings. The people who go with it are great too – a bit older than me but are fun and free-spirited. I love their adventurous spirits and can’t say enough about how welcoming they have been. We seem to have opposite schedules during the week, but have still made time to hang out a couple times so far and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and some of their friends who live nearby.

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Park near my house in Berkeley, Denver

Speaking of friends, I ran into an old friend from high school at Whole Foods downtown near where I work my first week and we ended up going out on the town together the next night. Although we haven’t known each other since we were teenagers, we got along great and have since hung out again on St. Patrick’s Day with a bunch of other people I also have been lucky enough to get to know. I am excited about all the great people I’ve met so far and look forward to seeing where the beginning of all these new friendships goes.

With the good times have come the struggles too, of course. On my second Monday of work, I missed my bus, nearly froze my fingers off due to a lack of gloves and high winds, slipped on ice and almost lost my wallet because it fell out of my bag when I slipped – all within 30 minutes. I learned many lessons that morning and am out to redeem myself by being prepared for the weather from here on out.

Work is another part of my life that has changed. Although there are only a few people I work with since the team is so small, I love the culture and flexibility of the small agency.  I also love WeWork! What a cool concept. They are always have happy hours and lunch events, which have been another great opportunity to meet new people. The work itself has required me to learn a lot more about tech companies I ever thought I would, but it is interesting work that keep me busy learning and coordinating. At the end of the day, I am just thankful to work with a team of people who are willing to teach me how to be a successful public relations woman, while valuing lifestyle and flexibility.

The fun stuff – Last weekend I headed to the mountains with my old friend, Rebecca, who lives in Boulder and had a beautiful day skiing Sunday in Vail. I had to overcome some tough runs, but overall it was a great experience and a great first weekend enjoying Colorado’s incredible landscape.

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Rebecca and I skiing in Vail

I am so excited about everything that is happening here and am constantly being reassured that this is the place for me. Everyone I have met is so excited to be here as well and be experiencing this beautiful place together. The energy and positivity makes Denver feel warm and limitless. There is so much to do and see, and so many wonderful people to meet that it’s hard to come up with any downfalls of moving to this city. The fun I’m having is one thing but the growth I am experiencing as a person and adult is another. Life is happening fast but every bit of it so far feels so right and so great, and I can’t wait for all the adventures the Mile High city is going to bring me.

– Annaleigh

 

A Mile High!

Denver, Colorado 

It’s happening! My big dream to head west is now a reality. After months of submitting applications and enduring awkward video interviews from a room in my childhood home, I took a job offer with a public relations agency located in the heart of downtown Denver, which I begin in a couple of days. It’s an opportunity for career growth and an opportunity to fulfill my burning desire to explore the beautiful landscape of the Rocky Mountains and the areas around them. I never visited the Mile High City before moving here but had enough confidence that the active lifestyle, easygoing people and beautiful landscape I’ve heard about will be a perfect fit for me – let’s hope so at least.

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Photo by James Mertz on Unsplash

Last week my Mom and I hit the road and headed for the Rockies to get me moved. Along the way we stayed with friends in Nashville, St. Louis and Kansas City, making the journey part of the fun. We made great memories in each city we stopped in and loved sharing the excitement of this chapter with good friends.

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Leaving home in Orlando with a packed car and heavy heart

The anticipation for new adventures, friends, a new job and a new city is so real but with the new comes goodbyes to the old.. It’s funny how no matter how badly I want to go somewhere, the moment I have to leave it feels like I’m being forced away. What keeps me going is knowing that leaving is the hardest yet most necessary part of a new adventure.

A couple weeks ago, I said goodbye to my job at The Beacham, which kept me busy over the past few months, brought me to some wonderful people, and gave me the opportunity to learn more about marketing. I had farewell dinners and nights out with friends in Orlando who kept me sane over the past six months, visited Gainesville for a night to reminisce, and spent a day on the lake with a couple friends like we used to do when we were kids. I said bye to my newborn niece, sister-in-law, and brother, and cried as I gave my grandmother, puppies and Dad a big hug goodbye. I keep telling myself and everyone I’ve said bye to I am only a flight away and will be paying visits sooner than a year later (unlike when I took off to Australia), but I think it’s the idea that I’m moving out of my parents house for good and to a place I plan to settle in for a while that really has everyone (including me) with all the feels. Moving to Denver is a milestone in so many ways and is the furthest I’ve ventured out without planning to return to Orlando.

The upcoming weeks are sure to have their challenges but to settle into a beautiful new city, where I can gain back my independence, support myself with a new job and explore the beautiful scenery will be more than worth it. And for James – well he’ll be here soon. 😉

Times are changing and it’s both scary and exciting, but throughout my little bit of experience so far, the best things are. After six months of taking it easy at home, I’m ready to get into full gear and show big, bold Denver what this girl is made of. Ready or not, here I am…

 

 

 

Day-trip to the little town next door

Mt. Dora, FL | Ybor City, Tampa, FL 

Like most people, I occasionally need that escape from daily routine, repetitive scenery and the same old people (not that I don’t love them). Unlike most people, I love the escape so much I’ll look for it anywhere, even if it means the random little town next door. My escapades, or explorations, excite me and inspire, allowing my wandering spirit to roam free for a day, or whatever amount of time it may be. I learned quickly after I returned home from my year-long adventure that sitting still in one town week after week was not going to work. I also learned that didn’t mean I had to spend the money I didn’t have on expensive, long-distance trips. While trying to save money and keep myself grounded in one place for a while, I’ve (semi) satisfied my longing to travel by taking day trips to surrounding towns whenever I can break away.

See for me, the addicting and fulfilling part about travel is the opportunity to roam freely… looking at and learning from all the new buildings, landscapes and people around you. While the difference between traveling within the same state and overseas is quite drastic, that doesn’t mean the fulfillment of travel can only come with a plane ticket to a foreign country. Overseas travel takes your learning and self-growth to a whole new level, yes, but the urge to explore and the eagerness to be inspired should not be trumped by a current inability to take off on an exotic adventure. If moving around brings you joy like it does for me, then take those Saturdays or Sundays and move around. It’s amazing what kind of treasures can be found just around the corner.

Over a couple weekends in January, I used my Saturdays to explore Mt. Dora, FL and St. Petersburg / Ybor City, FL. Both days were lovely and refreshing, and made me feel that same joy I feel no matter where I travel to. It’s like taking in a long, beautiful breath of fresh air. I traveled with a good friend to Mt. Dora, where we were able to talk and laugh along the way, and met up a couple friends in St. Pete. But I also spent the evening wandering solo around Ybor, snapping pictures of signs, buildings and art I found interesting. Just the mere act of getting away was enough. It was a great reminder that there is always room to learn and discover if you can just open your mind and hop on the road.

As for Mt. Dora, it is a small, quaint town set above Lake Dora. It’s made up of short, old buildings and has a calm, rustic feel. I felt relaxed walking around its quiet streets and through its quirky shops as I found myself in a place where time didn’t seem as important as enjoying yourself did. My friend and I slowed down for tea and took our time in whatever restaurant, shop or pub we found ourselves in. We took pictures for fun and browsed in a book store just because we could. There was nothing we had to buy or see, and that was the best part about it.

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After my visit with friends in St. Pete the next weekend, I made Ybor City my travel destination of the week. I was eager to learn something new and observe something interesting so I thought Ybor, being a place with both history and character, I would find both of those things. I learned that Columbia Restaurant was the first Spanish restaurant in the U.S. and I read about the community’s role in Spanish-American ties. In coffee shop windows, I noticed men and women of Spanish or Cuban heritage rolling cigars and selling them to customers at the coffee shop. I also observed the large amount of diversity in the area and it made me smile. There were business men and women, hipsters, families, girls dressed in unicorn onesies, old dudes smoking cigars, etc., and they were all coming together at Ybor’s several bars and restaurants to have a good time on a Saturday night. It was killing me to not join them but someone had to drive my car home…

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When we can’t be exactly where we (think) we want to be, what we can do is make the most of where we are. Take a day and drive to that little town next door. Dig deeper and you’ll find plenty of new sights, smells and stories to discover.

– Annaleigh

Holiday Happenings @ Orlando Treasures

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December is a blur every year. You make plans, attend parties, drink too much, eat too much, catch up with old friends, visit with family, celebrate Christmas, catch up with more friends and then all of a sudden, it’s the new year. (Happy 2018 by the way!)

I don’t know about you but this season felt especially crazy for me, being back in the land of all my friends and family after skipping last year. I forgot how many reunions and celebrations occurred that would fill up the much shorter break everyone gets from their adult jobs these days. Not to mention, my time at home was interrupted by a five-day trip up to St. Louis to spend some cold, cozy days with James’ family.

As opposed to the last Christmas I spent in Orlando, when everyone was discussing what they’d do after graduation, this time we talked about jobs, new cities, and all the things that made us sound so much more adult than we ever dreamed of being. Of course I’m still not totally there yet but being a part of the conversation itself made me feel a lot older…

Spending so much time in Orlando after a year of adventure has certainly had its downfalls, but I’ve also come to realize more and more that it’s not all the dreadful hometown I like to label it as in my head. Especially with loads of holiday gatherings happening, I’ve been able to find some really cool spots in this little home city of mine to keep me entertained for a while. Below are a few of my favorite I wanted to share.

Orlando Brewing

Orlando Brewing, craft beer, Orlando
Image taken from Orlando Brewing Facebook page

Orlando Brewing is a special, local brewery on the outskirts of downtown Orlando. I discovered it one week after I returned to Orlando in September from a monthly event called Yoga Under the Stars. For those who like yoga (or beer), the event is awesome! You pay $12 for a yoga class at the brewery and get a free beer! The brewery itself has a cool, chill vibe with dark lighting inside and a friendly, community feel. I appreciate its simplicity yet its ability to get involved in the community with regular events like beer yoga at Yoga Under the Stars.

Redlight, Redlight

Redlight Redlight, craft beer, orlando
Image taken from the Redlight, Redlight Facebook page

Being in its own unique niche of ‘craft beer bar,’ Redlight, Redlight makes itself stand out from the rest. I visited this bar when friends were in town for Thanksgiving and we loved how it was the perfect combination of chill and fun. There’s a great atmosphere with people hanging out at large picnic tables and at the bar, where they drink tall glasses of beer. It also has plenty of space to sit down for large parties, like ours was, and is quiet enough to hear each other talk. It has the hometown, local feel that is sometimes hard to come by in this tourist town and is definitely a place I would recommend to people looking for a fun but not-too-crazy night out. Not to mention, it was voted by Orlando Weekly one of Orlando’s best spots of 2017.

East End Market

East End Market, orlando
Image taken from the East End Market Facebook page

I have been hearing wonderful things for a while but just recently visited East End Market when I went to check out the Porch Therapy shop for a plant for my grandma’s Christmas present. I was so pleasantly surprised to see how many local food and artisan merchants there were. I got a black bean burger from Houndstooth Sauce Company that was delicious but there were very tempting options everywhere I looked. It is another locally-focused hot spot of Orlando that I definitely see myself visiting more often now that I know how awesome it is. Their moto is “Live Locally” and the best part… they have a garden in the front where they grow fresh ingredients!

Foxtail

Image taken from the Foxtail Facebook page

There’s a new, trendy hot spot for grabbing some dang good coffee and getting some work done or meeting up with a friend – this place! Stepping into Foxtail you feel like you’ve stepped into a big city coffee shop where all the cool, creative kids are hanging out and getting shit done. It’s atmosphere is modern yet cozy with its own, unique aesthetic going for it. I haven’t taken the time I should yet to really enjoy this place but I look forward to some nice mornings or afternoons writing away in its cool setting with a high-quality cup of coffee in hand.

 

 

 

Gather ‘Round

Orlando, FL | Gainesville, FL | Hilton Head Island, SC | Savannah, GA

You know the holidays are upon us when you begin running into high school friends in your hometown who you haven’t seen in ages, book up your week with plans with three different groups of family & friends, and eat your body weight in heavy, American food.

For someone like me who spent last year’s holidays on the opposite end of the world in Australia, the holidays take on a different meaning this year. As I begin to make plans with friends who are spread out all over the country and help my mom with Christmas decorations, I remember what it feels like to be absent from family and friends for the holidays. Despite all the changes that happen throughout a year for a person, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two celebrations that have the power to bring everyone make together year after year – except in cases like mine last year.

I think back on the gatherings and traditions I skipped out on last year but also realize how cool it was to experience the same togetherness and joy in a place and with people that put a spin on the holidays as I knew it. I wasn’t in Orlando, Florida to continue the holiday traditions with my family or have reunions with close friends but I was able to see how a loving home and a joyful celebration can be experienced thousands of miles away from that one, true “home”.

Of course I am enjoying being back home and returning to those same traditions and people I am so used to sharing the holidays with, but not without remembering the Australian families who opened their hearts to me and James last year. It was a different kind of holiday season but special because it was different.

My first hometown holiday gathering this year was a big meet-up at a craft beer bar in downtown Orlando called Redlight Redlight with high schools friends the night before Thanksgiving. We had about twelve people at the table there to reconnect with their Orlando friendships. We all live different lives now but to be able to sit down again together where it all started and share where our lives have taken us was a true blessing. The night lasted longer than planned with an adventure into the bar-heavy part of downtown Orlando but of course, no regrets.

Thanksgiving day was spent at home in the company of my immediate family, including my pregnant sister-in-law, Heather, my grandmother (Meme) and my aunt (Nannie) who lives in Utah. It was a treat to have my aunt with us this year and we all had fun taking pictures, eating multiple rounds of meals, and receiving visits from good neighborhood friends. It’s always special to be in the company of the people who have known you the longest.

Heather and little Jacquelyn in her belly

After that, it was off to Gainesville for a reunion with sorority sisters for the UF vs. FSU game day weekend. We visited our favorite old bars and embraced the new ones, with hours spent on the dance floor each night. We brought out our Gator jerseys and paraded around Gainesville like the Wolfpack had never left. Although old and removed from being “college kids” now, being together made things feel more like the good ole times again. I appreciated how we all made the time to come together and relive the glory days of college. I’m so grateful for those girls and for our ability to stay connected despite our distances from each other.

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The “Wolfpack” on Game Day
The Social, Gainesville
Reunion @ The Social, Gainesville

The finale of the “Thanksgiving reunions” was a roadtrip up to Hilton Head Island, SC with James to spend a few nights of vacation with my parents. James got to see the place where I spent many Thanksgivings growing up and where I made of many memories with my Granna and Grandad, who are both now in Heaven. Although it’s more of a retirement community than a 20-something destination, we both enjoyed great meals with my parents, a long bike ride on the island, drinks by the pool and many chats in the hot tub. It was cool for me to have us all together and share those relaxing couple days by the ocean.

Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island
James and I in Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island, sunrise, beach
Sunrise in Hilton Head Island, SC

On the way back down to Florida, James and I spent an afternoon and evening in Savannah, GA. We jumped straight into to the Savannah experience with an incredible, southern home-cooked meal at a restaurant called Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, located in the basement of a traditional Savannah house. We found it from Google but once we got there, we realized how special of a place it was. We ate another big meal, with 21 dishes to choose from in front of us, and enjoyed the unique experience of the family-style restaurant. We ate around a table with strangers from all over the country who fell just as in love with the place as we did.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, Savannah
Our table at Mrs. Wilkes

That late afternoon and evening we visited SCAD Museum of Art, took a nice stroll through Forsyth Park, and then pre-gamed in our downtown hotel room with wine, goat cheese and Michael Jackson music videos until we were ready to take on the town. We started with drinks on top of the Bohemian Hotel overlooking the riverfront, got food, and then went to a couple more bars before deciding that drinking and dancing in our hotel room sounded much more fun – so that’s what we did.

The next day we had breakfast at a French cafe and walked around the riverfront until it was time to drive back to Orlando for James to catch his flight that night. Before dropping him off at the airport, we fit in one last dinner with my mom and my aunt at Rocco’s Tacos. They loved spending the time with him since it is not often they can have us together.

So many memories were packed into that one week and I’m beyond thankful for all of them. Where I’m at in life is not yet where I want to be but knowing I have such a strong support system and so much to be thankful for definitely helps. Tomorrow it’s back to work as the hustle continues and the job hunt out west resumes. But this time, with an extra grateful heart.

– Annaleigh

 

 

 

 

Music to the rescue

Orlando, FL | Miami, FL 

It seems no matter how many different directions I begin to take career wise, live music always finds me again and pulls me back in. A deeper interest in the non-profit industry recently had me looking at a wider variety of jobs in the past few months, as opposed to focusing on entertainment jobs like I had planned on doing for several years. But when the non-profit path wasn’t working out, I found an alternative.

I didn’t get a non-profit job in Salt Lake City, UT after two rounds of interviews but a couple days after I found out I didn’t get it, I was hired by Foundation Presents in Orlando to do marketing work for local venues like The Beacham and The Social. It doesn’t satisfy my burning desire to move out west but it’s at least something I know I will enjoy for the time being. Working for live music events always feels right to me and I’m of course thrilled to start going to free shows again. So thank you, Foundation, for the opportunity.

As an unintentional celebration for this new chapter, I headed to Miami this weekend to volunteer for a music event called House of Creatives Music Festival. I had the gig planned for a few weeks now, and found the timing to be absolutely perfect. It’s like live music came back into my life full force to remind me how much I love it and to not let go of it too quickly.

The festival in Miami was a small one at Virginia Key Beach Park, only on its second year, but with a great lineup. I got to see Wild Belle, alt-J, Washed Out and MGMT to name my favorite. All for $0. Another reason why I love working music events… 🙂 The work is fun to me as well because of the type of people the industry attracts and the energy that comes with the atmosphere. Everyone enjoys what they’re doing and wants everyone around them to enjoy it too. The environment is welcoming and comfortable, and people’s outfits rock. I did jobs like ID check, wrist-banding and customer service & sales at the box office throughout the two-day festival but meanwhile never missed a band I wanted to see.

House of Creatives Music Festival, alt-J, Miami
alt-J performing on the main stage at HOC

One of the best parts about working a festival is meeting a bunch of people around your age who are all about the music as well. I made some fun friends who I hope to hit up next time I make it down to Miami and even made some business contacts from L.A. Music has a way of bringing people together and that’s always been one of my favorite parts about it. I enjoyed the festival with new friends and found the Miami vibes exciting. For me, it’s always more fun to be on the inside of the festival. You get the perks, the inside scoop and in a way feel like the event is partly yours.

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New friends (and fellow volunteers), Tati and Fernando

Getting out of Orlando for the weekend was a great way to refresh and inspire myself again. I explored Wynwood and the Wynwood Walls Monday morning before I headed home, and felt rejuvenated by all the art I got to experience over the weekend. Passing street art after street art while sipping on cold brew coffee from the legendary Panther Coffee is certainly enough to channel one’s hipster side.

I’m looking forward to the next time, Miami!

– Annaleigh

 

 

 

 

 

Limbo.

Orlando, Florida, USA

Limbo – what a rough place to be.

And yet many of us 20-somethings and especially recent graduates find ourselves stuck in it at some point, no matter what we try to do to prevent it. It’s just part of the process, as we have to tell ourselves for our own self-confidence and sanity.

Since finishing my temporary job with Heart of Florida United Way, which I refused to accept a permanent position for because it wasn’t what or where I wanted, unemployment has had its fair share of highs and lows. The uncertainty certainly does drive me crazy at times but I find comfort in the couple of job prospects I’ve been interviewing for and the activities I enjoy that make the days pass.

“But what happens if those don’t work out?”, I keep wondering. Should I be applying to backups to fill all this free time? Or should I wait it out and take it step by step? So far, I’ve opted for the latter but of course I get anxious about that decision on the daily.

What keeps me sane during this uncertain, confusing time in my life?

Healthy food, exercise, friends, family and the faith that if I take it step by step, it will all work out eventually.

Do I just want to find another Au Pair job and take off to another country some days? Or find another place to volunteer and just go for it? Heck yeah! It can be hard as hell adjusting to this rat race of a country and realizing that the next life step I am planning could lead me to hours upon end at a desk instead of to a couple of a cute kids and beautiful beaches. But there comes a time where you feel you need to be responsible – for your personal finances, direction, adulthood, etc. – and I guess that’s where I am now. Maybe I will feel differently in a year or two and decide to ditch it all again (I mean who knows), but for now I am open to and excited for the chance to find my new city, settle into a new job that is meaningful to me, create new friendships and plan new adventures. It may not be Australia or the mountains of Northern Thailand but I’m trying to give America its chance at finding harmony with my adventurous, celebratory and meaningful outlook on life.

So what does my “limbo” look like?

It’s a lot of scrapbooking, random writing, bike rides, random jobs people ask of me, volunteering, occasional job hunting tasks, daily exercise (yoga on the best days), errands with my retired mother, Stranger Things viewings with my grandmother, and some fun outings and celebrations with family and friends sprinkled in there.

As the wait continues (hopefully for not much longer) for the answer I need to either start packing and heading west, or buckle down on more job hunting, I remain calm with the idea that “figuring it out” isn’t failing, it’s life. I’ve been reminded by so many people that there will always be something to figure out in life so finding your inner peace (as cliche as it is) and keeping what makes you happiest close, is what’s most important. There’s no point in tearing yourself down or competing with the next guy because it’s figuring out your life, with positivity at practice, and toward your vision that will lead you to your version of success. At least that’s what I think…

So shoutout to all my limbo-ers or ex-limbo-ers who get me! And here’s to life! Stay tuned.

– Annaleigh

 

 

 

Making the Rounds

Saint Louis, MO | New York, New York | Washington D.C., USA

It’s now been a minute since I’ve written a post regarding my ever-changing life… My excuse is the lovely few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to spend visiting with people I love and catching up with old friends I haven’t seen in at least a year. No, it’s not something I had to do and certainly not something I had the extra money for but as those who know me understand, the people in my life are always worth the extra effort and sacrifice.

It all started with a wonderful trip to Saint Louis, MO to see James and accompany him and his family to his cousin’s beautiful wedding. I really enjoyed getting to know his parents and sisters better, and meeting the extended family I’ve heard so much about. I felt so at home in the company of their family, which is something I am totally grateful for.

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James, his mom and I at the wedding in St. Louis, MO

I also got to catch up with a friend from Aussie, Theresa, who I met during one of my first weekends in Australia while out in Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast. She is from St. Louis and is back now waitressing and saving money for her next big life adventure. It was so cool to have bit of my Australia chapter back in my life for a bit.

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Theresa and I at a local STL bar

Aside from the wedding and dancing all night at the reception with James’ family, St. Louis was full of eating adventures and quality time with my partner in crime. I got my fill of IMO’s Pizza, St. Louis’ local pizza chain, had a couple nice meals with the family, a couple hikes in surrounding parks, an afternoon trip to a couple wineries and an afternoon at the zoo. We had enough chill time at the house and places around STL to catch up but also plenty of activities to make the trip new and exciting. I had an amazing time in St. Louis and spending time with James so the next trip out there can’t come soon enough.

A few days after arriving back to Orlando, I took off again for a week-long trip to New York City and Washington D.C. to hang with friends I hadn’t seen in too long. My friend Maya travelled with me so we had a fun flight up to NYC and spent three nights with our third musketeer, Nicole, in her city. Our first night there was my favorite because I got to see many old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. About eight of my best friends from Orlando are all living in the big city now and I couldn’t wait to catch up with all of them and hear about their new adult lives. We met at a bar in East Village that night and danced like idiots, of course.

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The crew in East Village, NYC

Like every other trip I’ve made to NY, I walked my butt off but also managed to find new activities to do. Maya, Nicole and I had a great afternoon after a brunch with everyone on our second day walking around Central Park and paddling a canoe around the little river there. We had such great views of New York from the boat and took great pictures I’m so happy to have. We also cooked a delicious dinner together that night and kept it chill in Nicole’s cozy NYC apartment.

Central Park, NYC
Canoeing in Central Park

The rest of my time in New York was filled with a trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, lunch at Chelsea Market, a walk on the High Line, dinner at Nicole and I’s favorite pizza place in West Village we’ve been going to since we were 14, a trip to Brooklyn to check out the views, lunch in Chinatown, window shopping in SOHO, another walk in Central Park, more meals/happy hours with friends and a couple nights spent over in other friends’ apartments.

The city is always slightly overwhelming to me but I always leave with a smile because of the number of friends I know living their dreams there. So many of them talked about moving to NYC for years and it always makes me so happy knowing they did it and are successfully navigating life and jobs in the city. I also leave reassured it’s not the life for me but our differences are one of my favorite parts about my friendships. They keep life interesting. So shoutout to my gals (and guys) in the big city!

After five nights and my longest time spent in New York yet, I took the Megabus for $10 from the city to D.C. I felt like a backpacker again and loved it. Also for those scared of Megabus, don’t be! It was a great ride!

D.C. was a refreshing experience after the hustle of New York City. My high school friend, Megan, took me in and I arrived at her adorable and spacious house on East Capitol Street a few hours before she would get out of work. I took a nap, got ready and then headed out to Chinatown to meet her and another friend Hannah for a sushi and cocktail happy hour. We had an awesome time catching up so decided to keep the fun going at a couple more places around the area, one being the Bullpen next to the National’s baseball stadium. I got to meet some of their new friends and roommates, which is always exciting.

The next day I entertained myself for half a day wandering around Capitol Hill and the National Mall, checking out all the sites and taking pictures. I then met Hannah for lunch and we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I learned a lot of new fun facts before my feet felt like they were going to fall off and I had to take a break at a coffee shop. That night we met a couple of our other high school friends, Sarah and Andie, at a cute Mexican restaurant and split a couple margarita pitchers. It was an awesome reunion with my pals. We had so much life to catch up on.

I ended the week with a bang out on the town. Megan and Hannah took me to their favorite D.C. bars and we danced around and splurged on drinks like college kids again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get through the week without at least one of those nights…

I headed home after a housewarming brunch at Sarah and Andie’s in Arlington, VA just outside of D.C., where I was unable to participate in mimosa drinking because of the last night and opted for the bagels and coffee instead.

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LHP friends for 10 years – Annaleigh, Megan, Hannah, Andie and Sarah

My heart is so full going home as I was able to reconnect with so many people I missed out on life with for a bit and hear about all the new adventures happening in their lives. It’s so awesome to realize no matter how far we travel from each other or how many days pass between meetings, we always pick up where we left off. I’m incredibly thankful for that as I’m sure they are too. Life is crazy at 23 but at least we all have each other.

– Annaleigh

A Sweet Escape to St. Augustine

St. Augustine, Florida

There is a charming little Spanish town that sits on the northeast coast of Florida, about a two-hour drive north of Orlando called St. Augustine. While all Floridians know it because of its historical value, I am always shocked by the amount of non-Floridians who haven’t heard of it. To me, it has such a unique charm on top of its overflowing  rich history. It’s my escape from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, and my sweet, cultural retreat that gives me the feeling I’ve gone back in time with its quaint yet stunning Spanish colonial architecture, the old Castillo de San Marcos fortress and its narrow cobblestone streets.

This past Saturday when I was burnt out from the Orlando traffic and craving different scenery, I hit the road and headed north for St. Augustine with a good friend. Our excuse to make the trip was that there was a small, free music festival going on with local acts from all over Florida playing but because it was St. Augustine, it didn’t take us much convincing to go.

St. Augustine is said to be the oldest continuously occupied city and port established by Europeans in the United States. The city was originally built by Spanish settlers who claimed the land in 1565 and you can feel it. Many original buildings and roads have been preserved for the education of visitors and thank goodness for it because its historic charm is a wonderful escape from modern life.

Our day in St. Augustine was as lovely as ever, filled with music, sangria, a light sea breeze, desserts and cobblestone streets. We started with a delicious but overwhelming filling lunch at MOJO BBQ and then made our way to the music. The festival was called Sing Out Loud Festival and used a number of venues around the city to showcase local Floridian artists.

MOJO BBQ, St. Augustine
Good eats at MOJO BBQ

Eventually, we arrived to the Colonial Oak Music Park, where the main stage was located. It was a beautiful and unique setting with a huge oak tree standing next to the stage and a number of decorative lights hanging from the tree over several benches and picnic tables for show-goers to enjoy the sounds from. It was pure bliss sitting there listening to beautiful vocals and instrumentals by awesome local bands and sipping on red sangria from the bar next to the big oak tree. I fell in love with that music park and hope to be back the next time I decide to escape for St. Augustine.

Colonial Oak Music Park, Sing Out Loud Festival, St. Augustine
Sippin’ on Sangria at Colonial Music Park
Folk is People, Sing Out Loud Festival, St. Augustine, Colonial Oak Music Park
Folk is People performing during Sing Out Loud Festival

My friend and I ended our day with a couple of chocolates from the sweet shop, an iced coffee and a walk by the old fort. It was a short day but oh so sweet.  I always hate to leave the gorgeous Spanish oasis but alas, back to the grind in Mickey Mouse town.

-Annaleigh

 

 

 

Irma

Florida, USA

In Florida the name Irma will always bring back memories of panic, destruction, nights in the dark and without power, and a serious media frenzy. The massive hurricane that leveled many of the Caribbean islands, tore through the Keys and eventually made its way all the way up the Florida peninsula, stirred up all of our daily lives to some degree. Because of the uncertainty of its path and its frightening size and strength, the storm kept Floridians on their toes and left many with problems they couldn’t possibly prepare for.

My family and I were safe and comfortable, never even losing power, but we were some of the most fortunate. My brother and my sister-in-law, for example, are now living in a hotel for an indefinite amount of time until their flooded house without power is restored to being livable at the least. Others, like a friend of mine who has a house in the Keys, had a friend missing they couldn’t get a hold of for days and a house destroyed by the monster storm.

flood, hurricane, Irma, Florida
My brother’s flooded house in Altamonte Springs, FL
flooding, hurricane, Irma, Florida
The floating dining room

Many have said these damages are just consequences of living in the sunshine state. I guess we can accept some responsibility for where we live but I think the bigger issue is being a part of a planet that is undergoing major climate shifts that are likely to keep these monster storms coming unless we admit to the problem and do something about it. We have too many people in this country to not do anything and worse, to not care. Regardless of political beliefs, is it so terrible to change our bad habits and do some good for the environment and ourselves? In one way or another, changing will make a positive difference.

At Heart of Florida United Way, where I am currently filling in as a receptionist, I get a lot of calls from people looking for assistance because of Hurricane Irma’s effect on their lives. Some need food because all of theirs has gone bad without power, others have no place to live because they’ve spent the little money they had on alternative shelter from their damaged house. Although these kind of calls generally go to United Way’s 2-1-1 help line, occasionally they slip through to my phone and I am always shocked by the situations people are in because of a natural disaster. Many success stories of people receiving help are advertised all over the news but behind every one there are 100 more that still need to be dealt with. I know this because of 2-1-1’s nonstop calls.

It’s now been 11 days since the hurricane but the effects are still incredibly relevant all around the state. While no other region looks quite like the damaged Keys, there is still brush and debris laying in front of most houses waiting to be picked up, and power out in many areas. As the rest of the country continues with their daily lives and comforts, there are displaced and inconvenienced people all around Florida (and Texas, thanks to Hurricane Harvey) struggling to piece their lives back together. While people unaffected often feel there is not much they can do in situations like these, the humility to empathize and the willingness to find even the smallest way to help makes the greatest difference. So, be kind.

– Annaleigh