One year ago today, I was spending my last night in London and begrudgingly preparing to leave behind the most exciting and fulfilling two weeks of my life.
Today, I began my new internship at NBC Weekend TODAY which will hopefully cultivate an exciting and fulfilling semester.
Two years ago, I never thought I would have just finished frolicking around London with great friends. One year ago, I would never believe I would be making my way into an incredible pre-professional opportunity. Isn’t it crazy what time can do?
Here is the video that documents the travels of my dear trip to London in 2017.
Whitmanythought 1: Take me back to London, please.
Whitmanythought 2: I feel so under-qualified for this internship.
This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.
To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.
Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.
I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.
To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.
There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.
I just returned from—dare I say it again—one of the best trips of my life. Brian, Sierra and I ventured around Thailand for seven days to do so many incredible things, from bathing rescued elephants to grabbing sushi from a local market. I have to say the best thing from the trip was seeing my plans turn into reality as well as my confidence in navigating one of the most culturally and linguistically different places I have ever been all by myself. I feel nothing but proud of myself for handling the whole trip, with little input but large encouragement from my friends, and gratitude that I was able to explore a small part of Asia. If I never left America again, I would not be able to complain.
Since I won’t be posting about day-to-day activities of the trip for a while, I laid out some of the things I noticed during my Thai explorations.
1. Bangkok is not pedestrian friendly
Unlike many European cities where you can walk between famous spots fairly easily, there is no walking from humongous and ornately decorated Buddhist temple to the next in Bangkok, unless you’re prepared to do a very large amount of walking.
Also, people warned me that the only way to cross the street in Bangkok is to walk into the traffic, and the cars will simply swerve around me. I pictured the scene from Mulan when the grandmother walks across the bustling street with one hand over her eyes and the other holding a lucky cricket. However, I do not believe running in front of the traffic is completely necessary, most of the time.
2. Bangkok is not automobile friendly
I have never seen so much bumper to bumper traffic in my life. If you want to drive in Bangkok, you better have exceptionally high patience and no where to be, because just getting from one side of the city to the other will take over an hour. Your best bet is to hop on a motorbike or the BTS (sky train).
3. BTS is the best
The sky train (basically the subway, but above ground) is reliable, cheap and easy to figure out. It is also clean and seems to run almost all the time with very little issues with service. Why does every major city have better public transport than NYC?
4. English is not popular
I was shocked by the amount of people who did not understand English. However, this is Asia, not western Europe. The people who did know enough English to communicate with me, though, were usually willing to help.
Tip: Have the address you need to get to in the Thai language or the taxi driver will most likely not be able to read the address you show them.
5. I felt safe
My grandparents will like this one. We originally planned to holiday in Bali, but we know several people who got mugged there and had unpleasant experiences. I expected Thailand to be slightly sketchy, but not as bad. To my surprise, I was completely wrong. I was never out at late hours of the night, but I always felt safe in Thailand, even when the sun went down.
6. There is more to Thailand than Bangkok
I knew Thailand has beautiful beaches and waters, but I still always pictured Bangkok as the country’s main attraction. However, a good tour and a single day in Bangkok is all one needs. There is so much wilderness in Thailand to explore; just going to Bangkok gives the country no justice.
I could go on and on about my scratch-of-the-surface observations about Thailand, but that will have to wait for my later posts. Khob Khun Kaa (thank you) Thailand, for welcoming me with your beautiful sights, mouth-watering food and friendly people.
My crunch time has officially been crunched. After diligently working on projects, presentations and papers, my two weeks of jamming assignments in is over and I am about to leave for a final holiday. I never expected to say this, but I am heading for Thailand!
Planning this trip was not easy, as I ran into many road blocks trying to please my friends while scavenging for budget-friendly activities that had enough availability. After dealing with indecisive and fickle people, multiple trips and emails to a lovely STA agent and numerous rant sessions, I have planned a trip for Brian, Sierra and I in Bangkok and its surrounding area. This is the first time I have ever been in charge of and fully planned a trip to a country that does not speak English, and nervous does not begin to explain how I feel. However, as I have been reminding myself, everything happens for a reason and it will all somehow work out.
The next time I post, I will be back from Thailand, hopefully with a positive review. Cheers!
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 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?
Australia’s hot new music is broadcasted on Triple J radio station, which is filled with different sounds—incredible tunes—that I never heard until I moved here. I am so fortunate that I was able to attend my first music festival partly sponsored by Triple J and see some of my new discoveries in the land down under.
Getting to Groovin’ the Moo was not an easy process. I was supposed to attend with an acquaintance I met, and we even paid for an Airbnb. Unfortunately, he cancelled, I lost my accommodation money, and I was stuck with two tickets. However, I very quickly sorted the situation out because my roommate, Seirra, was more than happy to purchase the ticket and we bought bus vouchers, which were charted by Groovin’ the Moo. Once we got there, all the issues I had melted away and I experienced one of the best and longest days of my life.
Upon arrival, all I could say was “Wow,” as I saw the main stage and another area covered in a giant tent which reminded me of the circus appear before my eager eyes. There were four stages at Groovin’ the Moo (Cattleyard/Triple J, Moolin Rouge (the circus-like structure), Mootown and Silent Disco), the Cattleyard/Triple J stages being the largest. These stages were on one huge, main platform, only being separated by a divider so that acts can perform one after another on alternate sides, which worked out beautifully.
Sierra’s and my day began with some incredible food truck munchies: I bought a vegan doughnut and Sierra got some tasty fries. I did not expect there to be a vast array of food trucks at the festival, and it really pleased me when I realized I would not be eating overpriced, run-of-the-mill venue food.
After our delicious treats, we headed to Moolin Rouge stage to await our first favorite Performer, Amy Shark. Amy shot to fame with her song “Adore You,” which rose to the number two spot on he Triple J Hottest 100 Chart in 2016. Luckily, we arrived at the tent at the right time, because we were front row for her performance! She was so talented and sounded completely the same in person as she did on recording.
Our luck grew when we were able to meet her and receive her autograph at the artist signing table. She told me she liked my shirt and was such a pleasant person to meet. She is heading to America soon for a small tour and I am so excited for her!
After this meeting, Sierra and I moved over to the main stage almost three hours before our next two favorite artists, Tash Sultana and Milky Chance. We were again extremely lucky that we arrived when we did, because after the fist performer we saw at the stage, the crowds did not dwindle and steadily grew. Before we knew it, we were in the second row of a wild mosh pit. If I have any advice for people attending general admission shows, it is to not enter the main crowd if you cannot handle being pushed, shoved and touched by random people. It is not fun. The only reason I survived the hours of waiting was due to the fact that two people in front of Sierra left the crowd before it got too packed and I shoved her onto the barricade. That’s right—we found ourselves front row again for our two favorite performers!
The hours of standing and alternately watching people on the stage in front of us and musicians on the other side of the stage via giant screen was worth it. After what seemed like forever, we were enveloped by the sweet music of Tash Sultana. Tash is a singer, songwriter and looping artist from Melbourne. A looper is a tool that allows one to record herself singing or playing an instrument multiple times and layer the recordings together. Man, does this girl know how to jam! She does not even need to sing; I could listen to her on the looper working her magic all day long. When she performs, it’s like all my worries fade away and it is just me captivated by her beautiful music. Tash is by far one of my favorite musicians I have ever seen live, and that says a lot because I have seen a fair share of artists.
Luckily, our final favorite performer played on the same stage as Tash one act later. Milky Chance is a German electronic/alternative/folk group whose single “Stolen Dance” lead the men to the number one spot on music charts in several countries in 2013. Seeing Milky Chance in person is even better than hearing the band’s recorded music. The lead singer’s on-stage presence was so much more animated than any video I had seen of him. I also did not expect his adorable German accent to draw me in so much. Between Tash and Milky, I was in music heaven.
The festival ended with Sierra and I shoving our way out of the mosh pit to find some food. After we finally sat down in the barely lit grass, we returned to the Triple J stage to watch The Wombats, another notable and pretty famous band, and back to Moolin Rouge, to see Dillon Francis, an American DJ.
Sierra and I got back to Perth city around 12:30 at night and had probably the best idea that day, which was to take an Uber home. I cannot believe I experienced my first music festival and that the experience was as incredible as it was. This without a doubt will be one of my favorite shows I have ever witnessed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 in 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.
I started the celebration by heading to the beach Monday. I was supposed to go Tuesday, on my actual birthday, but we had a feedback session with the vice president of AIFS to attend. This was my first time skipping class, but it was only a lecture, which is recorded and available online to watch. It was a beautiful quick escape with my roomie.
Well I was already fun, but now I am also 21! Tuesday was a low-key, but great day. I spent most of my day, and my week, talking to friends from home. I only had my wellbeing class Tuesday. This class focuses on the promotion of and facts around physical and mental wellbeing, but that day we got to experience what I think a wellbeing class should be: yoga. I got to take a free yoga course for class—what a birthday treat! I have never been good at yoga between my lack of flexibly and my racing mind, but I am still glad I could try it out again.
Tuesday night, Sierra, Brian, Nicole and I went out for my birthday dinner; or should I say dessert? We went to an eatery called San Churro, and it serves only churros and sweets. We split a platter of 18 churros with six sauces (dark, light and white chocolate, hazelnut spread, caramel, and salted caramel) and I tried a salted caramel popcorn hot chocolate. It was the sweetest dinner I ever had! Then, Brian and I split a savory salted caramel lava cake. We literally had dessert for dinner and for dessert! My dream. I could feel the sugar rush coming fast and strong.
Nicole said she had to buy me a drink since it was my birthday, and she didn’t let me argue, since apparently her surprising me with chocolate cupcakes was not enough. So afterwards, we walked the strip and settled at the National Hotel bar to listen to some live music. I had no worries and no complaints!
Wednesday was an average day of class for me, but nighttime was nowhere near average. We invited a bunch of friends over to Courtney, Stivia and Hannah’s apartment and had a birthday party complete with pink and black balloons, my favorite colors! I could not believe I was all the way in Australia having a birthday party for my big day, and that I had made enough friends that cared to celebrate. Thankful does not even describe how I felt.
After my birthday party, we took the train to Raffles, a hotel and bar on the water. I was nervous that it would not be a satisfactory place to celebrate, but it ended up being mint. Everyone had a blast! I am so delighted everything worked out so well.
Between last weekend and this week, this has to be up there with the best birthdays ever (maybe the ponies at my sixth birthday has it beat). The best part is that the celebration is not ending here—Friday morning I was set to depart for a weekend getaway to the Southwest region of Western Australia!
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.
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.