A November Day in the North Cascades

Forest green, fog, crisp air, muddy shoes, blue water, grey sky, flannels & wool socks, rocky pathways, snow capped mountains, evergreen trees: things I identify with growing up in Washington. After a recent trip with two long time friends, Warren and Giana, I realized it had been way too long since I've adventured out of the city and seen what Washington really has to offer.

I love Seattle and the city vibes, but I crave the moments and places that make me feel most alive, and those are outdoors for me. You know the moments in life that completely dwarf you? Or the places with views your eyes can't simply get enough of? I experienced these while overlooking Diablo Lake for the first time. I was so small and encompassed by so much natural beauty, and for the first time in a long time, I felt perfectly content; a feeling that I too often struggle with reaching.

Spending the entire day with these two people also made me experience something I hadn't in awhile. Warren is my longest friend and was my brother's childhood best friend. Since my brother became sick, Warren has been really the only friend that stuck by his side and continued to care for him. Many times I don't think about my childhood or remember the good times with my brother when he was well, but time with Warren reminds me of these. And Giana is one of younger sister's best friend since 7th grade. Her family was my sister's rock through many of our hard times growing up and I'll forever consider her a second younger sister. These two remind me of where I come from and I'm so thankful to have them still in my life.

Here are a few photos taken by Warren Marshall Photography from our adventure and a little video he put together. I'm absolutely amazed at how talented he is and how far he's come with this passion. And Giana is just effortlessly gorgeous and too much fun to work with. Hope you enjoy! Xx

  

Check out more of Warren's work and his blog from this day here.

La Push

The weather is finally starting to heat up, which means it's time for Seattleites to break out their sunglasses and begin planning fun outings to take advantage of the sun! I wanted to take a minute to share with you all one of my all time favorite adventures I've been on in the Northwest. Cj and I traveled to the western coast of the Washington Peninsula a while back to visit the famous La Push beach.

I've seen some amazing beaches in my life, but La Push has to be one of my all time favorites. Not only is the destination breathtaking, but the drive there is so enjoyable with the amazing scenery Washington has to offer. Be sure to take a whole day to devote to adventure around the area, as there are several beaches and areas within La Push to check out. Cj and I spent our time frolicking around Second Beach, which is the most secluded and romantic.

So wake up early, pack a picnic, grab a camera, friend, or a book and be sure to take a whole day to escape to this incredible oasis!

Here are some amazing photos taken by Cj, as well as a vlog he put together of our trip. Enjoy! Xx

IMG_2365.JPG
IMG_2343.JPG

Young Love in a New City

Imagine spending six months in one of the most beautiful places on earth: falling in love with new cities, exploring the best beaches, eating amazing foods, meeting the nicest of people, and adventuring to your hearts content. The definition of paradise. Now imagine doing it all with your best friend. 

I’ve been home from Australia for just two weeks now and am beginning to question if the last six months of my life ever even happened. Until I look at Cj, everything becomes real again, and all I can do is smile and think of how insanely happy I am for what we got to experience, together. 

Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and happy days, but everyday meant something. Whether it was through discovering our new favorite burger joint, the hours spent arguing due to inevitable differences, sailing through tropical islands, or mending uneasy feelings, everyday we grew as individuals and as a couple.  

Moving out from our parents and taking on a new life all the way on the other side of the world has been the greatest lesson we’ve ever been given. We were forced to live, compromise, and love in ways we otherwise never would have. If any couple is looking for the next step in their relationship, traveling will do wonders.

I am so thankful for this incredibly strong, adventurous, hilarious, and caring man who encourages me to chase my dreams and do what I love and does the same for himself.  

As far as these beautiful photos go...

Isn't it wonderful how small the world seems sometimes? I’ve had so many moments where I’ve been taken back, and thought “wow, this was meant to happen; this MUST be fate.” Meeting Athena Grace was one of those moments.

Athena so kindly hosted Cj and I around Sydney and took the loveliest photos of us while doing it. She has one of the most kindest souls I have ever met and a serious eye for creativity and beauty. Shooting with her was in a way therapeutic and by far the most unique, intimate, and overall amazing shoot I've ever been on.

If ANY couple is EVER looking to capture genuine moments together, I can't express enough this is your girl. Thank you Athena! Cj and I walked away feeling even more in love with each other and with Sydney. 

Australia: The 411

The Down Low on Down Under

 

Lately I've been getting several people asking me what exactly I've been doing the last five months and how exactly I've been doing it. I realize this blog post is probably long overdue, and I apologize.

As many of you already know, I am living in Sydney, Australia and have been here for roughly five months now (wow time flies!). I am here on a student exchange program through the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. I previously studied abroad in Italy, which fired my urge to travel and inspired me to take an even bigger leap: an exchange program. Essentially, I "transferred" schools for a semester. I attended the University of Sydney, where I took business classes equivalent to those offered at UW, which will then transfer to my transcript back home. The program is completely independent in the sense that I came here alone, without the guide of a UW staff member. I just finished my finals and I am now enjoying the insanely lovely Australian summer before returning back home to Seattle for Christmas.

It's been an unreal experience that my boyfriend, Cj, came with me. Because the program is so independent, Cj and I treated it as the chance for the two of us to move to Australia for six months while he worked and I studied. It's been a huge step for the both of us since, not only is it the first time either of us would move out from our parents and live completely on our own, but it is also the first time we’ve lived together as a couple, and we’re doing it HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD.

So far I hope that covers what we're doing. Now the more important part: How are we doing it.

As far as visas go, I am on a student (temporary) (class TU) Non-awarded Sector (subclass 575) visa which I applied for through the Australian government website. Cj applied for a holiday working visa, which granted him a year in Australia in which he could only work for a single company for six months. Expecting it to be hard process, he applied a few months before we were due to leave but he was granted it the very next day! He did not have a job set up before going, or an employer sponsoring him to come over, so we were pretty surprised at show easy it was for him to get his visa. He applied through the same site I did for my student visa. Each one cost roughly $400.

I'm sure many of you are also wondering financially how we made it happen and how we've been surviving. Money is a HUGE part of traveling and it's probably the main reason why more of us aren't packing our bags and heading on the next flight to paradise. If you know me at all, and you know my family situation and where I come from, you've probably been scratching your head wondering how the heck I've been able to travel the amount I have been. If you don't know, I come from a very broken and delicate family, with little to no income. That's honestly and truly where God, hard work, and the generous hearts of others have come in. Through school, I receive grants and loans, which cover all my tuition, and leave me with a significant amount of cushion money for living and food. I also received a grant/loan from one of my mom's incredibly generous friends, Darol Tuttle. Without his help I honestly don’t think I’d be here. So thank you Darol!! Cj and I both worked full time and part time jobs before leaving, which allowed us to each save around $3000 (after paying for flights, visas, and other pre-travel expenses).

Flight costs can be a big entry barrier traveling to Australia. We booked our flights two months before leaving and booked a one-way. At the time, direct flights to Sydney were around $900. We found buying a flight to Hawaii for $300 and then Hawaii to Sydney for $400 would be $200 cheaper and would allow us a much needed rest in between flying. We booked Jetstar originally, which is definitely one of the cheaper airlines, however it got delayed and we luckily got upgraded to a Quantas flight, which was by far the most enjoyable airline I’ve ever flown with.

Once in Sydney, reality hit us. We blew through a few thousand dollars within the first month, hopping hotel to hotel, eating out, and trying to find an affordable apartment that would suit us. There are plenty of shared living options (you can find people renting out rooms on flatmates or gumtree), which are way more affordable and I would highly recommend to anyone traveling alone. The reason Cj and I didn’t lock down on a place to live before leaving was because we wanted to explore the area first, make sure it was close to my school, good places to work close by, and the place would be enjoyable for 6 months. If you have a good amount of money to support you for the first few months without a job then I’d recommend what we did, because we eventually found a place in the most perfect location and that we’re both very happy with. We live in a unit just off Harris Street in Ultimo, a five-minute walk to Darling Harbor and 10 minutes to CBD and my school. We pay $410 a week (it horrendous, we know) for a studio and we found it on a real estate site.

Once we found a place to live, which took a month, Cj began applying for jobs. It can be difficult finding one due to the visa conditions (most big companies want people who can stay longer than six months) so keep that in mind when applying. There are TONS of café or nanny positions that are more casual and pay under the table.

As far as food, we’ve budgeted $100 a week for grocery shopping. They have an amazingly cheap grocery outlet called Aldi, which is originally from Europe I think (totally a guess) and you can get pretty much all your food from there. There is also The Reject Shop, which offer discounted home supplies that were unsuitable to be sold in other retailers (but trust me you cant tell the difference) and is where Cj and I get most of our bathroom, kitchen, and grooming goods.

Eating out can get very pricey. Tipping is not a thing here (which I wish someone would have told us before coming here because we struggled with this the first few weeks). For almost anywhere, I’d budget about $20 per person for a single meal and $6 for a drink. Buying food is my biggest weakness so yes we have eaten out a lot but it’s almost impossible not to with the amount of great restaurants in Sydney.

Keep in mind; the exchange rate between USD and AUD is about .75 right now so if you come with a lot of American money it will go a long way. For instance, I paid for our rent with the American money I left with, so $410 a week in AUD was really only $307 USD a week. Thank God for favorable exchange rates!

I hope this has helped clear things up and given you some insight into exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. If you’re interested in knowing anything more in deeper details feel free to message or email me and I’d love to answer what I can.

And to anyone considering doing an exchange through school, or simply wishing to move to Australia for a few months to work, all I can say is life’s short and in the words of a true Australian, “give it a go!” 

Hawaii

I cannot believe it has already been three months since Cj and I boarded a flight and began our journey to spend the next five months of our lives in Australia. So far the trip has been nothing short of amazing. 

 Along the way, we decided to stop in Honolulu for a week-long layover. Being somewhat of a penny-pincher, I would never have dreamed we would have had the opportunity to spend a week in Hawaii, especially since we were about to move to one of the most expensive places to live (Seriously prices in Sydney are no joke.) However, we actually saved $300 each by buying a one way ticket to Honolulu and then a one way from Honolulu to Sydney, versus just buying a one way from Seattle to Sydney! So it only seemed reasonable to take advantage of the money we saved and make a vacation out of it. And thanks to Cj's lovely Grandma, she helped us find an affordable hotel right on Waikiki Beach. It was also a great way to break up the otherwise 21 hour flight. 

This was my first time on any of the Hawaiian Islands. I usually don't associate super touristy places as "paradise" but I completely fell in love with the island life even while being in one of the most touristy cities. I think a lot of it had to do with being with Cj. He's great at finding the most beautiful places and making anywhere a romantic adventure. 

Day 1

We arrived in Honolulu around 4:30pm, where Cj surprised me with a hawaiian lei and an already booked shuttle to our hotel. After checking in, we grabbed some burgers and drinks and then walked the beach. Our shuttle driver mentioned the famous Leonard's Bakery for some of Hawaii's best Malasadas. Being the foodies we are, we had to start the trip off right so we spent the rest the evening walking to the bakery where we devoured an entire box on the side of the road.

IMG_0523.JPG

Day 2

Cj and I have this thing with huge surprises and going all out on each others birthdays. It just so happen that we would be in Hawaii for his birthday this year so I knew I had the chance to do something awesome. I found Kualoa Ranch a few weeks before our trip and guys...this place is amazing!! If you're ever in Oahu YOU HAVE TO GO! They have so many fun activities to do and the staff is some of the nicest people I've met. Not knowing much about it, I booked Cj and I for a Zip lining tour and Catamaran ride off the coast of their secret island. 

The scenery around this place is unlike anything I've ever seen. And I guess it's what they're known for since it's a huge location for movie sets including Jurassic Park, Lost, and 50 First Dates. I had no idea, so it was a surprise for both of us when our ride up to the zip lines led us through the valley where the sets were.

Zip lining was SO much fun and our guides made the whole experience so enjoyable. I'm a bit of an adrenaline junky so this was right up my ally. At first it was a little wet and rainy which I thought would put a damper on the day but everything ended up being perfect.

After, we grabbed lunch at their restaurant (which was excellent. They use grass fed cattle straight from their ranch) we then headed to our next destination. I kept everything a surprise to Cj throughout the day so it was great to see his reaction as we went. We took a small boat ride across a river onto their secret island. Here, I took Cj on a Catamaran ride into the ocean where we saw sea turtles and the most amazing blue colored water.

Day 3

We woke up early (which is rare for the two of us) and hiked Diamond Head. This is probably one of the easier hikes we've done, however the heat made it twice as difficult! The view from the top is amazing of the city and the colors of the ocean are unreal.

After our hike, we refueled with shaved ice and grabbed a bus back to our hotel. Later in the day we ventured through the city and got dinner at a place our shuttle driver recommended. 

Day 4

Being our second to last day in Hawaii, we packed as much as we could into the day. We woke up and started the day out right: breakfast burritos on the beach. We then decided to rent bikes to a more secluded beach north east of Waikiki. This has to be one of the best ideas we had the whole trip. The bike ride along the coast of the island was magical! (granted it was a million degrees out and I fell and scrapped my hands and knees up).  

We followed Kahala Ave up to Waialae Country Club where we found Kahala Beach. It was a perfect spot to layout and relax in the sun without a mass of people and the water was a lot calmer than at Waikiki Beach, which made it a great spot to swim.

We heard there was a hotel close by which had a pool with dolphins in it so of course we had to check it out. It saddened me to see the dolphins contained in a pool for people's amusement, however it was the closest I'd ever been to a dolphin before so it was incredible to see one in real life. The walk from the beach to the hotel had the coolest palm trees and even more great spots to layout.

By the time we got home we were completely exhausted! Cj had a great idea to sneak into the Waikiki Sheraton Hotel infinity pool (which is a lot easier than we thought. It's on ground floor and you can just walk in). We had originally wanted to stay in a place with this kind of pool but when the money's tight, improvise. The pool was so dreamy and we got there right in time to enjoy the sunset, which was absolutely beautiful!

Day 5

Cj's feelin 22! Being in Hawaii and getting to do all that we did was incredible, and getting to spend Cj's birthday while we were there made it even more memorable. Cj has a favorite breakfast spot in Honolulu, called Lulu's, which he found the last time he was on the island with his grandma a few years back. We enjoyed eggs benedict from a balcony table over looking the beach. Afterwards, Cj rented a surf board and spent an hour in the ocean trying to catch some waves, while I laid out. After a while he traded in his surf board and we both got boogie boards. I don't know how people use those things. We probably spent hours trying to catch a wave into shore, and failed every time. But you know it's a good time when you're both crying from laughter.

We spent the rest of the evening getting ready for a luau for Cj's birthday dinner, because what's a trip to Hawaii without a luau! The entire experience was so much fun and the greatest thing that could have happened, happened: Cj got pulled up on stage by a hula girl to hula dance in front of everyone, and yes I have video footage! 

We ended our night, and the trip, with one last visit to Leonard's. We took the fresh hot box of custard filled pastries back to the beach and enjoyed every sugary bite while listening to the waves crash in the dark. To say it was the perfect vacation is an understatement.