Las Vegas is a place unlike any other. And to be honest, I don’t know that it’s my favorite (yet). I would actually love the opportunity to explore outside of the strip – go hiking, explore Seven Magic Mountains, go to the Grand Canyon, etc. But unfortunately, when I am in Las Vegas for work, I am surrounded by convention center walls, recycled air conditioning, the smell of casino smoke, and the “bing bing bing” of slot machines.
I wanted to reflect for just a moment on this past year. 2019 was full of so much love. I rang in the new year with a broken wrist, but with friends I will cherish forever. I received a promotion and soon after found my dream job, with the encouragement from the most supportive of friends.
I moved from a place that I called home for eight years to the place I called home for years before that, celebrating my future with those I treasure most. (And I watched the St. Louis Blues bring home the Stanley Cup!) With that move, I made new friends, and began to explore the world with them. I traveled to ELEVEN states and FIVE countries on TWO continents. I tried new foods, explored new places, and experienced new things. And as the year came to a close, these new and old friends were there when I grieved loss, twice.
This week was one of the most difficult weeks that I’ve had to experience thus far. On October 1st, I flew home unexpectedly to spend time with my family as my Maw Maw’s battle with dementia was coming to a close. I knew that I needed to be home with her, and my Paw Paw. And I spent as much time as I could by their sides. I heard stories from her younger brother, my Uncle Al, some that I had never heard before. (One story was about how Uncle Al felt left out by some of his classmates. He asked his older sister, my Maw Maw, to take him and the other classmates that were left out to a pizza place and out bowling. She agreed, and advocated for them when the servers paid them no attention.) And while I was there, I found a box of notes that she wrote, including a letter that she started to write to all of us, but never finished.
Kohler, Wisconsin is a beautiful place. It’s about an hour north of Milwaukee, bordering Sheboygan. My favorite part about Kohler is how peaceful being there was. It’s a town unlike no other, and its centered around essentially a bathroom factory. Unfortunately my time in Kohler, Wisconsin was cut a little shorter than I had anticipated.
My travels to Palm Springs were a little tough, but I made it safely. Let’s just say the airline accidentally booked me on a trip to Canada, after missing my layover. Thankfully I caught it, but had to fly into Ontario, California and then take a (two hour) Lyft to Palm Springs airport to pick up my luggage. Like I said, it’s a long story – and one of the many reasons I prefer Delta over any other airline. Anyways… when I thought about traveling to Palm Springs, I thought I would see hot pink and palm trees. I wasn’t completely wrong… and you’ll see why.
Chicago is one of those cities that I visited a few times growing up because of its proximity to home. It’s an Amtrak ride away, and for just a small fee, you can upgrade to a First Class seat. It’s cheaper than a plane or even a drive when you consider the cost of parking fees at hotels.
Chicago is familiar. It is the home of my two least favorite sports teams (you know who you are Blackhawks and Cubs), the greatest St. Patty’s Day celebration, and the closest beach that actually feels like a beach in proximity to St. Louis. It was the city where I spent a spring break week in college, it was the city where I took my first subway, and it was the place that I learned to see architecture.
Seattle, Washington became one of my favorite places quickly. From walking around Pike Place Market to finding trendy restaurants, there was always something new to do, see, or eat. Downtown is accessible and easy to navigate, and nothing is a far walk away. The suburbs have history and beauty at every turn, and venturing a little further out will lead you into the natural beauty of Washington state. I felt so at peace in Seattle and its surrounding areas, and I have no doubts that it is because I took every chance to explore.