Thank You

It is now the end of my study abroad adventure in Australia. As I reflect on all of the amazing opportunities that I was given over the last four months, there are many people that are deserving of the greatest thank yous, as this dream never would have been possible without you.

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Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands

I’m so sad you never got to see one of my favorite beaches in Australia, but know that I was thinking of you the whole time I was there. There are so many things to thank you for in regards to my study abroad experience that I’m not sure a single photo or post will cover it all. Thank you for raising me to be strong and positive when life does not always go as planned, teaching me to be grateful for everything God blesses upon me, for teaching me finances so I had somewhat of a clue of what I was doing and how to budget, and for accepting my sometimes risk taking behavior. Allowing your daughter to travel halfway across the world to live on her own for four months is brave and I can imagine difficult, and I will be forever thankful to you for allowing me to do all that I have done, knowing that it would make me a better person in the end. Please know that wherever I go, I will always come home to you, I love you the most always and forever. ❤

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Elephant Rock, Currumbin

Dad, your support and unconditional love mean the world to be, and I can never thank you enough for all that you have done for me and taught me over the years. Your travel advice from your young travelling days always made me smile. Thank you for appreciating my travel stories that no one else really cares about, for encouraging me to take every adventure and challenge I could, and for allowing me travel halfway across the world to find myself again. You always have more faith in me than I do in myself, and when you are doing something like study abroad, having that person in your corner that trusts you will do great things gives you courage that cannot be put into words. Thanks for also giving me cooking classes over the phone and trying to help me maneuver my way around an unfamiliar grocery store, I might have only eaten four months of pasta if it wasn’t for you.

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Gold Coast Titans Rugby Game

If it weren’t for you, I would have absolutely no clue what rugby is or how it is played. I mean, I still pretty much just watch a game wide eyed and confused, but at least I understand the spirit that correlates with the sport after watching your passion for it over the years. Your encouragement and willingness to listen to all of my stories, whether significant or pointless has been a key factor in keeping my sane during this trip. Thank you for always protecting me and watching over me, but also supporting me when I leave my comfort zone.

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Sand Dunes, Moreton Island

Lew, you’ve been one of my most talked about people on this trip. I’ve missed you terribly; I rely on my memories of you always trying to make others laugh with no filter. As I have found myself often meeting strangers here and asking for help, I think of how you would handle the situation and the kindness you share towards others and ability to befriend practically anyone. In Moreton Island, we went sand tobogganing over a huge desert full of sand dunes, which I know would have been your own playground with your bulldozer. I took advantage of everything free and always ate dessert, and maybe brought you home a few Aussie biscuits 🙂

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South Melbourne Markets

I wish more than anything that you could have made it to Australia. You would love all of the beaches, botanic gardens, and endless street markets. Thank you for sharing your love for crafts and gardening with me, as I took a huge appreciation for them while I was here. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my dreams, and for making my days a little better with your Valentine’s Day mail.

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Moreton Island

First off, I have to thank you for supporting me as I chased my dream, even if it meant missing your last semester at UNH. I wish I could have been at both places at once, but I’m confident you will be back for Libby’s dates next year J As my fellow beach lover, I know you can understand what being able to travel around the ocean meant for me. The sea is where we both find the answers we search for and discover more about ourselves, and even overseas I know we have the ocean connecting us. You make me the proudest little and I can’t wait to see all the places you will go.

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Great Ocean Road, Victoria

My lovely littles!! I have missed you both so much and wish I could have packed you in my suitcases and brought you with me. Your Snapchats always made my day and I was so happy to hear from you whenever I did. With Shannon being ready for any adventure, and Lauren being a fellow beach lover like me, the Great Ocean Road would have been an ideal big/little road trip location. Thank you for all of your support, I can’t wait for the adventures we will have together in the next few years! 🙂

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Skydive Byron Bay

The majority of my adventures have been with you two stooges. 7 years ago, we made the idea of skydiving in Switzerland for our 18th birthdays. Unfortunately we never quite made it there, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do the highest skydive jump in Australia while I was here. I can’t help but think that I never would have decided to skydive if it wasn’t for your two inspiring minds. You guys are what made Australia so amazing last time and your willingness to go on any adventure when posed with one gave me the courage and inspiration to make it back to our land down under. Thank you for being a part of my life changing adventure at 13, and for helping me reach where I am today.

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Hamilton Island, Whitsundays

Who knew I would be able to find a gazebo down under in one of my favorite places? Well, obviously I immediately thought of you thought this would have been your favorite place in Australia. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have gone through with studying abroad if it was not for your unconditional encouragement. Applying for study abroad and all of the logistics that go into the trip prior to boarding the plane are stressful and overwhelming, and whenever I got discouraged or lost sight of what the ultimate goal was, you were there to remind me why I started all of this in the first place. Four months a part was difficult at times, but it was all worth it when I got to see you again on my first day home. Thank you for helping me chase my dreams, love. 🙂

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Brighton Beach, Melbourne

It breaks my heart that People to People is no longer running programs. My People to People experience in 2009 was one of the bet decisions I ever made. From an early age it gave me a sense of independence and thirst for adventure. Thank you for giving me a three-week taste of such a beautiful country that led me to return and call it home for four months. Most importantly, thank you for introducing the Budden Family into my life, opening me up to Australian family culture. Without P2P, the dreams I have for my life might not be the same, and I might have never had the urge to study abroad or go to Australia.

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Mount Cougal National Park, Gold Coast

I reckon that all of my challenge days and discussions on reaching beyond your comfort zone are what encouraged me to embark on this journey the way I did. I sought out challenge after challenge, trying to consistently step outside of my comfort zone. Leaders School taught me the benefits that accompany new experiences and taking risks, as well as the growth one experiences when accomplishing a challenge. I knew if I went through study abroad the way I live when at Leaders School, then I would return home with a new perspective on life and return a better person than when I left. Without your lessons on how to be an adventurous leader and encouragement to follow my goals, my time abroad might have been wasted. Thank you for giving me the tools to help me make the most of my adventure of a lifetime, and I cannot wait to come home to Branch Lake and share my stories.

 

 

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Hamilton Island, Whitsundays

Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat, even down under! Thank you to the UNH study abroad office for all of your help and advise on choosing a program, financial budgeting, and keeping me safe abroad. This is also a shout out to all of my friends at UNH that took the time to figure out the time difference to Skype, the faculty that helped me figure out class registration and housing for this upcoming year when I was unable to do so, and the HDFS and History departments for allowing me to take such interesting classes while abroad that definitely expanded my knowledge in my two fields.

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Moreton Island

Last but not least, thank you to the Education Abroad Network for putting together such an incredible program, allowing me an unforgettable orientation in Sydney, free chocolate and coffee on numerous occasions, and a trip of a lifetime to Fiji that never would have been possible without you. I spent at least five hours on the phone with program coordinators prior to leaving with lots of (and sometimes small and pointless) questions and concerns about what studying abroad would entail, and I appreciate all of your help and support along the way.

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It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

Seven years ago, I made a promise to a very special family and myself that I would see them again one day. On the last weekend of my study abroad experience, I made this dream come true. 🙂

One of the major reasons why I decided to study abroad in Australia was because of my incredible experience with People to People’s Student Ambassador program, which I participated in for three weeks in 2009. During that trip I had a homestay for three days with a family in Coffs Harbor. Over that three-day period, the Buddens became a second family to me. I still cannot put into words how we got as close as we did in such a short amount of time, but to this day saying goodbye to them has been one of the hardest goodbyes of my life.

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Bronte, Tyler, Deb and I in 2009

I did not want that to be a forever goodbye, and ever since I have saved and worked to make it possible to return back to Australia to see them. After years of connecting through Facebook, I finally got to see Craig, Deb, Tyler, and Bronte in person.

When my flight landed in Coffs, I could not believe it was actually happening. I met Deb at the airport and we immediately started to cry as we embraced. My heart was full of happiness and it took me at least two hours to believe I was actually back with my host mum again, not just in a dream. As we drove home, I remembered some of the streets, and the house was still very much the same, and it felt like I was coming home.

Throughout the day I was reunited with Craig and Bronte, and soon enough those seven years seemed to vanish away and it felt just like yesterday we had said goodbye. However, one thing that had most certainly changed since the last time we saw each other was technology. Last time we were together, there were no iPhones or Snapchat, and social media was pretty much brand new to us. As I was showing photos of my adventures in Australia and of my home, I wished I had photos of my house and town that I could show them. Instead, I was able to use Google Maps to do a street view of my house and certain areas of my town, which was so unbelievable to have technology to bring our separate parts of the world closer together.

Throughout the weekend, the Buddens took me to gorgeous parts of Coffs Harbor, including the Promise Lands, Boambe Bay, and Belligen, as well as a small sunset hike over the harbor.

The weekend came and went all too quickly. When Sunday morning arose, I woke up with a knot in my stomach knowing that I had to say farewell once again to my second family. We enjoyed a nice brekky and shared some last stories before packing up and driving to the bus stop. When we arrived the bus was already there, limiting our goodbyes to only a few minutes. I feared this time may have been the final goodbye, as I had made the most of my four months in Australia, that I did not feel unfinished adventures still remained for me to come back for. However, I know over the next few years, we will be reunited again for special events in each other’s lives, and that we have more hellos in our future.

I am beyond blessed to have a story so amazing as this one. I have only spent seven days with these people throughout my entire life, yet they remain to be some of the most important people in my life.

Study Week pt 2: Melbourne

Early Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Tasmania and drove to the Launceston airport and headed out on our next adventure to Melbourne. We had a few hours to check into our apartment and grab some of Melbourne’s famous coffee before getting lost in the city trying to find our pick up for our Great Ocean Road Tour.

 

The Great Ocean Road is one of the best coastal drives in the world, spanning 270km. Our tour guide was great, teaching us about the history of building the road as well as about the coastal towns, and even some interesting facts about koala “mating” that I’ve tried to block out due to its grotesqueness.

 

Along the road we got to see wild koalas and see the 12 Apostles at sunset, which was breathtaking!

On our second day in Melbourne, we packed in everything we could by walking down Hosier Lane, a famous graffiti artist alley, traveling out of the city to St Kilda’s and Brighton Beach, some shopping and watching some street performances.

I was also lucky enough to catch dinner with my host-sister from seven years ago that recently moved to Melbourne! It was incredible being able to catch up with her before heading to Coffs Harbour to visit the rest of the Budden family (see next post).

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Overall, this week long travel excursion was an eye opening experience. We booked all of our accommodations and tours on our own, and overall everything went smoothly, which was a great sense of accomplishment.

“Study” Week

At Bond, students get a week off before finals to prepare, or as study abroad students like to think of it as a week to do last minute traveling before heading back home. Four of my friends and I decided to do a 5 day trip to Tasmania and three days in Melbourne, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had this sem!!

For some reason we tend to be a fan of tiny two gate airports, as we landed in Hobart easily being the smallest airport I’ve seen thus far. Tasmania is about as close to the Antarctic as you can get in Australia, so we said goodbye to our sunny and 25 degree weather and moved to windy and 10 degrees. When we arrived in Hobart it felt like a New England fall afternoon, which surprisingly was a nice change of scenery. We explored Hobart’s bay and found an Irish pup with $10 meals (which would turn out to be our healthiest and classiest meal all week). 

The next three days were packed with tours across Tasmania, including hidden beautiful beaches, Port Arthour, the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay, and a hike in Cradle Mountain.

Throughout these tours, our guides brought us to local shops for wine tastings, cheese tastings, and best of all, CHOCOLATE TASTINGS!! On our first day the girls and I were the first to spot the chocolate factory driving past it, and our guide responded “you American girls always seem to have a sixth sense for chocolate, you’re always the first to find it.” We laughed, and little did we know that the next four days we would end up at a chocolate factory every, single, day. 😍

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One of our favorite chocolate shops

On our last day in Tassie, we rented a car and drove to the Bay of Fires, stopping at yet another fudge store and a pancake bar as well as some hidden beaches along the way. Australians drive on the left side of the road, which at the beginning of my semester was a difficult adjustment. By this point though, driving on the left seemed to be the norm and was a pretty easy adjustment for us to make.

Stay tuned for the next post about our continued study week trip to Melbourne!

Family Aussie Experience

As the countdown to the end of the sem begins, finishing up final assignments and making the most of my final days on Gold Coast, finding time to write a blog post has been difficult. However, after an amazing two weeks with my family visiting they deserve a shout out 🙂

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All in all I think my family got the most of the Aussie experience you can get in two weeks!! We traveled to Fraser Island, held a koala, fed kangaroos, took a surf lesson, ate lots of Tim Tams, and visited Sydney. Not too shabby!!

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It was so much fun showing my family around some of my favorite places along the Gold Coast and Sydney as well as discovering new experiences with them.

After 2 and a half months I did not realize how much could change. My brother has decided on a college and making the most of his senior year of high school, my mom has become a work out superstar, and my dads in some of the best shape I’ve ever seen him (and has some even better jokes now). My family and I have never taken an adventurous trip like this before and after thriving on adventure for the last three months it was incredible to see them share those experiences with me, all of us stepping out of our comfort zones at one point or another.

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Mom and Zach taking their surf lesson!

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Curumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

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Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

The next few weeks coming up are going to fly by. This week is my last week of classes, then I leave for 10 days traveling across Tasmania, Melbourne, and Coffs Harbour to see my lovely P2P home stay family!! After that I have finals week and then it’s time to start heading home, with a stop in Fiji along the way. I can’t believe how quickly these four months have gone, so here’s to making the best of the 25 days I have left!!

The Lowes Go Down Under

The last few weeks have been filled with writing lots of papers, day trips around Gold Coast and Brisbane, attending a Gold Coast Titan’s Rugby game, planning final trips for the semester, and practicing for our first cheer performance at a Bond rugby game! And most importantly, the arrival of my family for a visit down under!!

Being a part of the cheer team at Bond has been very challenging and although only being a small commitment of having practice once a week it has been a large part of my study aboard experience. It is something way outside of my comfort zone every week and something I never thought I would be capable of doing in my lifetime. 

This weekend we performed our routine at the Bond rugby team’s opening season game. I was incredibly nervous but both performances went great and turned out to be so much fun!! Quickly into the routine the fear of messing up went away and I actually enjoyed my time dancing (who knew?)

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It also was pretty comforting to look up into the crowd and see my parents and brother there smiling back at me. They arrived in Australia at 7 am the morning of my game by coincidence of planning after not seeing them for over two months! I got to spend a little time with them that morning but seeing them in the crowd was still so surreal and incredible to be connected with them again and show them first hand one of the challenges I’ve taken on abroad.

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On the second day of their visit we took a tour to Mount Tamborine, one of the main attractions in Gold Coast. We started the for with a skywalk in the rainforest, which was breathtaking even in the rain!

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Next we spent the afternoon exploring the town in Tamborine, doing a beer and wine tasting and visiting a few shops along the way.

The next few weeks hold a lot of new adventures for my family and I and I can’t wait to explore my favorite place with them!!

Where I’m Moving If Donald Trump Wins

I am not writing to discuss any of my political views, or to even to share my opinion of Trump. This past weekend, me and four of my friends traveled to Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland, Australia. I can easily say it was the most beautiful place I have ever been! So, I’ve decided the best way to make light of a poor situation if, dare I say, Trump is elected as president of the United States, I’ll be packing my bags and transitioning to island life. If you find yourself looking for some place to go come November, here are a few reasons why Whitsundays might just be the place for you.

1) There are 54 islands in Whitsundays to choose from and find the one that fits you. Given most of them are left untouched, you could spend a day traveling to see all of them. My personal favorite was Daydream Island, the smallest island in Whitsundays with a resort on it. We were able to walk the entire island in two hours, passing through beautiful beaches, the largest outdoor aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere, a rainforest walk, and a boardwalk. Along the way we made friends with many wild wallabies, most just relaxing on the beach. We even passed the chapel and saw three wallabies hanging out on the outside of the chapel near the front, we assumed to get married. We claim witness, it was beautiful.

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Wild wallaby in the rainforest!

2) Since you only have to spend half a day in Daydream Island, you can spend the rest of the day at Hamilton Island. Hamilton has a large array of resorts, restaurants, a koala sanctuary which we unfortunately were unable to see, and beautiful scenic points over Whitsundays. Even with some rain in and out throughout the day, the views are still breathtaking.

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3) The water. Just look at the pictures. And imagine it 10x prettier.

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4) The Great Barrier Reef is right there! The Southern part of the Great Barrier Reef ends in Whitsundays, and it is gorgeous!! We spent the day out there snorkeling, taking a submerged underwater tour of the reef, and one of the best lunch buffets I imagine exist on a boat. While eating, we were greeted by a turtle popping his head up to say hi! Minus the birds that have no regret for pooping on you (to all of y’all who think my fear is irrational, even 3 hours out at sea they are evil), is an extraordinary experience.

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5) Whitsundays is also home to the 8th most beautiful beach in the world, Whitehaven Beach.

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6) Like legit, it’s flawless.

7) If a water pilot sees you and your friends taking constant photos in the water, he’ll offer for you to take a photo with the plane and pretend you are cool enough to fly in it even though it’s way out of your price range.

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8) You get to see all different types of sand, from crushed up coral where you can find tons of sea glass to silica sand on Whitehaven.

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Coral sand on Daydream Island

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Using the silica sand to exfoliate skin

9)You can spend 10 hours one day sailing on a bright purple Camira across the Whitsundays and get complimentary morning tea, open bar, and chocolate cake, while trying not to burn all of your skin off.

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10) Prawns are in endless supply anywhere you go to eat and they are delicious.

11) You lose service and wifi 95% of the time, so you get to focus on your beautiful surroundings and great company you are with. If you’re busy looking down at your phone, as we all have been caught doing at least a time or two, you wouldn’t spy this:

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So if this list and photos still haven’t convinced you that Whitsundays is perfect, maybe you should go visit yourself and see if that changes your mind. Thanks to STA Travel and Cruise Whitsundays and my amazing friends for the most perfect long weekend 💙

Finding Neverland

One of my absolute favorite moments of my time abroad was lying down on the beach in Moreton Island with friends and watching the stars. I wish I could take a photo to capture the beauty to share with you all but it’s a moment you have to be there to believe. I have my fair share of hidden spots to go to watch the stars back home, and I thought I had already seen the sky as bright and active as possible, but nothing compares to the sights you see on Moreton. Amongst our group, people saw at least four shooting stars (I was lucky enough to see one!!!). We found all sorts of constellations and even galaxies, and could see the stars moving across the sky like clouds. It was absolutely breathtaking.

The stars have always held a special place in my heart as they signify important memories to me. I can always find my 7th star, shining a little brighter than the rest, and know exactly who is there watching over me. Moreton Island reminded me so much of my favorite place at home – Saquish Beach – with the sand, the waves, no stores, outdoor showers, and the need for 4WD to get anywhere. I know Sammy and the rest of my Saquish family would have loved it here, so it is no surprise to me that I found him watching over. To look up that night on the beach and see Sammy’s star even halfway across the world reminded me that no matter where you are in the world, you are always connected to the ones you love. You don’t need technology or ways to communicate necessarily, there are pieces of nature that can connect you in much more powerful ways.

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The little Peter Pan lover in me also always goes searching for the second star to the right. Even though no one ever understands my logic, I know exactly where my Neverland is. When I was little, I had the biggest crush on the Peter Pan cartoon character; I planned our wedding, made anniversary cards for him, every imagination game you could think of. I kept a journal of our imaginary adventures together, and remember always having so much fun running around my room chasing away Captain Hook.

Now, against Neverland’s wishes of growing up, I’ve been given the opportunity to go out into the world and go on real adventures. Maybe they don’t involve chasing away pirates or finding burry treasure, but they bring just as much (if not more) excitement and challenge.

A Small Yet Ever-Changing World

Sorry to be so behind on these posts! As it is midterm weeks, it has been quite busy and the pace of classes has picked up fast!

A few weeks ago, I went to Moreton Island, right off the coast of Brisbane. When I came to Australia almost seven years ago now (yikes!) with People to People, this was one of my favorite places I visited. I knew a good amount of people from my program were going to Moreton for Valentine’s Day weekend, so I decided to go again!

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Sand Boarding Seven yard ago with my lovely stooges with People to People

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Back to the same place to sand board in 2016!

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Guess I’m still a fan of jumping pictures! PS Thanks to my study abroad provider TEAN for making all of this possible 🙂

Although it is a relatively small island, I swear 90% of what I saw was completely new. This time instead of staying at a resort, we camped alongside the beach, which I actually loved! In our short two days, we went snorkeling in the Tangalooma shipwrecks, hiked up Mt. Tempest, visited champagne pools, the Blue Lagoon, were driven around in 4WD, and went sand boarding. Even seven years later and different experiences, I even found two people who are best friends with people I had previously been to Moreton Island with in P2P! Doesn’t get much smaller of a world than that.

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I tend to be someone who returns to places or activities that I enjoy, rather than branching out to try new ones (Betucci’s kid’s focaccia going 9 years strong). However, this journey back to Moreton reminded me that no experience can ever be the same as the last. I saw different places with new friends, new values and perspective on the world, and new sense for adventure. I am thankful I had the chance to go back to one of my favorite places and fall in love with a different part of it all over again.

New Perspectives

Sometimes it takes 14,000 feet to try to gain a new perspective.

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This past weekend I had my first weekend trip while abroad to Byron Bay! With a couple of missteps along the way, I think the experience turned out to be quite a positive one. 
On our first day of travel, we rode a magic bus (which was oddly not that magical as it had no AC on a day when it was 95) down to Byron Bay. The ride included stops to Nimbin and a small swimming hole, only to be met by a Thunderstorm when arriving in Byron.

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The view from the most easterly point of Australian mainland in Byron Bay!

The weekend made a quick turnaround on Saturday where I finally went SKYDIVING!! Oddly enough, my Aussie adventure in 2009 with People to People did not seem enough at the time, so I planned my next adventure to be skydiving. Now I would like to think that in the last seven years I’ve had a bit of adventure, but I am happy to have finally achieved this goal I have held near and dear to my heart all these years. Usually when these types of dream are maintained for this long, hopes are typically higher than what reality can create. However, this adventure was better than I ever could have imagined!!

When we arrived at Byron Bay Skydive, it was cloudy and there was a chance of a storm. Although we were delayed an hour, my group and I were finally called to get suited up and ready to learn how to skydive. The view from the plane ride up alone was gorgeous, little did I know how much better the view becomes when you are free falling. The Byron Bay Skydive is the highest jump in Australia (sorry mom) with over 40 seconds of free falling before the parachute.

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As I watched the first two of my friends jump out of the plane, my nerves finally started to kick in. However, once the first person jumps out, the rest move pretty quickly. Once my tandem partner and I started moving out of our seat, I did not have much time to process what was going on, and within a few seconds, I was spinning out of the plane. The initial fall was one of the oddest sensations I have ever felt, but once we were stabilized and I got adjusted to the feeling, it became incredible!! I don’t think my smile wiped off my face for the rest of the day.

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This jump has meant a lot to me over the last seven years. There have been many ups and downs over the years, challenges that made jumping out of a plane sound easy. Particularly celebrating a special four year anniversary this week, I wanted to do this skydive to let go of those negative experiences. I am a huge believer in what doesn’t kill you indeed makes you stronger, and therefore I do not intend to forget the struggles my past is filled with. However, as I consistently challenge myself while in Australia and am working to shape myself for the future I want, I am gaining the strength to forgive those I have been reluctant to forgive, and no longer let my difficult experiences define who I am. I try to live a positive life and leave a positive impact on others, and in order to successful achieve these, I have realized I must focus my attention on the positive experiences of my life and try to see the silver lining in any event. During my free fall, I was the most present in the moment than I have ever been. I thought I would have all these different thoughts running through my head, but instead I was mindful of the experience.

Thank you to everyone who has gotten me to this point so far, and supporting me as I continue to stretch outside my comfort zone and look towards a more positive future.

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Landed safely! 🙂