2016…what a crazy, magical, heartbreaking, uplifting, powerful year. It was a year infused with paradoxes. At times I felt like I took 5 steps back in my life and at other times I felt like I took some of the largest leaps of faith ever it was almost as if I was flying. At the end of 2015, I started my 10 month long journey of studying and traveling in Europe. As 2016 rolled around, I continued on this journey and persistantly checked things off my bucket list.
If you follow my instagram (which you should, if you don’t…follow here) I recently stated in one of my captions how important I believe it is to map out our time. I understand things in life happen that aren’t in our control so things won’t always go our way but it is a neccessity to at least have a blue print for your life so you can try to stay on track as much as possible. Well, my next post will be just that- a map of what I envision for 2017, but first I thought that I should reflect on what blessings 2016 brought me so that I project this into the year ahead.
New Year’s/My 22nd Birthday
First, I kicked off the year with New Year’s in Florence, Italy. Then the other event that always happens in January is my birthday.
When I was 20 years old I made it a goal of mine that for every birthday I really wanted to do something more than just partying- from then on I wanted to do something that was adventurous, new, and/or challenging since these are things that I really genuinely love in life and make feel alive. I think it is a great way to show gratitude for seeing another year of life. When it came to deciding what to do this year I knew a lot of my roommates and I had a goal to go skiing while we are abroad so I brought them the idea to do this and they were totally on board.
Ultimately, it was a day filled with challenge, determination, courage, and accomplishment accompanied by great friends and a ton of laughs maybe even a few butt bruises but really I would not have wanted to spend my birthday any other way.
Next, was Poland. Poland was one of the biggest cultural experiences in my life.
Basically, I spent my first two days in Poznan, my second two days in Krakow, and my last two days in Warsaw. I learned about the habits of a lot of Polish people, the education system, the government and politics, a ton of history…(I didn’t realize how many times the size/shape of Poland as a country itself has changed), and of course I even had some Polish Hazelnut Vodka. In Krakow I had the heart-breaking experience of visiting Auschwitz and in Warsaw we went to the brand new state of the art Jewish Museum they have. This truly was one of the most life changing trips I have had, no matter how cliche that may sound.
In February, I started my second semester at one of Italy’s finest Fashion schools, Polimoda. The month started with a visit to one of the most world reknowned fashion tradeshows, Pitti Filati.
Pitti Filati basically is a trade show that “presents world-scale excellence in yarns to its audience of international buyers and designers from the biggest names in fashion who come to Florence looking for creative inspiration, in a unique atmosphere that makes doing business a pleasure, offering a new, original entertaining take on the many ways that fashion, art, sport and design come together.” So to say being here was inspirational would be saying the least.
Onto the next one…London! I actually had to go to London for academic reasons, we were in London for 5 days and 5 packed days at that.
Busy all morning and afternoon with appointments to fashion headquarters, tons of store visits and tours, and even with a day spent at the famous Pure trade show. So even though it was a lot of work, it really was a ton of fun. This trip to London was truly a special one but not just for all of the cultural experience I gained but really because it assured me that I am in the right industry for me. Seeing and experiencing all of the different dynamics of the fashion industry all over the world and getting so much inspiration from it over and over again cultivated so much motivation in me.
Since, Ireland is only a skip, jump and a hop away from London we decided to take full advantage of that and head here next.
Ireland is nothing short of a green, green dream! This country was really one of the most enchanting lands comprised of a beautiful mix of legend and reality- it left me speechless more than anything.
A big highlight of mine was visiting the Cliffs of Moher. I remember when I took a moment of reflection to truly take them in and was brave enough to take a peak down one of the sides of the cliffs into the water…where I noticed the vastness of the ocean below me and the size of the chunk of earth I was standing on and in that moment it made me feel so small – in the best way possible. I realized how small me and my problems were in this big gigantic world and then boom it hit me…after a moment of tranquility I realized the edge I was standing on and it made me feel like I was in fact living life on the edge, giving me such an adrenaline rush. This was by far one of the coolest experiences, and I still don’t quite understand how the Cliffs of Moher didn’t make it for the cut of the eighth wonder of the world.
Then in March, one of my best girlfriends and I set out to check some more things off of our bucket list. We were able to take in one of the most famous graffitied walls, try some authentic schnitzel, and check out one of the craziest night life scenes in Berlin. All while in the same weekend- on the opposite ends of things we traveled through one of the most grand castle districts, hung out by what may be the second most famous graffitied walls and explored a town that looks like it is straight out of a story book. Aka we made a trip to both Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic.
Lucca, Pisa, and Verona, Italy
As the month continued, my girlfriends and I decided to finally do a little bit more adventuring right in our home-stay country, Italy. Even though we had been living in Italy for awhile now and had already seen a lot of what it had to offer, we realized that it had so much more than just the obvious that we had yet to explore.
Finally, we carved out what was a long over due weekend of exploring the charming cities of Lucca, Pisa, and Verona. In Verona, we visited the home of Romeo and Juliet, climbed the cities tower and took in the full view of this enchanting little town. In Pisa, I captured what was my most popular photo of 2016. Me karate kicking the Leaning Tower of Pisa…lol. And in Lucca we got a real taste for the true personality of what a true small Italian region feels like.
Then towards the end of the month, for spring break a big group of us girls chose to do part of it in Spain and part in Portugal. So we visited Madrid first (then took a few days in Lisbon and Porto, Portugal) and headed back to Spain to spend majority of our time in Barcelona. We had the most days there and I still feel like we didn’t have enough time.
For starters…Madrid. Oh my gosh, perfect way to start our trip. Madrid was filled with churros and chocolate, Flamenco dance, and beautiful palace visits. Rich…is just one word I would choose if I had describe this wonderful city.
After, we visited Barcelona. Again, one of the cities I feel like I def didn’t have enough time in so I hope to be returning very soon ( 2017 maybe 😉 ) Anyways, the things we did have time for I loved! I think my all time favorite part was Parc de la Ciutadella. The big city park. Now I may have seen pictures of Park Guell or the outside of La Sagrada Familia before but I had no idea about this park and it was the best surprise ever!
After the park though I remember we walked quite a bit to see some more work done by one Barcelona’s most famous artists, Gaudi. We checked out his Casa Batllo and even walked by Casa Mila.
We started our last day with a few hours on the beach with a big pitcher of sangria. You can’t talk about Spain without mentioning there delicious sangria…I still dream about it every single day since then. Finally, after our time on the beach we wrapped up with a visit to the famous La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. This Gaudi masterpiece is exactly that…a masterpiece. Oh Barcelona <3
Even though I was sad to leave Spain, I couldn’t complain too much because we were headed to Portugal. This without a doubt is a place that I left a piece of my heart. This country wins “most to catch me off guard”, I really didn’t know much before visiting here and I had no idea that I was going to be absolutely woo’d by it.
The character of the buildings and the people and the culture had rich and bright personality. I loved that outside of our Air BnB there was an orange tree that we could pick fresh oranges from. I loved the winding roads that led us to the utmost authentic restaurants run by a hard working elderly Portuguese man. Yes, the city is built on hills…and these hills are no joke but these hills also lead to some of the most amazing panoramic views of the city.
After Lisbon we made a little pit stop in Porto, Portugal which was equally as beautiful but all in it’s own way- with it’s romantic setting and awesome river font. In Porto, I discovered all the hill walking really paid off when I tried what was LITERALLY the BEST sandwich (and maybe item of food in general) I have ever tasted!!!
It is interesting how you can touch down in a brand new destination and instantly feel a rush of warmth and comfortability even if it is somewhere completely foreign. Even though I visited tons and tons of new cities and countries in the past 10 months, Greece still held a #1 place in my heart…until I visited Istanbul. Not that it completely knocked Greece out of it’s first place spot but it sure gave it a run for its money. To do this, Turkey officially made it to my Top 3 favorite places in the world and still holds a spot. I can’t quite describe it but I immediately fell in love with Turkey.
Istanbul is a wonderful city for wandering by foot with some of its most fascinating sites within steps from each other.
Our days were spent exploring, as we entered into the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market area. Now, there are hundreds of bazaars and markets in Europe but this was by far the most one-of-a-kind markets I had ever visited. There is nothing like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar that I have experienced anywhere else. Not only did they have stunning merchandise, from jewelry to Turkish rugs, to mosaic tiles and breathtaking scarfs, but what made it most unique was the sales merchants that lined the halls of the bazaar showering us with compliments.
We wrapped up this month with what was one of my final trips I took with my all of my roommates. We went to the Netherlands, where we gallivanted around the city of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam was such an interesting, cool, calm, artistic place. I look back fondly at all the options this city had to offer. Like how we could go start our mornings by stopping in one of the coffeeshops down the street (which we did) or at night see we could see multiple sex shows for a good laugh (which we did not do, but were recommended to do) but if this wasn’t our cup of tea there was also was so much history and beauty in the Netherlands. There were loads of museums from the Anne Frank House to Van Gogh, also it was one of the most architecturally pleasing cities.
The homes were so abstract and not like anywhere else I had seen, not to mention all of the boat houses that lined the canals. It was actually a very romantic city. We could go out to the country side here and see gorgeous tulip fields and charming windmills, rent a bike and ride all day through the streets of really neat neighborhoods, enjoy a nice restaurant with a stunning view or take a slow boat ride down the canal. Ultimately, we had such a good time in Amsterdam.
May was a bittersweet month. It marked what would be my last month in this European adventure of mine. But you can bet that I made the most of what little time I had left. We started the month with this magical land filled place that had the most emerald colored water and whitest sandy beaches I had ever visited. No, but really guys…I had never visited somewhere that looked so much like a Microsoft Screensaver. This heaven of a place I am talking about was Sardinia.
Visiting Sardinia, at first felt like a rejuvenating vacation that then turned into an adventure that made us feel like authentic locals. I thought and knew I would love this place because of the landscape and the food and some of the other typical things people fall in love with when visiting a new place but I think what really made this trip so special that I didn’t expect to be so blown away from…was the people we met.
Throughout the past months many people asked me what was my favorite place, city or experience about Italy. It without a doubt is all wrapped up in one dreamy package called Positano.
Positano was a little Italian city filled with sun-washed houses, giant lemon trees, abundant views, a gorgeous beach, quaint restaurants, and most of all..some of the most winding roads I had ever had to drive on.
I think this charming destination is Italy’s most picturesque and scenic place in all of the cities I visited. It truly had a southern-Italian holiday feel, and I remember looking over my balcony into the vast beauty of the coast, it gave me a sensation that this place just couldn’t be real life and that it was all a dream. Where I was, where I had traveled too, everything…until I left and I realized it was very real. Very real…and incredible.
From Positano we took the train back to Naples and a boat to Capri, there are boats that go directly from Positano but we didn’t wake up early enough! Anyways, Capri is another place that holds a huge chunk of my heart and it captured even more of it during this trip!
It is in Capri that I have caught some of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life! The first time I visited, my roommates and I rented our own boat to drive. Now the second time, I actually jumped off the boat and swam into the blue grotto all my myself. I think this was my craziest adventure while abroad.
Well, the time had come and my European journey was coming to a hault. Home was calling my name. A steady job, school, family, my relationship had all been waiting for me for 10 months. So I bought and booked my plane ticket for the middle of the month. However, when two of my best friends from middle school presented me with the idea of making a pit stop on my way home…I couldn’t pass it up. So, next thing I know, I found myself in Iceland.
All in all, Iceland is a place that was top on my bucket list but I genuinely never imagined I would experience it this early in my life.
There just was something about the incomparable experience of the Blue lagoon that will left me wanting to go back over and over again. The unexpected character of the town of Reykjavik that forever left an imprint in my mind. The grace and beauty and wonder of the waterfalls that lit my heart on fire and even caused water works in my own eyes. The rush of the unpredictable Strokkur Geysir that made my spirit soar as high as the boiled up water erupted itself and the significance of the glacier lagoon that left me breathless. This is why I say, personally, with out a doubt this magical and majestic island will always be apart of me.
Well, like I said. Home eventually called me back. So June was my first full month back in the states. I didn’t let this stop my travel bug though. Just a few short weeks after returning from Europe, I hopped on a plane and headed to Disney World with some of my best high school friends.
I visited Disney World when I was a lot younger, but I have to say it might have been even better when you are 22 years old. It is definitely still the “happiest place on Earth”, and just as magical. I’m not kidding, we felt like a bunch of big kids the whole week. We spent two days in the parks, riding as many rides as we could, eating all the sugary yummy foods, going on safari rides. It was so much fun. We also balanced it though with several relaxation days at our amazing resort. It was perfect. All in all, this is a trip with my girls I will always remember.
It was fun to vacation and everything but now it was time to put in some work. At the end of June I completed what was my 7th marathon (I think 7th, I have kind of lost count at this point. Maybe, it was my 8th.) This was such a fun weekend though because I was reunited with all of my family, we were running a marathon together which is a big tradition of ours and plus D ran with me for the first time this year!! HUGE highlight of 2016.
July is always such an enjoyable month. I love the weather and plus the Fourth of July is such a huge sha-bang for my family. This year was no different. We had another successful Fourth of July celebration. Also, D and I checked yet one more thing off our bucketlist…jetskiing together. It made me really grateful to be back in America to celebrate this special holiday.
HOW COULD I NOT HIGHLIGHT THIS??? Anyone that knows me knows my obsession for Adele and this summer one my best friends ever surprised me by asking me to go to the concert with her. Her and I went to an Adele concert about 5 years prior when we were in high school which has been such a nostalgic and warm memory since. So to be able to experience this concert with her again was all things amazing. Plus, I mean it was Adele!!
I just couldn’t let a month go by without going somewhere again haha. When they say the travel bug is a real thing, they aren’t lying. Visiting Chicago is something that D and I had talked about for awhile so since I was going to be home for the summer (which is Minneapolis, MN for me and Wisconsin for him) we weren’t going to be too far from the city and decided we wanted to take advantage of this.
I love having the Twin Cities to call home but I had really missed the BIG city life since being away from NY for almost over a year now. It felt incredible to be in the hustle and bustle of such a large metro area again.
Ultimately, it was a successful adventure that we sure made the most of. Between the rush of the sky deck, the delicious deep dish pizza for lunch, the breezy river walk, fun and playful Millennium park and a perfect end to it all at the pier it was a really good time!
Looking back, August was a super fun month. Since it had been so long since I had spent an extensive length of time in my own home town city, and I was going to be returning back to NYC in a few short weeks, it was all about trying to take advantage of my own back yard. I did so much exploring of the Twin Cities, really being a tourist in the city I had grown up in. This really meant a lot to me. I did so much stuff that I couldn’t pick just one so I decided to just highlight the whole city for the month of August.
A month/summer filled with Farmer’s markets, the Lake Life, baseball games, happy hours, brunches, museums, breweries, plays. I really have so much love for the TC’s. <3
Back To The City
A big highlight of 2016, was my move back to the Big Apple. I started my last year of school at the Fashion Institute of Technology, moved into an amazing apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn (which has been a big learning experience), I gained what has my been my favorite internship so far at one of my all time favorite brands (Free People), worked a second job at a high end restaurant, and have started my prep for my graduation in May. So you could say September was a big month.
Basically October was about enjoying life back in New York. I wouldn’t say there was one huge highlight but there were definitely memories that really stuck out to me that I couldn’t help to bring attention to. It was a month filled with yoga retreats, music festivals, first time visits from best friends from home, brunches, life chats, and exploring the city/getting to know other boroughs (Brooklyn specifically more.) NY is such a dynamic place and this month just really made me grateful that this ultimately has been the place that I have been able to live the past few years.
Macy’s Day Parade/Top of The Rock
November kicked off what may have been the best holiday season I’ve ever had. However, my past few posts on here already highlighted that so I don’t want to write too much about it. But these two things, the Macy’s Day Parade and Top of The Rock have been two things on my bucket list ever since moving to the city so getting to check them off felt like big accomplishments! I am proud that even though I worked more this semester than I ever have while being in school I still found time to do things that were important to me.
Christmas Time in the City/Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
Again, this was a huge highlight for me but is something I literally just wrote about in a blog post before this so to avoid sounding like a broken record I won’t say too much about it but just add a few pictures.
A Family Wedding
Last but definitely not least, my year ended/New Year started the best way possible. My family and I rung in the New Year by celebrating life and love at a huge celebration for my big brother and now sister-in-law. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and I couldn’t be happier for them. I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better ending to an incredible year. I spent a few extra days at home. This was much needed after a stressful, work filled, school filled semester. Being home always helps ground me and it helped prepare my mind and heart for the next year to come.
In the fullness of time, 2016 was one of my wildest years yet. It was filled with adventure, love, hurt, growth, travel, new jobs, a new apartment, and so much more. Looking back has really made me thankful for the path that God has guided me on and I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds. I want to end by thanking all of you for your continuous support. It truly means the world to me. I would not be anywhere without the people that I have in my life. I hope you continue to want to watch, read, and follow me/this blog for what is to come. Love you all, XOXO! Peaches