Traveler Turned Teacher

Travel has been a part of my identity, a part of the ground on which I stand upon when I introduce myself, the piece of myself that I am most proud of since I started so many years ago. It has opened doors and allowed me to experience the surroundings I immerse within, has allowed me to laugh and cry and panic and be so filled with joy that I didn’t know if I would ever come down.

As I move towards the next part of my journey, I want to pay homage to the characteristic of me that defines a part of my life by surrounding myself with it.

Beginning in August, I will be teaching 5th grade in Florida and I could not be more thrilled. I worked my ass off for years to get to this point, went back to school and dove in headfirst into the world of curriculum and instruction and behavior management and procedures and standards…and I found that that world was a part of my intrinsic make-up as well.

Working seasonally for a few years, I was able to experience places and complete tasks that I would normally never have even dreamed of. A few years ago, I worked at a camp for adults who have special needs and it quite literally changed my life. I had never felt more fulfilled, felt more exhausted, but it was the people I worked with that made me realize where my heart and soul was.

I went back to school to study Exceptional Student Education and my first day, I was completely and totally overwhelmed. I remember they were throwing around acronyms and legislation like we all just knew what they were talking about, and I remember I had to stop the lecture and just ask them to kindly speak out the acronyms because I was a noob and had no idea what the heck they were talking about. Now, two years later, I know all those acronyms and more, but I still have so far to go.

Since I was fortunate enough to travel as extensively as I did, I wanted to represent that part of myself in my new space, my new classroom. I want to show the students I will be working with that they too can see the world and enrich their lives and experience the globe’s cultures. I want my students to understand that no societal norm or expectation or restriction can hold them back if they set their mind to it.

As such, my classroom’s theme will, of course, be travel. I haven’t decided if it’s going to be Adventure Awaits or World Travelers or something else equally as cheesy, but I’m going for it and I’m committing 100% to the theme. I have already planned for the first day to have each student as they arrive into the classroom, receive a passport of sorts, and it will be a “getting to know you” game but in the end, I want them to normalize this way of life, the way in which I conducted my life for so long, I want them to see that they are world travelers and that we’re in this together.


Spain or South Korea?

Throughout my life I’ve found that I make definitive decisions when it comes to travel. I see a photo of a place, or read a blog that talks about a new destination, or I’m browsing through Momondo or Skyscanner and it hits me. That’s where I want to go, that’s what I want to do. I book the flight and don’t think twice about it.

But over the past few weeks I’ve been deciding on what’s next, what the next stage of my life will consist of. Which, to be honest, is terrifying. I feel like I’m putting all this extra pressure on myself to do something that others are expecting me to do (i.e; settle down in Florida with a nice, consistent teaching job) but to be frank, that makes my stomach turn.

So, I’ve been toying with the idea of moving and teaching abroad. Where? Not sure. When? Not sure of that either. I graduate from my program in the Spring of 2020 and I think the Fall of 2020 would be a perfect time. But again, not totally sure. I’ve been starting the application process for CIEE’s teach abroad program in both South Korea and in Spain and I think my heart is leaning towards Spain.

While there’s pros and cons to both programs, to both opportunities, Madrid would allow me to travel more, make less, but live in city center. Whereas in South Korea, I would work more and make more but I wouldn’t have as much time to travel.

In the end, I’ll probably apply to both and flip a coin. Because, why not?

city spain dense
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on
adult architecture bar buildings
Photo by Pixabay on


There are days that I am so completely content with the life I have created for myself, carved for myself. Days when I wake up and know exactly where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing for the rest of the week and it puts a smile on my face. There are days like today, when I get so excited to water my garden and pick the fresh basil that I have grown myself and do nothing more than that. These are the days when the complacency and the normalcy of a routine are so, so wonderful.

But, honestly and truly, most days are not like this.

I’m a wanderer. Through and through.

I’ve tried to run from it. Tried to set roots, tried to tie myself to a place for longer than a year and I get so….terribly annoyed.

I find myself feverishly searching for plane tickets to anywhere, anytime. Preferably now.
I crave finding a different pillow beneath my head each night, surrounded by the arms of a lover in the form of a city I haven’t gotten to know yet. I crave new experiences that fill my soul to the brim and make my heart want to explode. I crave questionable foods and shitty hostel lighting.

But what I find that I miss the most about being in constant motion is the solace I find along the way. The pure and unadulterated peace I achieve when I’m walking in a city, music drifting between my ears, with no end goal in sight.

My first day in Japan I happened upon a temple that made me cry and I sat underneath a tree on a side street that had an exquisite view of the temple. I sat under that tree for 4 hours, doing nothing but breathing.

Each breath that I took in was like a new lease on life, a new perspective, a new love. Each breath I let out was something that had plagued me, taken control of me, that had a hold on me. It was gone. Four hours of breathing in silence, staring at a structure made by hands that have long since departed this earth. And I was lucky enough to bear witness to the fruits of their labor.

My journal entry is so indictive of the introspective nature I was in for that day, and frankly for that entire trip.  

“November 23rd, 2016.
The Concept of Home

Home, to me, has always kickstarted feelings of warmth and love and joy and that simmering fire in your belly that just made you feel whole. As I get older, what defines home for me is everchanging. It starts to become people and memories and whole places not just houses or cabins. Like this summer, home was with Angela when we were just chatting about our days. Home was Ceramics class when I couldn’t contain my laughter and the music in the background was drowned by joy. Home right now is nowhere. Home is the thought of my parents’ house on Christmas but that’s not necessarily where I belong right now.

I wonder if a singular person, one day, will start to feel like home or if I, myself, will start to feel like home. When I become wholly okay with who I am, have I become “home”? Home is everchanging, and honestly, so am I.”

Peak Pics Series: The Bridge

This bridge held such promise for me. It was the bridge I crossed to officially enter onto Rocky Mountain National Park. The second my foot left that bridge, I was in the park, I was free. It was also, at the end of a tiring hike, my welcome home.

While you were standing on it, if you looked to either side, was a beautiful river that carved its way through the landscape. During the winter months, it was sheathed in ice, but there were spots that the water flowed freely. It was fascinating to watch and to see nature, tireless in its conquest. It didn’t matter that ice had frozen parts of it over, it was still going to move.

The bride itself was constructed of large wooden logs that made you feel like you were standing on history. Who knows how long it had been there, who knows how many pairs of feet had passed over its surface.

Families on vacation, solo hikers looking for something more, a couple trying to reconnect with nature, elk and deer and bears, myself…all a part of this collective narrative that was held there.

There were times that I passed over it without a second to acknowledge it, my mind consumed with what laid ahead, there were other times when I sat on the bridge for minutes and minutes.

There was one hike that I sat on the bridge, letting my feet dangle from the bridge and leaned my head against one of the posts that supported the handrail. It was freezing that day, in the 10’s and there was snow all around. The sun was hiding that day, taking respite behind the clouds, and I sat there and watched that river. I contemplated life and my existence within the space I was occupying. The more I sat there, the more connected I felt to that space. Like a tiny string had connected my heart to that bridge and as I sat there, that tiny string became a rope, then a cable, then steel bars binding me to there.

Looking back on it now, it held such symbolism. A bridge, taking me to where I needed to be to heal, and welcoming me home with what looked like open arms at the end of the day.

I’ll always feel connected, hell, even writing about it, my mind flies there, and settles on that bridge, listening to the river and watching the trees sashay in the wind.

Peak Pics Series: Into Rocky Mountain National Park

This hike will always stand out in my mind. I remember the day before, trying to decide on a place to go, the forecast was supposed to be sunny and in the 50’s, a beautiful March day in Colorado.

When I woke up, I still couldn’t decide so I just…went. I took a shortcut into the park and just started walking.

I thought about the grandeur of walking through the park as opposed to driving through. Your feet hit the earth with each step and your lungs fill with this crisp air, and your vision is flooded. Your eyes can’t seem to focus on any one thing for very long, there’s too much to take in.

I walked through a valley and kept pushing forward, eventually finding myself following a small stream. What struck me was how clear it was, how serene. As I traveled, I stumbled onto the trail for Bear Lake. I remember being excited because I had a set destination now. It had been a couple hours and I was excited to see other people.

I followed this trail for a while, passing Cub Lake and Bear Lake but then coming to a point when I realized I wasn’t wearing the right shoes for this trail anymore. It had become steep and icy and I realized I had gained elevation, more that I thought I had.

I was staring at a canyon wall. It was rather confusing, how had I gotten here and where the heck was I? The next person I saw had snow shoes and walking poles, when I asked how far away I was from Bear Lake, he told me at that point I was closer to Fern Lake and that I should just keep going, so I did.

What was funny about this day, was that I remember how warm it was. Especially how sunny it was, and how much the sun reflects off the snow. Fun fact: I had one of the worst sunburns of my life after this hike.

I kept going, up a winding trail. It started as switchbacks but then seemed to go in a slow circle up a mountain. The frustrating part was the sun was melting the top layer of snow, so I fell in to my knees about every 4 steps. I would just fall through, have to climb out and it just kept happening.

When my patience seemed to be at it’s end, I saw the top of a sign buried by snow. I dug it out and found out that I was .7 miles from Odessa Lake. So I went.

It was unreal. The moment I turned the corner, it took my breath away. I just kept audibly gasping and muttering, “wow.” I had never seen mountains that looked that way, I had never felt like the only person in the world to be experiencing them in that way. I was blown away.

Three jagged, piercing peaks jutted out from the lake that had been frozen over, the sun bouncing off the white and almost spotlighting the mountains above them. I sat on a rock and ate an orange.

I breathed. Deeply. I can still smell that citrus filling the air around me as I sat dwarfed by rocks that had thrust themselves up from the earth millions of years ago. I still feel that small ping of vulnerability, how small we are, how grand they are. I sat there for an hour and a half, unmoving.

When I finally came to, I smiled and for whatever reason, saluted to them.

The hike back was elated, things seemed easier, the air fresher, my legs felt stronger. It was like I had been given a fresh start. Like, I hadn’t just walked 13 miles and had 13 to go, that didn’t matter. I felt so good.

I ended up doing a literal marathon that day, and to this day, I still don’t really know where I went. I don’t know which trail I was on, I do know I was at Fern Lake at one point. Regardless, I felt like I had such a beautiful moment in those mountains, and I wouldn’t have traded that in for anything.

Peak Pics Series: Emerald Mountain

Emerald Mountain sat at the back of the YMCA’s sprawling property, it towered ever so slightly but not in a menacing way, somewhat of a gentle giant.

I first did this hike with two friends; Matt and Julian. We ate lunch together on a day off then set off around noon. Normally, this hike takes about two hours to reach the summit, but since it was our first time we had allotted ourselves a couple extra hours to catch the sunset.

I remember it being quite easy at first and then all of the sudden, becoming a scramble. We took the wrong path and since there was intermittent snow, we lost the trail multiple times, but we just kept aiming up.

We had so much fun on that hike, I remember it started snowing half way up and we just laughed and told stories. The sun shining on us while snowflakes fell around us.

We climbed rock formations and pretended like they were our homes, we free climbed and crawled through small crevices that the mountain seemed to be hiding. We reached a small lean to that had been created by other hikers at the summit.

By this point, a full snow storm was coming and the wind was howling. We stared into the Rocky Mountains and let the wind sing to us. It sang to the mountains, whipping around them like it was whispering to them as it passed.

Peak Pics Series

Hiking, climbing, lungs burning, legs heavy, my breath pillowing out in smoke as the cold air around me wraps me tight. Looking up, I see them. The mountains that call to me in a distant roar, that pulls at the bottom of my chest, like an inner animal that is fighting its way to get out, to be up there.

Living in Colorado, I hiked more days than not. I went as far as I could, as high as I could. I sat at the top where the only sound I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears and the wind twirling and swirling around me. I thought about all aspects of my life, thought about my past and present, about where I was going. I felt so clearheaded.

Hiking, putting one foot in front of the other, climbing up and up and up, made the world make sense. I saw these mountains that couldn’t be tamed in front of me, and I sat alongside them. I sat within them, feeling their pulse in a way that I can never put properly into words.

Life became full of possibilities. Which peak would I climb to next? Which mountain would make my heart sing that day? It became a beautiful symphony of longing and conquering. Wanting and doing.

The more I climbed, the less pictures I took. But it wasn’t always that way.

In the beginning, I was infatuated with getting the perfect shot. Making sure the composition was just right, the lighting was where I wanted it to be, the colors setting each other off in just the right way.

I put them up on social media, showed them off to the world as if to say, “Look what I did!” But more so, “Look at this picture, isn’t my life perfect?”

I was obsessed. I spent more time on my hike thinking about what I wanted to portray than actually looking around me. How could I make sure that everyone who follows me will like it?

Then, my roommate Miranda gave me a disposable camera and I made a promise to myself.

I would only take one picture, and I would take it as soon as I got to the top so I wouldn’t think about it while I was up there. No longer would the obsession be about the perfect picture, but it would be about enjoying the view at the top.

This was in 2016. I had honestly put this disposable camera in the back of my mind, had pretty much forgotten about it until a week ago, when I was cleaning out an old dresser and I found it. I was so excited.

I got them developed and wanted to show them to the world, but I wanted each one to carry their weight of the impact they had on my life. I wanted them to tell the story of each hike, of each peak.

Because these weren’t just pictures of mountains, they were a souvenir of a hike that I had done, that I had struggled through, that I felt my lungs burning, felt my legs getting stronger with each step. They were moments in my life that were important, that will always remind me of that winter.

I’ve traveled many places, I’ve seen so many faces, I’ve experienced so many beautiful things, but this winter, this was the winter that I became who I am today.

Living At The Foot of the Rockies

Grandeur. Jagged. Raw. Unforgiving. Relentless. Awe-inspiring.

These are some of the many words that come to mind when I think about where I live. I work seasonal employment and so I am lucky to live in some of the most beautiful places in the US and it allows me to afford to travel the world (read about that here). I am currently living in Estes Park, Colorado at the YMCA of the Rockies and our campus sits at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. We are surrounded by all sides by these incredible peaks, and as a friend lovingly refers to it as “our cereal bowl of mountains”.

I wish that I could put into words what it feels like to be encompassed by these mountains, by these unrelenting and absurdly large creations. These mountains, they’re like something bigger than you can imagine, bigger than you can grasp. You stand at their base, you stare up at them and think about all those who have summited and how incredible that is but also…how tiny they are in comparison. These lives of these people, while great and mighty, are so infinitesimally small compared to the mountains that have stood, watching for generations and generations and generations. Years and thousands and millions of years, they have stood, just watching.

It’s only when I’m climbing them, do I become finely aware of their grandeur. Living within walking distance to over 12 peaks, I hear so often, “Oh yeah, the mountains, you kind of forget they’re there.” To which I’m always stunned. How? How on earth do you forget about these beautifully raw souls. When I see these mountains, I see their peaks and crevices and their hills and their rocks and their boulders and their outlines sharpened against the sky. I see a being. A being greater than I can imagine, a living soul that is calling out to me.


The longer I stay here, the more I find others who hear that same call. The Rocky Mountains speak to you in a way that I’ve never been able to replicate elsewhere. I don’t feel the same pull as I do when I think of Eagle Cliff and CCY. Even when I’m thousands of miles away, I can still see their outline, I can still feel the rocks sliding beneath my feet as I scramble my way to the top. I can feel my lungs burning as I climber higher and higher.

And once you get to that peak…I can’t even explain the serenity and calm that comes over you. Being able to sit atop that mountain and see further into the park and to see just the scores and scores of mountains, layered upon one another. It’s unearthly and at the same, I never feel more connected to the earth than I do at that moment. I feel my breath coming in and out of my lungs, I hear my heartbeat in my ears, drumming to a song that I’ve known my whole life, and I feel steady. Clarity encompasses me and the peace that I find within myself in all-powerful.

I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but here at this current moment. These mountains, they’ve become my family, my home, and I’m appreciative every single day.

How I Afford To Travel The World

Probably the number one question I get asked when it comes to my travels is, “How do you afford it?!” Since I work seasonal employment, it’s not exactly the most profitable field, and therefore I shouldn’t be traveling as much as I do. But, the answer lies in the details. As a former travel agent, I have a few tricks of the trade that have helped me throughout the years and as I travel more, I have gained a few tricks of my own. 

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I scour websites like Momondo and Skyscanner and STA travel and Student Universe, and I’m not picky. When I bought my ticket to Japan, I originally had no idea of where I wanted to go. I used the “Take Me Anywhere” feature on Momondo, and found my $378 round trip ticket to Tokyo. I didn’t really have any interest in going to Japan, but at a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Being flexible allows more doors to open and better flights to pop up. If you have one particular place in mind, chances of finding the “perfect” flight at a stellar price are pretty slim. But, if you go into it with no expectations of where you’re going, there are some absolutely phenomenal flights out there to places that are super up and coming.

Save. Everything. Since I work seasonal jobs, my bills are almost non-existent. Most of my contracts offer me food and housing, so I can save nearly everything I make instead of having to pay for rent and utilities and car insurance and car payments and and and…While this isn’t the case for a lot of people, when I worked a “normal 9-5”, I was putting 20-25% of my paychecks away for future travels.

Because I’m committed to traveling as much as I can, I was willing to sacrifice a few nights out with friends or going out to dinner or splurging on a new outfit if it meant that I could take a helicopter ride in Iceland or order an extra bottle of wine in Venice or stay in the hotel that I had been looking at for years online. While 25% is steep, you can always adjust that to whatever you’re comfortable with.

I have a Round-The-World trip planned for this September and just about everything I’m making is going towards tickets, hostels, excursions, food, drinks, etc. It’s sometimes hard to debate with yourself as to whether saving is worth it when there are so many things going on right now, but it always pans out well. 

Be Diligent. Once you’ve found an area or a location that has captured your heart, and clouded all your daydreams, sign up for fare alerts, check up on the price when you can, and check fare predictors. (Skyscanner and Student Universe both have pretty reliable ones.) Word of Caution: a lot of these third-party sites that offer lower rates usually use cookies, and if they see that you’re checking the same flight over and over, they’re likely to raise the price solely because they know you’re interested. To avoid this, turn off your cookies while browsing or browse in private mode. 

Travel on Tuesdays. If you’re traveling internationally, try to book your flight for a Tuesday and search for your flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to lower their prices to match competition on Monday nights, so you’re going to find cheaper flights on these days. Try to avoid searching for flights on weekends, as the prices are usually inflated. As for traveling on Tuesday, fares are usually less expensive than say, Sunday afternoon. 

Book Your Trip During The Shoulder Seasons. Shoulder seasons are the month(s) before and after peak travel times; think April, September, October. While you might miss out on the best weather, shoulder seasons are much cheaper both airfare wise and expenses during your stay. Hotels and exclusions are usually less too. And shoulder seasons tend to have less crowds, which is always a plus. 

Think Outside The Box When It Comes To Lodging. Hotels. They can be so, so expensive. Think about staying in hostels, Airbnb’s, or couch surfing. If you’re dead set on staying in hotels, try, they have a fantastic rewards program where for every 9 nights you book through them, you get 1 night free. Which adds up so quickly. Plus, once you sign up, they “unlock secret prices”, which is usually $5-25 off the listed price. 

Pack Light. Luggage fees are getting more and more exorbitant. Airlines like Spirit and Frontier make a large majority of their profit from fees and last time inchecked, luggage fees for Frontier were upwards of $65. That’s as much as a ticket! Try to pack what you can into a carry-on and your personal item, not only are you saving on luggage fees but you’re also saving yourself from having to schlep around a ton of luggage. 

Don’t Be Intimidated By All-Inclusive. I have to admit, I was not at all keen on the idea of any trip I took to have the words “all inclusive” anywhere near them. I felt like it was cheating, or there had to be some sort of catch. But, when I found an all-inclusive trip on Living Social to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for $250, I was intrigued. It included lodging, food, drinks, and an excursion (I went ATV’ing on a volcano 💁) and it was so worth it. I didn’t have to worry about constantly having money with me, and I was still able to leave the lodge and walk around the town and get a sense of the local culture. 

Honestly, traveling is as much of a priority as you make it. If you’re bound and determined to see as much of the world as possible, you want to make it happen and you’ll do what it takes to see it come to fruition. If you’re okay with a vacation a year, that’s awesome too, we all have different priorities and it’s your life to live. 

I travel as much as I do because it’s probably my number one priority. It’s what I’m always thinking about, it’s what I save for, it’s my therapy and my escape. I’m so very lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family who lets my wanderlust take over and they’re there for me every step of the way. 

Travel is as achievable as you want it to be. Go forth, my dears. 

What To Pack: A Month in Japan Edition

A/N: Within this post are affiliate links to products that I believe in and actually use.

I decided one day that I needed something, anything to distract me from the seasonal lifestyle. I’ve been jumping job to job to job with no break for over 2 years; mind you, I’m not complaining in the slightest. I work in the most beautiful locations, I meet incredible people and I have some of the most amazing experiences, but I just hadn’t had over a week of in 2 years: I needed a vacation.

I searched for the cheapest flight to anywhere in the world and I managed, somehow, to find a round-trip ticket from LAX to Tokyo for $378. How? I got so very lucky. And once I found that fare, I kept a close eye on it until I was ready to buy. Here are the sites I normally scour to find great deals. I had never really had an interest in traveling to Asia whatsoever, but I can’t turn down that price tag.

So I left my job in Lake Tahoe when my contract ended, and I knew that I would be alone in Japan for a month, what the hell was I going to bring?

My itinerary was a rough outline at best. I had plans on stopping to see two friends and I knew I was flying into Tokyo, but other than that, I had no idea what I would do. With that in mind, I stated doing some research. My friend, Miranda lived in Tokamachi, which is in the Northern region of mainland Japan. As it was November/December, it would be cold, if not snowing. My other friend, Moose, lived outside of Hiroshima in Ube, which is in the Southern region of mainland Japan, a warmer climate.


So I needed to pack for all seasons. Neat.

I was using my High Sierra Appalachian 75 L bag that I had gotten on a season’s end clearance. I knew it could hold as much as I needed to but I didn’t want to over pack in case I was to find something I wanted to bring home.

In my bag I ended up packing:

  • 3 pairs of pants (2 black leggings, 1 pair of jeans)
  • 5 shirts (1 long sleeved, 1 t shirt, 1 “nice” shirt, 2 tank tops)
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • Toiletries (dry shampoo, mascara, moisturizer, deodorant)
  • So many socks. So many.
  • Eno Hammock with straps (in case money ran low and I needed somewhere to sleep)
  • Leather-bound journal (which I wrote in every single day, really helped me remember small details that I may have otherwise forgotten.)

As I traveled through the country, I tried not to buy too many souvenirs until my last day because I knew I would have to carry everything on my back. It was the perfect weight for me personally, I think at it’s heavies it was 28 pounds, but I knew I could go heavier if I needed to.

Japan is still one of the most diverse and culturally rich places I’ve ever been to and I know that I’ll go back someday, I hope this packing list helped!