A backyard escape

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I like to talk about how in my free time, I love to be outside. But if I’m being honest, here’s where you can find me a big chunk of the time: wistfully browsing breathtaking photos of faraway places on Pinterest, skimming articles on the trendy new travel destination, adding new spots in Sweden or Croatia or Alaska to an ever-growing mental bucket list. I’m daydreaming about the next spot on my list before I’ve even stepped off the return flight from the last one.

Part of this is an inevitable side effect of travel. It’s addictive. Anywhere you go, you’re bound to discover at least 10 more places you want to visit. There’s the local spot that you never knew existed until you visited the tourist destination nearby. And the city you never thought much about…until your hostel roommate gushed over for 20 minutes. Then there’s the places you’ve already been—but you just need to re-visit that tucked-away courtyard to sip the world’s best latte one more time.

Travel has the strange power to make you appreciate the comforts of home…while simultaneously making you itch to discover someplace new. It’s a part of the deal, and it’s fun to imagine where you might go next. Until it’s not.

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This land is our land: a love letter to our national parks

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A few months ago, I won an Instagram contest.

Let me just reiterate that for emphasis: I WON AN INSTAGRAM CONTEST!!! I don’t often win things, so it was pretty exciting.

The contest was from one of my favorite brands, Greenville-based The Landmark Project. They make gorgeous clothing and other goods inspired by the outdoors, and give a portion of their proceeds to helping at-risk teens through outdoor adventure. (Go ahead, click that link and check them out. I’ll wait. I should also clarify that I have no affiliation with this company whatsoever. I just really love their work!)

Anyway, on the National Park Service’s 100th birthday this summer, they ran this contest: re-post a photo of their line of national park graphics with a caption about why you love the parks for a chance to win a free T-shirt. The timing was perfect—Chris and I had just left on our two-month road trip, where we planned to visit 11 national parks (spoiler alert: we actually hit up 15!) This is what I wrote:

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One rainbow, hold the rain: day hiking to Peru’s “Rainbow Mountain”

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The glowing red clock at the front of the van read 2:14 a.m. Flashes of the outskirts of Cusco, Peru—streetlights, rows of cramped convenience stores, hand-painted ads on stucco walls—whipped past my periphery, punctuating the near darkness.

Circa-2013 pop music almost drowned out the sounds of our van rattling as it flew over pot holes and swerved around slower cars. I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the road straight ahead—instead of how fast we were going, instead of the tangle of apprehension and nausea growing in the pit of my stomach. I was utterly exhausted, but wide awake with nerves.

I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

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In solidarity

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I had a post ready to go today about a hike we did in Peru…but it just doesn’t feel right. I may not have anything new to add to the fray, but I can’t ignore the significance of this weekend for our country (and our world).

To put it simply, I have not been impressed with how our almost-45th president has acted in the days since his election. Based on everything we have seen throughout the past year, I do not believe that he is fit to lead our country with dignity and compassion. If I am wrong—and I hope I am—I will be be thrilled to shout it from the rooftops.

But if I’m not, I want it to be known that I do not support bigotry and hatred in our highest office. I won’t be able to attend a march this weekend, unfortunately. But I want the record to show that I stand in solidarity with those who march for unity tomorrow.

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Snow day nostalgia

We’ve officially been back in the states for more than three weeks now. In this in-between phase of my life, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home—my first home. The city where I was born and the house where I grew up. Good old Greensboro, North Carolina.

This is the longest stretch I’ve spent at home since I was 21 and fresh out of college. But when I walk into my childhood bedroom, it feels like almost nothing has changed. It isn’t a shrine, exactly, but it definitely hasn’t become a home gym or anything either—let’s just say that my mom has yet to be converted by Marie Kondo.

Basically, it’s like an archaeological site of personal history in there. Boxes full of old diaries detailing my 7th grade woes, old birthday cards, photos, trophies, yearbooks…the more you dig, the further back it goes. If I’m home for more than a few days, it’s inevitable that, at some point, I’ll get pulled in. I’ll open up a cabinet or peek under the bed in search of a book or a misplaced sock, and suddenly it’s two hours later and I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by elementary school assignments, simultaneously laughing and cringing at some horrible poem I wrote in the 2nd grade.

Nostalgia is the strangest feeling. Part longing, part relief of knowing the past will stay where it is—the comfort of perspective. Sometimes, like when I crack open that diary from 7th grade, I’m searching for that feeling—the indulgence and security of getting lost in unchangeable memories; the satisfaction of snapping back into the present and appreciating how much has changed.

Other times, nostalgia reaches out on its own and smacks me in the face.

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Friday favorites & feelings

“What was your favorite part?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question throughout the past two weeks. No shade to anyone who asked me—I would be eagerly asking you the exact same thing if our roles were reversed.

But man, is that a hard question to answer. Each time, I find myself completely overwhelmed with what to say. The first few times, I’m pretty sure I went with “Uhhhhhhh…oh my gosh. I don’t even know. There were so many things! I should have been more prepared for this question!” Eventually, I learned to throw out a few go-to highlights (hiking on a glacier in Patagonia; playing on sand dunes in Colorado; conquering a 17,000 ft. peak in Peru).

But do you want the honest truth? I still have NO IDEA what my favorite part of the last five months was. And the thought of whittling those experiences down into cohesive stories and sound bites is still overwhelming.

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My brain right now, trying to decide where to go from here.

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Saying goodbye to 2016

Well, hey there!

It’s been a much longer blogging hiatus than I planned—but we are officially back in the USA! The past week has been a blur. First, there was the crazy, wonderful holiday chaos of parties, baking, present-wrapping, and squeezing in as much time as possible with family and old friends in town for the holidays. Then, the inevitable post-holiday illness that resigned me to the couch for two days. Now, it’s our annual reunion with camp friends for the new year—and when we get back, it will officially be 2017.

I was planning to write a post with goals and resolutions for the new year….but honestly? I’ve never been much for new year resolutions anyway.

I just don’t love the pressure of it—the assumption that a new year is the only appropriate time to turn over a new leaf. Just one chance a year to work on improving yourself, that’s it! But what I do like is the opportunity that a new calendar year gives to look back and reflect on everything that’s happened in the past 365 days.

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