Halloween in Salem.

11.08.2017

For as long as I can remember, it's been a dream of mine to visit Salem, Massachusetts in October. As a Halloween baby, I grew up obsessed with the supernatural: ghosts, vampires, witches—you name it, I loved it. The stories I heard and the folklore I read about things that go bump in the night fascinated me. In high school and college, my hobbies included hanging out in picturesque graveyards and visiting haunted houses for fun. Sound morbid? Yeah, well, I wish I could say I was your typical Wednesday Addams, but sadly, I was never that cool.


You know what IS cool, though? The '90s. The 1990s gave us Britney & Justin, Nintendo 64, denim overalls, the best of the Olsen twins, the first Harry Potter book, the internet... I could go on for days. (As a product of the '90s myself, I'd argue I'm a little cooler than I thought.) But the best thing to ever come out of the grunge decade was hands-down the iconic classic Halloween comedy, Hocus Pocus. I loved it back in '93 as a two-year-old, and I love it now in 2017 as a twenty-something. In fact, if you know me at all, you know that it still plays on repeat in my house every year from October 1st to the 31st (much to my husband's dismay).

So you can imagine my delight when Scott and I, joined by my brother and his friend, found ourselves roaming the same streets on which Bette Midler, SJP, and Kathy Najimy terrorized children, formed calming circles, and broke out in spellbinding song. If I had to rate my level of excitement on a scale of life events, this trip fell somewhere in between getting married and landing in Europe for the first time.


But I'm getting ahead of myself; let me start from the beginning. To celebrate my 26th birthday, which happened to fall on the Saturday before Halloween, I planned a weekend trip to Salem for the four of us. Because of the town's bewitching history, Halloween is sort of a big deal. Tons and tons of people swarm the city from September to November every year in celebration of the spooky season, and this year, I was determined to be one of them. 

By the time I started hunting for a place to stay, however, everything in Salem (I mean everything) was already booked. (Plan at least a year in advance for holidays, y'all.) But that ended up working out in our favor, because we got to stay in a charming cottage in the neighboring village of Marblehead instead. Just look at this gorgeous seaside town:

>> Our lovely little cottage! I was smitten. <<

Quiet, lovely, and only a 5-minute drive from the Halloween capital of the world. Not complaining. Once we were all settled in our cozy home for the weekend, our first order of business was exploring Salem, of course. And by that I mean finding every Hocus Pocus filming site we could. I'm still fangirling from this:

>> Dani & Max Dennison's house! <<
>> The outside of Allison's mansion, which looked a lot bigger in the movie. <<
>> And lastly, the "I Put A Spell On You" dance hall! <<
As was to be expected, the city was a crowded madhouse set up like one big street fair for Halloween-loving tourists like myself, and when we weren't waiting in lines to get into the witch museums, we were constantly eating, drinking, or shopping. I have to say, the best part about small New England towns (besides the glorious fall weather) is the close proximity of everything: stores, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, and churches were all within a mile of each other. As someone who loves to walk and hates to drive, that was something I could definitely get used to.

>> Pennywise the Dancing Clown! I'm still kicking myself for not getting a photo of him and Scott together. <<

The highlight of the whole weekend had to be Saturday night, when the four of us dressed up in our best costumes (snaps if you can guess who Scott is!) and hit the town for my birthday dinner at the fancy seafood restaurant, Finz. To start, we ordered drinks (Prosecco for me), a platter of oysters, and the tuna tartare to split; next was my chosen dish of sole piccata with ricotta mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach (so divine), followed by a surprise crème brûlée for the table. I was in food coma Heaven after that meal.


I'm not sure if I'll ever venture out to Salem again during their busy season, but I'm so glad that I got to experience it at least once. Hocus Pocus will always hold a special place in my heart, and now I can finally say I've seen the city that inspired it all.

If you're going to Salem any time soon, I recommend you try:

As for Marblehead, make sure to check out Spirit of 76 Bookstore, Haley's Wines & Market Café, and The Landing Restaurant!

Zurich: A haiku.

8.30.2017

Lovers' paradise:
running around Zurich with
gobs of Nutella.

Windrose Magazine is the reminder we all need.

8.26.2017

Six months ago, the founder of That First Year, Ally Willis, emailed me about a very special project she had in mind: A print magazine chronicling the terrifying and wonderful adventures of post-college life. She was reaching out to a small handful of fellow TFY writers to gauge interest in the project, and I was beyond grateful to be one of them.
Normally, I don’t jump at the chance to write for just anyone. I’m a lazy writer, someone who tends to only put pen to paper (so to speak) when the mood or motivation strikes. And honestly, the mood doesn’t strike nearly as often as I’d like it to. But I’d been an avid reader of Ally’s blog since 2014—go check it out; it’s like a lovely little handbook for navigating your 20s—and I knew if I dug deep enough, I could come up with something (hopefully) worth contributing.
Turns out, I didn’t have to dig too deep.
The week that Ally reached out to me was significant for two reasons: It was exactly one year after I had made the difficult decision to quit my full-time job in pursuit of becoming a full-time blogger; and consequently, it marked the first anniversary of the conception of Her Story Goes.
Both good things, it would seem—unless you’re like me, and have an annoying habit of second-guessing yourself at every turn. As if on cue, March saw me entertain an unhealthy measure of introspection regarding my chosen career path. The same question reverberated around my brain and consumed my thoughts for a whole month: Did I make a huge mistake?
As confident as I had been in my decision at the time, walking away from my glamorous magazine job—and along with it, my lifelong "dream" career—left an emotional scar that refused to heal, no matter how many times I told myself it was for the best. A year later, I was still feeling an incredible amount of doubt. Perhaps, even, a tinge of regret. And because I was scared of what people would think, I refrained from talking (or writing) about it.

That is, until Ally presented me with the perfect opportunity. Honestly, her timing was impeccable. Sorting through my own conflicted feelings and opening up about my personal experience was never going to be easy. As vulnerable as I felt about my whole job situation, if I was ever going to share my thoughts with the world, I needed an outlet separate from this blog to do so. Ally graciously provided that outlet in the form of a community-crafted, print publication composed of reflections similar to mine.

Windrose is everything you (and I) could hope for in a magazine. It is a collection of real stories we can all relate to in some form or fashion. It's for those currently in the throes of adulthood—facing new challenges, covering uncharted territory, grieving past phases—and learning to carve out a life all their own. It's a unifying, uplifting work of words and art that continues to remind me of one very important thing: Despite my endless doubts and fears and insecurities, I'm not alone. And neither are you.
Windrose Magazine is all of those things. And it’s here for the taking.
◊ ◊ ◊
People say that life has a way of working itself out. I’m not sure if this is always true, but what I do know is this: Six months ago, I was lost—completely unaware of my purpose in life and, as a result, struggling with low elf-esteem. It wasn’t until I put those struggles down on paper that I was able to let them go and move on. Now, incidentally in the same month of Windrose’s debut, I find myself on the cusp of a new chapter in my career. I finally understand what I’m supposed to do and what I want my future to look like. And with that revelation, I’ve received long-awaited confirmation that the path I’m on is the right one—and the decisions I’ve made up until this point, small stepping stones guiding me to where I need to be.
While I’m not quite ready to divulge where that is just yet (I don’t want to jinx it!), it’s about time I share with you the humbling experience that led me here. If you’d like to read my story—along with numerous other tidbits and tales from beautiful humans sailing through the same tumultuous seas of adulthood as you—order your copy of Windrose Magazine today. It’s the reminder we all need that everything really will be okay.
// originally published on Her Story Goes //

College reunion in NYC.

8.08.2017

When I was a wee highschooler on the verge of graduation—wide-eyed and eager to take on the world—everyone told me the same thing: "Just wait, college will be the best time of your life."

Well, that wasn't exactly my experience. At least not at first. For me, college was lonelier than I expected. I was involved in things, sure—on-campus clubs, a church community, leadership organizations—but up until my junior year, I didn't have a built-in group of friends to do everything with, or the greater sense of belonging that I hoped would come with that. Of course, it didn't help that my school enrolled close to 50,000 students.

That's not to say that I didn't have amazing friends. On the contrary, I relied on a small sprinkling of people here and there to help navigate the ups and downs of young adulthood. (Read: Late night study sessions at the library, the occasional Mexican Martini post-midterms, or random conversations at 2:00am in the morning when sleep just wasn't gonna happen.) And this small sprinkling of close friends—one of them being my roommate and soul sister, Kristen—was great. A godsend, actually. But to be honest, after coming from such a tight-knit group in high school, college felt somewhat... impersonal. And for a while, I felt lost in a sea of strangers and acquaintances.

That is, until I studied abroad in Oxford. The summer of 2012 was a game-changer for me. This is where I got to know (and love) Alyssa and Casey, two good friends that welcomed me into their circle without a second thought. For six weeks, the three of us were inseparable. We pub-crawled through England together, got lost in Paris together, ran through rainstorms together (both literally and figuratively), scared ourselves shitless in Edinburgh together, and laughed until we cried together. I'm sure you know it—the particular feeling of finding a family in unexpected places. 

Upon returning to Texas in the fall, I immediately introduced my two new travel buds to Kristen, and as I suspected it would, the trio effortlessly expanded to include a fourth member. After this, midnight Kerbey Lane runs and coffee shop "study" sessions suddenly took on a whole new meaning. 

We're no longer inseparable now. Graduating and getting married and chasing dreams will do that. But my 19-year-old self found a home in these three, and five years later, they're still the best thing I have from my college days—even if we only get to see each other once in a blue moon. It's those blue moons that I live for.

The city that changed my relationship.

7.27.2017

“I’m a little nervous, to be honest,” I confessed to my best friend at 3:00 a.m. in a Berlin hotel room. “What if we figure out we’re not compatible after all?”
Kristen and I were only a week into our 21-day tour through Europe, and already I was beginning to feel anxious about what was to follow: ten days in beautiful Switzerland with my boyfriend of less than a year. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Interlaken was all set to be the final stop on my month-long sabbatical, and I was thrilled when Scott agreed to join me for a week in the romantic mountain village. This would be my first time to travel alone with any man, however, and I was beginning to find the unfamiliarity of it unnerving.


“What if it’s too soon?” I panicked. “What if in the middle of an afternoon hike he suddenly realizes—or God forbid, I realize—that we’re just not meant to be?”
Okay, don’t get me wrong. On one hand, I was totally stoked to be vacationing abroad with my seriously cute significant other. Montages of The Bachelor’s million-dollar dates in paradise kept running through my head, cheesy soundtrack and all, as I imagined the two of us canoeing across crystal blue waters, shopping for a picnic lunch in the local markets, sharing a bottle of Merlot and a box of artisan chocolate truffles, and riding off into the sunset on a horse-drawn carriage. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
But the perfectionist in me was overwhelmed. Everything had to be just right.


To make matters worse, two weeks later—on our penultimate stop in Paris—I received a call from the hiring manager of a prestigious publishing company in North Carolina. They wanted to interview me for a marketing position. As a recent college grad with no such prior luck in the job department, I was equal parts relieved and ecstatic. (Finally, my big break!) But Scott, I knew instantly, would not be. And, honestly, who could blame him? The poor guy had just transferred to Houston to be with me less than a month before. Now that we were finally going to live in the same city, how was I supposed to tell him that I wanted to pursue a career elsewhere?
Here’s the thing about me: I’m rather terrible at keeping secrets, especially when they’re my own. Which is why, while Kristen and I were supposed to be getting ready for an evening at the Moulin Rouge, I was staring at my phone and contemplating calling Scott instead. I couldn’t wait, I decided; my news would eat away at me if I did. As I dialed his number and hoped for the best, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know what that meant. Was I hoping for genuine encouragement to go? Or secretly holding out for a heartfelt plea to stay? Before I could figure it out, my thoughts were interrupted by a pleasantly surprised—
“Baby?”


And in those few moments, everything was exactly as it should’ve been. His joy and excitement to hear from me was plain as day, causing the butterflies in my stomach to take flight. Our conversation was effortless—a beautiful segue into our week of bliss, I thought. Until, after half an hour of jovial discourse, I casually dropped what we still to this day refer to as the bomb.
Oxford University Press. Job interview. East Coast.
“So, what do you think?”
The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.
I really should’ve waited.
◊ ◊ ◊
We caught a train heading southwest from Zürich to Interlaken. After coming this close to completely missing each other at the airport (with no cell service on his end to rectify such an issue), we were finally together and on our way to our final destination. Squeezed side-by-side into our little 2nd class booth, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, and laughing, turned to look out the window at the welcoming views of Switzerland. We both knew there was much to discuss, but our woes and worries didn’t seem so important at the time. As he kissed my forehead and held me close to his chest, the confusion and loneliness I had let consume me in the last 24 hours swiftly melted away with his every touch. This will work, I thought to myself. It has to.
◊ ◊ ◊
On any other travel post, I’d attempt to provide a sense of escapism for my readers by listing all the things I did, or saw, or ate on my adventures abroad. I could tell you about our 6-mile hike up Harder Kulm, our hammock nap after an icy dip in Lake Brienz, our tour through Trümmelbachfälle, or our lunch on top of the Schilthorn. Heck, I could go on and on about the amazing Thai food we ate for dinner every other night, or try to describe in detail the Italian beer that Scott fell in love with at a local pub. But, frankly, what I have to say about our week in Interlaken goes way beyond picturesque bike rides and charming chocolate shops. When I remember the summer of 2014, I think only of our time exploring completely new territory as a couple: the bridges we had to cross, the fears we had to overcome, and the boundaries we had to break in order to pave the way for a new—and better—us. And how we did it hand-in-hand, sometimes sprinting and sometimes stumbling, until we found ourselves once again standing on solid ground.

In many ways, Interlaken changed the dynamic of our relationship. Molding two lives together is hard work, come to find out, and as we bared all of our hopes and dreams on a mid-morning walk along the Akare, we were met with the realization that our individually chosen paths would not always effortlessly align. We might want different things down the road, and to choose each other would mean sacrificing something else.
It was made clear to me then, in the most beautiful place I’d ever been, that what Scott and I shared would never be perfect. In fact, it could turn out to be a floundering mess. There was healing to be done on both ends, a result of torn hearts and passionate words, and things to figure out. But one thing was for sure: My greatest adventure was right in front of me, and if I played my cards right, he always would be.
◊ ◊ ◊
I’d be lying if I said destiny, fate—whatever you want to call it—didn’t play a part in our story. I cancelled the interview the day before it was set to take place. Our hostel’s wifi was spotty at best, and when I emailed the hiring manager to reschedule for the week after, I never received a response. Turns out, North Carolina and I just weren’t meant to be.


But years later, I see that as a blessing. Had I left Houston for a job a thousand miles away, Interlaken might have taken on a whole different meaning: A farewell trip, of sorts, with a man I had no intention of ever telling goodbye.

// originally published on Her Story Goes //