1 Year of Whitmanythoughts

A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.

I have expressed over and over again how amazing of a year it has been and how thankful I am for all I have gotten to experience. From traveling around Europe for two weeks with my grandfather to skiing in Park City, Utah with my dad, it has been a thrilling ride.

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I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.

Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.

I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.

My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful.  It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.

Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.

Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?

Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?

Thoughts: Finding My Way to My Mom

I have no idea what it’s like to be a mother. I have heard, and fully believe, that being a mother is a gift and develops a love like no other. I also have heard that somehow and some way, Mom is always right and if you don’t believe it now, one day she is going to be the one you turn to for help—not your best friend, not your sibling, not your significant other—your mother. I always knew the above mentioned things, but I did not always actually believe them.

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Holidays with my mom

My mother and I are quite different. I tell people that I am like my father, and my sister is like my mother, and my parents are divorced. People usually get a laugh out of that. Despite the fact that I have realized our differences over the years, I have opened my eyes to all the incredible qualities my mom has that she has thankfully passed on to me. During my childhood years, my mom provided me with the love and laughter that every kid needs. During my teen years, I was convinced I would never have a super close bond with her. Now, in the early stages of my adult years, after I have seen my relationship with my mother ebb and flow, I can confidently say we are close than ever, and I know that is how it will stay.

My mom is no average mom—we joke about things that other moms would be appalled to hear. I can say literally anything to her, serious or not, and she will not judge me. Well, she definitely judges me, but it is with so much love. That is my favorite thing about my mother. She may have no idea what I am up to half the time (I can’t blame her because I can barely follow my own life), but she is always there to listen to my crazy stories and ideas (and to share my life on Facebook to her friends). Just last night I called her and made her listen to my new musical discoveries and she patiently listened as I screamed at her to pay attention. Honestly, it may have been one of my favorite conversations with her.

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Lakewood Blueclaws game with my mom

Something notable she said to me last night is that she wants me to live in the house forever. First of all, I have never heard her say this. Ever. As much as I told her I am convinced she wanted me out of the house ten years ago (which may have been true), I almost want to believe a part of her was serious. This really meant so much to me and was actually quite unexpected. It made me smile that even through our disagreements, my constant singing and squealing around the house and my crazy ideas that have driven her mad over the years, she actually would want me to stay home. Home is where the daughter is, right?

Earlier I mentioned the infamous saying that Mom is always right. My mom may not always be right about everything, but when it comes to people and life lessons, she’s always about spot-on. I have seen her eye for observation in me, and I am so thankful for that. It took me 20 years to not just know, but to believe, that Mom is going to be the person I can come to with anything, even if I choose not to. Mom will be the person who says, “I told you so,” and I will be happy she did. Mom will be my confident and person I can trust with anything. This comes after realizing that the stuff she would tell her friends about me when I was younger is very unimportant, of course.

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Monster Mile with my mom

The last few years have really shown me that Mom really is going to be the one I tell everything to, the one who is going to pick me up drunk from a bar (that has NOT happened, I am just saying it could), and the one who is going to give me her two cents, but usually just when I ask for it. She may think I am crazy, but I think she is crazy too. And that is probably what has made our relationship so great. I fully think my mom insane, but what child doesn’t? And my mom constantly reminds me how weird I am. So, thank you, Mom, for thinking I am nuts, because I definitely got it from you. Every time you say how crazy I am feels like an accomplishment. Thank you for being there, for being real, and for not being boring. I can’t wait to see you and make you do things with me, just like you do to your parents.

Thoughts on Turning 21: Continued

If you told me I would be celebrating my 21st birthday in Australia, I would have deemed you crazy. While I was in Italy last summer, another person on the trip celebrated his 21st birthday at the Amalfi Coast, and I thought about how grand it must be to celebrate your birthday in such a fantastic place. Little did I know that I would get to feel exactly what it is like a year later (it feels awesome).

I already gushed about how incredible the past year has been in a previous post, and touched on the fact that I felt so lucky this birthday, but I really just need to explain how fortunate I truly feel. I have never felt rich as many times as I have in the last few months in my entire life. This is not rich with money, of course, but rich with friends and happiness.

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Birthday dinner

When I planned my trip toAustralia, I did not intend to do anything for my birthday. I thought everyone can already drink and I will be with people I just met, so why would it matter? Well, my friends showed me it mattered.

First, I am one of the luckiest people ever because I get to celebrate such an important day in such an incredible place. I’m in Australia, baby!

Second, my friends made it clear that I would not be doing nothing for my birthday. As soon as I met them in Fiji and I told them when my birthday was, they were down to go out. I told them I did not want to do anything, and they thought I was crazy.

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Out with my girls on my birthday

Third, my friends went out of their way to make sure I had a fantastic birthday. Nicole said we could do whatever I wanted, and when we were talking about my party, she decided to create a Facebook page for it, complete with a picture of Justin Bieber as the cover. I got a Facebook event for my birthday. Can you imagine?! Stivia, Hannah and Courtney’s housemate, Brent, really helped me out with deciding where to go. He put time aside during his busy week to email and call prospective places and would give me the low down afterwards. I am not even super close with him, and he cared about the night as if it were for him.

Before we went out to dinner on my birthday, Nicole was in my room ready to surprise me with chocolate cupcakes in pink wrappers and two chocolate bars. She even had a bunch of candles and sang “Happy Birthday” to me with Sierra. There I was, 21 years old, getting sung to by people I had just met, but might as well have always been inIMG_1430 my life. Unbelievable!

Before my birthday party, I went over to Jordan’s where she was kind enough to do my makeup. When I walked in, she had a present for me from her, Nicole and Sierra wrapped in, of course, a pink and black bag. Another surprise!

When I got to my party, there were pink and black balloons that Jordan and Nicole were kind enough to blow up for me to make the place festive. People showed up throughout the night and I felt like a million dollars.

The night out was incredible. Sierra stayed by me the whole night to make sure everything went smoothly. I felt like she was my assistant attached to me ready to fight off anyone who came too close. I am sure we just looked like a bunch of featherless peacocks trying to show off our feathers, but I felt pretty good.

I could just go on and on about how special my night was. It would not have been so extraordinary without my incredible friends, though. They truly made me feel so special and I cannot thank them enough. It is easy to celebrate one day, but with these people by my side, it is easy to celebrate every day.

Thoughts on Turning 21

I remember turning 10 years old and having my mom say, “You’ll be in double digits for the rest if your life!” I thought that was scary. I recall becoming a teenager and having some friends over for some Wii Olympics. I remember deciding whether or not I should have a sweet 16. Turning 18 was an exciting day because I was finally a “legal adult.” My friend surprised me with balloons and I had more friends over for a bonfire that night. Then, I left my teenage years behind and said hello to “the best years of my life.” Now, I am 21 and I am speechless.

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I turned 20 last year and I had just confirmed that I would be studying abroad during the summer. I did not do anything special on my birthday, but formal was right after it, so I counted that as my celebration. I was ready to take on a new year and navigate through whatever came my way. I had no idea that 20 would treat me so well. I visited Costa Rica with my father and sister, explored Europe with my Pop Pop, I lived in Italy for a month and made some memories that are not even comparable to those from Australia. I landed my first internship at a big company and I even tried the college dating scene last fall. Then, I was lucky enough to ski in Park City, Utah for the first time with my dad and head to London with one of my best friends for two weeks. Of course, it was not all happy—I lost one of my closest friends growing up and experienced heartbreak—but that is all part of life. Regardless, I am in awe when I think about the last year and I am forever grateful for it.

I usually don’t get too stoked for my birthday because it just means I am one year older. Of course it is always exciting to have people reach out to wish me a nice day and have a bit of attention, but I never got extremely into it. Although I usually don’t get too wild about my birthday, this year was different. With this birthday, I would finally be “legal” in the eyes of American nightlife. I would have finished 10% of my twenties. This year, I am surrounded by people I basically just met who told me I had no choice but to celebrate my birthday and it feels awesome. This year, I am actually eager to become another year older because it means I am growing, learning and experiencing.

I feel so much love this birthday from all around the world. I had people from America  texting me “Happy early birthday,” I had people from New Zealand and Europe wish me a great day and I had all my friends and acquaintances here showing me love. Nothing is better than feeling loved and celebrated on my special day. It is pretty cool, because I feel like I have two birthdays since it is May 2 in Australia 12 hours before it is in America. I’ll have to keep this in mind during my birthday celebrations in the future.

I am so grateful for all the things I got to experience, all the new people I got to meet and all the new places I got to see during my twentieth year of life. It will be hard to top what I think was the best year of my life, but who knows what the future holds. With that being said, I am so thrilled to see what this year has in store for me. Wow, 21.

Oz: Something Special

I switched from having the best week of classes to having the most uneventful week of classes. The only thing I did all week that was not related to conquering my homework or to-do list was watch a British television show with some mates that were accompanied by some delicious onion rings and a game of Uno. However, this is a special week and it will be followed by an even more special week. As I am typing this, my best friend and my world travelling buddy, my Pop Pop, is on his way to Australia!

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It just seems like months ago I was planning this abroad semester and had the hope that Pop Pop would be able to come visit. Well, it was not easy to get him here, and after thinking he would not be able to visit at all, we broke through the ice and planned a trip to Sydney and New Zealand. And by “we,” I mean he planned it and I simply put in my feedback. Pop Pop is a professional trip planner, and I am glad I got to see him work his magic one more time.

If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I am beyond thankful that I have another opportunity to travel with this incredible man. From Paris in sixth grade and Italy and Spain in high school, to our European adventure last year, I have seen so much of the world all thanks to Pop Pop. He is so special to me and so selfless. It brings tears to my eyes that I get another chance to explore a new place with him.

This is probably going to be our last international trip together, as heartbreaking as that is for me. If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I so look forward to seeing him Friday and making our trip just as marvelous as our last. I truly hope Pop Pop realizes how special he is to me and how thankful I am I get to do this with him. I also would not be able to do it without my grandma for letting him go, because she thinks we are crazy for all these travels (Thank you Grandma).

The next time I write, I will be on the East coast!  Here’s to my next adventure!

Fiji: Leaving our Homestay

I cannot believe we had to say goodbye to Walter and Terri today. They have been such a great homestay for us and I genuinely believe I am so lucky to have met them. Between cooking us breakfast and dinner, letting us set up their Wi-Fi box, doing our laundry and driving us virtually anywhere we wanted to go, Walter and Terri spoiled Jordan, Ethan, Brian and me. Before we left, Terri and Walter thanked us for choosing Fiji, choosing them and being such well behaved children. I really do not know why they thanked us, as they were so gracious during our whole stay. They let us know that we would always have a place to visit in Fiji.

We embarked on our cross-country road trip back to Nadi after getting dropped off at USP. After two hours of driving along the shore and past villages, we stopped at a beach resort for lunch. Despite the rain, this actually ended up being a fun time, as we played pool, ping pong and walked along the coral-filled beach looking for shells. The water was not for swimming; the ocean broke off shore onto a barrier that separated the salt water from the fresh river water the was flowing off the land into the still, shallow crystal clear pool that reached the barrier.

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There were many great things for lunch, including burgers, quesadillas and pizza. Although I wanted one of those, I saw a traditional Fijian dish and got that because I felt like it would be beneficial to try a dish original to the island. It was called Kokoda and consists of sliced wahoo ceviche style in lemon, lime tomato, red onion and a coconut cream sauce. It was a bit spicy, but I was fine as long as I only ate the fish.

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We headed back to the Trans International and of course had nothing to do besides keep each other company and use our phones on the Wi-Fi that is only located in the lobby. For dinner, I had pan-fried lamb in a sweet pineapple sauce, which had a flavorful taste.

I am trying to understand how our time in Fiji is almost over. I spent a small amount of time in the classroom, but I truly believe I learned more than I ever thought possible during my stay here through living with my homestay family. I wish them nothing but the best in life.

 

Fiji: Market and Gifts

After two days and five lectures, Saturday came and it was time to take our exam.  About an hour of writing and a hand ache later, we were done.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the city, which is the main part of town with shops and eateries right around the corner from the yacht club we mingled and played pool at the night prior. We visited the main area to window shopFrame-18-02-2017-08-47-52.jpg at the handcraft market, which is filled with artisans and vendors selling mostly handmade items such as jewelry, wood pieces and weaved items. After going back and forth between several stalls and bargaining with people, I ended up with a freshwater pearl bracelet and a hand-woven purse. I felt so lucky to purchase a hand-woven item and such a nice bracelet, and I was happy to contribute to the locals.

Speaking of hand-woven, we had our final home-cooked meal with our family, which consisted of chicken, salad, rice and crab that was caught in the Daku village. After dinner, Terri yelled, “Present time!” It was customary for the students to bring their homestay families gifts, but in no way did I expect anything in return. This couple graciously let us into their home for a few days, and that was present enough. Jordan and I each got a hand-made fan from our family with our names woven into them. The fans came from Walter’s village, and only the women from the village know how to make these fans. People have tried for years to them and no one has succeeded. I feel so fortunate to bring home such a special piece of culture.

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Farewell to our homestay family

After the excitement of gifts, we had some chocolate cake made by Terri’s sister and stayed in the house for a low-key night of playing cards before our last sleep in Suva.

London: Thank You

It seems like just a few days ago I was on the Gatwick Express, excited about the train’s fantastic Wi-Fi and the adventures that awaited me. Now, two weeks have passed in a blink of an eye and I am on my way back home, sullenly recalling my stay in London.

London now has a huge place in my heart, and dare I say it, it may be an even greater city than New York (is that possible?). I can tell stories of all the sight-seeing I did and recount the random facts I now have in my head, but I cannot even begin to describe the new friendships I have made.

I learned about “London Fam” basically as soon as I met Olivia, and I even spoke to them through her phone to explain to them about Greek life (which I did again in person). I know how much these friends mean to Olivia and it made me so happy that she would get to go back and visit them, and was kind enough to allow me to come along.

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As soon as I met them, I understood why Olivia is so fond of them. They welcomed not just Olivia, but me, a complete stranger, into their home with open arms for a whole two weeks. I cannot express my gratitude enough, so I would like to say, “Thank you,” to each of them.

Liam– I was so glad when you opened the door for us, because I was so nervous no one would be there when we arrived. Thanks for being so easy-going and always pleasure to be with. I love your piercings and your Australian flag!

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Jake– I was not sure if you would think it was weird that I was the one who welcomed you into Revolution the first night, since we had never met. However, you greeted me with a huge hug and I instantly felt completely comfortable with you. I am glad we got to talk that night as we walked way faster than everyone else. Thanks for taking us to the British Museum, going to Camden Town with us, dancing with me at Electric Ballroom and taking us around your hometown. I am going to hold you to your word about Skyping!

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Rhi– You are like a little ball of happiness with great style. Even though you are an “adult,” you still found the time to hang out with us and I think that is just awesome. You are naturally such a sweet girl and I know you’ll go so far in anything you do.

Elisha– I think the first words I said to you were, “You are so cute!” I also think I told you that about ten times after that. You are such a sweet girl who always knows a good time. Thank you for letting me sleep in your bed when you were away, letting us clutter your room, allowing me to wear your shirt, walking around with us the last day and basically becoming my sister. I will never forget when you became a bartender on the train back from Nottingham—that was the best!

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Olivia- Little of mine! I know I probably drove you crazy at times, but you have no idea how much I appreciated spending all this time with you. Thank you for dealing with my tourist self and most importantly, for letting me befriend your incredible friends.

I will forever cherish our confused conversations about each others’ cultures and differences in language and coming together at the end of the night to watch some interesting reality television shows. You all have a home in new Jersey, and wherever I end up living in life. Thank you so much for everything. I love you all!

 

The Season of Falling

It is a picturesque autumn day here in Hempstead, New York. The leaves are vivid shades of orange and red, gently being picked off branches one by one and blowing in the light breeze. The sun is shining and the air wraps around me with a light warmth, almost making me forget that temperatures will soon be unbearably chilly.

It’s fall, and college students like myself like to compare this time of the year to falling grade point averages and diminishing motivation to get things done. It is days like today I flash back to summer and wish I were on a beach without a care in the world.

I have been pondering the incredible adventures I had this summer and how fortunate I am to have gained so many precious memories. From cruising along the Danube to driving to Boston for just a day, the trips on which I embarked during the summer were only a foreshadowing of the adventures awaiting me.

The main attraction this semester was my fall concert series, as I call it. I was fortunate enough to attend four concerts during the semester, and of course, I wrote about them.

Until I unveil my experiences, however, here is a summer throwback to my trip to Lake Wallkill with one my best friends. This is something I watch to help me get through this time in which everything is “falling.”

 

Ciao Rome: Thoughts on an Airplane

(Written on July 28, 2016)

I am currently on the Aer Lingus plane (an extremely large one if I may add) on my way back to New York. Back to New Jersey. Back to my family and friends. Back to reality.

How does one re-enter real life after the trip I just experienced? All I can do right now is blog and look at my photos, with a lot of crying mixed in. At our last supper, Espo said something that really stuck with me. He said that when he gets back, he will be bombarded with questions about the trip, as we all will. However, he said there is no way to put the trip we just had into words. I whole-heartedly agree.

What I just experienced was something I never thought I would have the luck to live through. I just spent six weeks exploring Europe, learning about new places, cultures and foods and making memories with incredible people; an experience about which many people can only dream. This was not just a study abroad trip. It was something bigger and better. It was a dream. For that and so much more, I am forever thankful.

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The Hofstra Romans’ first group photo together while exploring Rome

This trip would not have been possible without the incredible person who planned it: Professor Randy Hillebrand. Randy is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. He is intelligent, daring, adventurous, dedicated and so caring. I have never, ever seen a professor so committed to his mission and the experience of his students. I don’t think we were just his students on this trip, however. He made me feel like family. Randy spent months and months tirelessly planning and preparing for this trip, and he did not stop working out the details until they were perfect. Another amazing thing is that he has done this trip before, multiple times. Did that stop him from wanting to take us to every single thing possible, despite how repetitive it may be for him? Not at all. Randy worked so hard so that this trip could be what it was, and I just wish there was some way I could thank him for his hard work. Randy, you are someone I will always idolize. Thank you for everything.

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The Hofstra Romans (Randy pictured left) with a representative from the U.S. Embassy

Randy was not the only fearless leader on the trip, however. Professor Morosoff was there making sure our communications with Shoot4Change went smoothly and that we were getting a worthwhile educational experience during our stay. We were able to work with real-life Italians to learn about real-life communications as university students, and nothing will ever be as valuable as some of the things we did in regards to that. We would not have had such a unique classroom experience without Professor Morosoff, and for that, I am so grateful. I also enjoyed Professor Morosoff’s presence because in a way, he was just like one of the students, trying new things and exploring new areas. It was so fun watching him brave out new territories to gain valuable life experiences, and I loved being able to relate to him on that level.

As I have mentioned multiple times, I made a family on this trip and we will always share this bond that cannot be broken. I am not sure how I am going to move on from the SCO in Rome trip. Not waking up to these beautiful faces every day is something I easily got used to, and something that will be difficult to let go.

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Our final group photo together overlooking Rome

As Espo said, there is no way to put this last month into words. I mean, technically, that is what I did with this blog. However, my blogs are just a scratch on the surface of the incredible trip on which I just endeavored. When I go home and tell people about this trip, I hope I cry. I think that is the only way to begin to explain the incredible journey I now have in my memory. To everyone I crossed paths with on this trip: the other tourists, tour guides, waiters, merchants, and most of all, my Hofstra Romans family, thank you for all you have shared with me. I will always look back on this with a ginormous smile and a glassy eyes. Grazie e ciao.