Reverse Bucket List: 5 Things I’ve Already Done

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I have a very long, like extremely long, laundry list of things I want to do in my life – a bucket list, if you will. I aspire to visit all 50 states, publish a book, have my writing published for a national magazine/outlet, obtain my Master’s Degree, become a Vice President (or higher!) of a company and, of course, a whole lot of other things.

Regardless, I think it’s important to be able to look back and reflect on the things you have accomplished as you work your way towards the things you want to accomplish. While I have not done everything, I hope to be able to one day. So, here’s a look back at a few things I’ve already accomplished in my 22 years.

1. Attended the Olympics 

I can’t begin the list and not start off by mentioning my most amazing, international (and sometimes, still unbelievable) adventure. About 5 months ago, I set sail (or really, boarded an airplane) to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to spend 3 weeks in the 2016 Summer Olympics host city. I was afforded this opportunity by my university, and was able to both immerse myself in the culture and the city of Brazil, while also taking part in the fun that was the Olympics. I was able to visit Brazilian landmarks, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, as well as three Olympic games.

Not only was this my first trip outside of the United States, but it was my first Olympics, my first South American adventure and my first multi-week-long trip. While I’m sure I’ll do plenty more interesting things in my life, this may always be the best. If you want to hear more about my Rio adventures, check out my blog post on the experience!

2. Obtained my Bachelor’s Degree 

So, technically, I’m don’t have my Bachelor’s Degree yet, but I’m only four months shy of it. Therefore, I’ve already put in the bulk of the work. Not to mention, my application to graduate has also already been approved.

I decided to include this milestone because, as I quickly approach my degree, I’ve increasingly found how impressive it truly is to be able to graduate from college. Growing up, I never thought much of a college degree. Where I’m from, it’s something that you simply do, not always something that you work towards. However, as the years have gone on, and the more I’ve realized how many people don’t have the opportunity to attend college or simply don’t finish their degree, I’ve grown to appreciate and value my education more. I think finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in 4 years – without ever once changing my major or minor – is a pretty impressive feat.

3. Wrote the president (and got a response!) 

When I was nine in third grade, our class read a book on the president of the United States. In this book, it discussed how American citizens could write the president. With a pencil and a piece of paper, I wrote a letter to President George W. Buh at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Though I have no idea what was in that letter, to my surprise, I received a response from the president just a few months later. This was only the beginning of my love for government and civic duty.

4. Graduated high school at an NFL stadium 

I don’t think many people can say they graduated high school at the same stadium their favorite NFL team plays at every Sunday. However, I certainly can! My high school graduation was held at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts. While high school graduation is already an accomplishment and excitement in itself, I have to say it was pretty awesome to be able to walk out onto the field feeling like Andrew Luck (with a little less of a crowd). If you want to read a really old, but still well-written post, check out “Changes”, a blog post I wrote a few weeks after high school graduation.

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June 8, 2013. Graduation at Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts!) 

5. Had dinner with the 48th Vice President of the United States

My senior year of high school I was apart of a government debate team of sorts called “We the People”. Like many other students who found themselves in that class, I was interested in government and found myself wanting to learn more about our Constitution. Appropriately, my time in this organization fell during the 2012 Presidential Election, also the first time I could legally vote.

That year, congressperson Mike Pence was running for Governor of Indiana. He and his family relocated from Washington, D.C. to Indianapolis for his gubernatorial race. So, my senior year, his daughter, Audrey, enrolled in my high school, as well as my “We the People” class. Political beliefs aside, that year during his election, Mike Pence visited our weekly practices and even mentored my team one-on-one at one practice. After our competition season was over, Mike Pence and his family had our entire class over for dinner in the Governor’s Mansion he had recently moved in to.

Though I can’t say I agree with the things that Vice President Elect, Mike Pence, does, I did think it was pretty cool when he became our next Vice President and I realized I once had dinner at his home. (Strangely enough – I didn’t get a picture with VP Pence. However, you can see a bit of his head in the background in the second picture). You can also check out my experience with Mike Pence by reading this old blog post, “Sweet Home Indiana”.

Caipirinhas, Portuguese Phrases and 4 Other Things I’ve Learned in Brazil

 

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Seven short days ago, I had never seen land outside of the United States. I often joked with others that the closest I had come to leaving the country was wading in the waters of southern Florida.

Nevertheless, today I can proudly say that I’ve (finally) left my home country and begun to experience life and culture outside of my comfort zone. I’ve tasted the caipirinhas, the Brazilian national drink – which, by the way, is nothing but pure sugar, limes and alcohol – learned a few phrases in Portuguese and been abandoned by my Uber a time or two already.

There are so many things that I could say about my trip so far – despite the fact that it’s only been a mere five days since I boarded my flight for Brazil, but still, I feel as if I’ve already learned and experienced so much. So, to give you a glimpse of my life here as a pseudo-Brazilian, here are a few things that I’ve learned while in Brazil:

1. The media tends to hype up the negative and downplay the positive

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The picture I took from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio near sunset. We rode cable cars up to the top of the mountain. This shot really embodies how beautiful the city is – a mix of both mountains, city and ocean. Christ the Redeemer can also be seen in the background.

I won’t lie to you, prior to leaving for Brazil, I was scared out of my mind. For months leading up to my trip, all I heard about were all of the negative aspects of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Each time I informed someone I would be visiting Rio, I opened an unwanted can of worms, listening to them ramble on and on about a city they had never traveled to, and things they probably didn’t know about. I was even frequently told, “Rio should have never hosted the Olympics.” Way to encourage my trip, I would think…

However, despite harsh criticism, I made my way to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and (not) to my surprise, it’s been great so far. A few day into the Olympics, and I’m hoping that the media is starting to refocus their energy on yet another great Olympics.

2. People outside of the United States tend to be a whole lot nicer than us

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My friend, Allison, and myself with a Canadian man we met trading pins with at the Olympic Park in Rio. He had been to countless Olympics throughout the years and told us he likes to take pictures with the people he trades pins with so that he can remember them.

I could go on an endless rant about this topic. When non-citizens visit the United States, people often scoff and ridicule visitors who visit our country who cannot speak our language. Yet, as Americans, we visit other countries and get upset when they can’t speak the same language as us (even though we’re in their country).

However, what I’ve seen in Brazil is that any person who speaks English is eager to help translate. On several instances, Brazilians have seen me struggling to communicate with a person and came up to translate. A few days ago, I was at Christ the Redeemer and ordering a drink from the bartender. We were having a lot of difficulty communicating due to our language barrier, and a woman came up and stayed until I had pay just to make sure I was able to communicate with the bartender. That was something I thought was so incredible and kind that I do not think would happen necessarily in the United States.

3. Opportunity is everywhere

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At the Coca Cola center in the Olympic Park, I had the opportunity to hold one of the official Olympic torches. It’s not every day that this happens.

Walking around Rio, I have learned that opportunity really is everywhere. From all of the people I have randomly met at the Olympic venues – even learning that one person I coincidentally met taught at the school district only 20 minutes away from me – to holding an Olympic torch to attending the International Paralympic Committee press conference, I have already been given so many opportunities while here in Rio – both professionally and personally.

I believe that life is simply a series of choices and, sometimes, we have to create our own opportunity. However, you don’t always have to travel 5,000 miles away from home like I did. Sometimes, the best opportunities are right on your doorstep.

4. Traveling teaches us that the world is much smaller than we think

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My fellow students and I with a middle school teacher we met from Westfield, Ind. We just happened upon her at the Olympic Park while watching the Men’s Gymnastics Event on Saturday, August 6, 2016.

Whenever I think about the physical size of the world, I am mesmerized. I am even more mesmerized when I realize how many people are in this world. But what is truly even more amazing is the fact that no matter where you are in the world, there is a great chance that you’ll meet someone you have a connection to.

Already while in Brazil, I have met countless people from the United States – which should be of no surprise considering I am currently at the Olympics, the largest athletic event in the world. However, when I met Kelly Day, a middle school teacher from just the town over from me, I was so astonished that I so coincidentally happened upon someone who lives so close to me. Not only is it a reminder that the world really is smaller than we all think it is, but it is also a good reminder of home – no matter how far away I am.

My Favorite Place to Be

If you have read some of my blog posts before, you may have noticed an ongoing theme of my love for Indiana (check out this old post). Without a doubt, I’m definitely a proud Hoosier.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to re-explore downtown Indianapolis with my parents. I say re-explore because this is a place that I have visited countless times. I even spent one summer working in an office on the corner of Georgia and Meridian Street. However, there is still so much I haven’t seen and don’t know about that place. I love traveling and exploring, even if it’s in my hometown. You can never know too much.

What I love about Indianapolis is that it’s big city with a smaller town feel. Yes, downtown Indianapolis it not as large or amazing as other downtown cities like Chicago or New York, but it is still wonderful in it’s own way. The city has so much more to offer than people may believe.

While I may not have been an actual resident of Indianapolis for 8 years or so now, I live just right outside of the city, and Indianapolis will always be the place I was born and spent a large chunk of my childhood. In lieu of this, I have decided to compile my top 5 favorite Indy spots.

  1. Monument Circle: Of course, this is a “monumental” feature of downtown Indianapolis. In more ways than one, it has come to represent both Indianapolis and the entire state of Indiana. Interestingly enough, it was built in the exact center of Indianapolis and is dedicated to the “common soldier”, the first of it’s kind in the United States. When I was younger and I would go to Take Your Daughter To Work Day with my mom, we would meet my dad on the steps of the circle and the three of us would each lunch together. That was always one of my favorite memories there. This past weekend, while exploring with my parents, we went up to the top of the monument for the first time. It’s 330 steps to the top (not going to lie, we took the elevator to step 290) but the view is incredible!

 

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2. Banker’s Life/Lucas Oil Stadium: What would be a list of Indy spots without mentioning the homes of Indy’s beloved teams? First, there’s Banker’s Life, which is honestly so much more than just the home of the Pacers. I’ve been to several events though including games and some really great concerts, but in more recent years, I’ve definitely enjoyed all of the Pacers games I’ve been able to go to with my sorority sisters. Not to mention, freshman year when I won row 13 tickets for Katie and I and we fan-girled over Larry Bird (sitting only a few seats away from us) all night. Lucas Oil is a different story. It’s been awhile since it was built, but it’s still considered fairly new. It’s massive and incredible, with a retractable roof (much like a convertible). Last May, I went to a Kenny Chesney concert there and was even able to snag backstage passes and meet him! I’ve been to a few pre-season Colts games and other special events. But most importantly, I graduated from high school there. Yep, you heard me right. I graduated at Lucas Oil. Actually, the first class to ever do so. My high school has since stopped having graduation there, but it’s definitely a memory I will always cherish.

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3. Lincoln Square Pancake House: This one is for the huge foodie that I am. This is one of my absolute favorite restaurants of all time, and definitely my favorite place to eat in Indy. There are 10 locations throughout the city, although my favorite one being the closest to my home. Although the restaurant has other food, they are most known for their breakfast, which is quite honestly the only reason I go there. I love everything about that place. The food, the coffee, the employees. If there’s one place I recommend going to in Indianapolis, its Lincoln Square.

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4. Indianapolis Zoo: There’s so many reasons to love this place, I mean who wouldn’t want to be where 3,800 animals are? When I was younger, my Girl Scout Troop had an overnight in the dolphin exhibit. Nowadays, one of my favorite parts of the Indianapolis Zoo is their annual “Christmas at the Zoo”. It’s such an incredible experience getting to see all of the beautiful lights, seeing the animals and of course, the hot chocolate. I think we even had a few breadsticks in there this year. Moral of the story is summer or winter, the Indy Zoo is a great place to go. After all, it is ranked one of the top zoos in the country.

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5. Children’s Museum: Hands down, this is one of my favorite places that I have ever been. Between field trips and family trips, I went to this place countless times growing up. Not to mention, when I went to Fishers High School prom senior year, it was at the Children’s Museum. That was definitely an unforgettable experience. I also spent a lot of Martin Luther King, Jr. Days there, as my mom typically always took my siblings and I that day, as it is free each year. What I love most about this place is how much it brings together learning and interaction. All of the stories are hands-on and undeniably interesting, despite your age. One of my favorite exhibits the museum ever had was the Barbie exhibit, which I visited during my sophomore year of high school. I also have always been drawn to the exhibit featuring extraordinary people, like Ruby Bridges (in my picture below). When I was in elementary, I had the opportunity to meet her and hear her story. It was great having the opportunity to go back when I was older and learn about her heroism all over again. So there you have it, 5 amazing Indy places. Why wouldn’t you want to visit?

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One State at a Time…

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On the border of Nevada and Arizona in October ’15.

I do not know when exactly I came up with the idea, but I decided that in my lifetime, I was going to visit all 50 states. At the time of this decision, I was probably 12 or 13 years old. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life or what I wanted out of it at the time, but I did know that I had a passion for traveling and seeing the world. America is such a vast country in size with a large variety of terrains, climates and environments and I knew that I wanted to see it all.

The summer after high school graduation I got it into my head that I was going to construct a giant map to track out my 50-state travel progress. I found the perfect map on Amazon. It was big enough to be detailed and even showed my hometown of Fishers (most maps forego Fishers and just list Indianapolis and other surrounding cities). However, because of my deteriorating map skills, I really had no idea how large the map I had just bought was. My original plan was to attach it to a bulletin board. I thought the cork would be perfect to place pins into all of the cities I had visited. So, to my surprise, when the map arrived in the mail, there was no way it was going to fit onto a traditional sized bulletin board.

Luckily, I have a creative father. We quickly came up with a plan to purchase cork squares and place them together with the map over top. It was perfect!

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One of my all-time favorite photos that I’ve taken, out on a back road in South Dakota during the summer 2014.

Once I started college, I came up with a new travel goal in order to accomplish my dreams of visiting all 50 states. I decided that each year I would visit a new state. The problem was, I had those states I tended to visit frequently. If I was going to accomplish my 50-state dream, I was going to need to start visiting new places more often. I feel like I have actually traveled quite a bit since I have been at Ball State. The new places I have traveled are…

  • Summer of ’13: West Virginia
  • Summer of ’14: South Dakota
  • Fall of ’15: Nevada/Arizona (barely went into Arizona though, so it is a MUST to go back)
  • Upcoming: Colorado, Summer of ’16

Traveling is my passion and I hope to one day be able to travel outside of the U.S. However, for now, I will focus on my all-American dream of visiting all 50 states. I am 19 down with 31 to go.I have my eyes set on this goal and I am hoping to one day be able to say I have visited all 50 states of the U.S. Whatever life throws at me, I cannot wait to see where it takes me (literally)!

Travel Diary: South Dakota

The thirst to travel somewhere new, take on new experiences and see new places is a thirst I have had most of my life. Many would call this wanderlust. So I suppose that makes me a “wanderluster” (for lack of a better word). And as many of you know from previous blog posts, I am taking on the lifelong goal of visiting all 50 states. So many people spend so much time traveling outside of the country to see new sights, however, they often forget that even just in one single country (in this case, America) each state differentiates so much in terrain, weather, people and places. I have experienced that first hand, especially with my most recent travel to state no. 18, South Dakota.

I was not sure what to expect of South Dakota, but found it to be overwhelmingly beautiful.

I was not sure what to expect of South Dakota, but found it to be overwhelmingly beautiful.

Depending on which city you are visiting, South Dakota is not too bad of a drive from Indiana. In my case, I was headed west towards Beresford, South Dakota. An itty bitty city outside of Sioux Falls with a population that just barely scrapes 2,000. Because the city lies on the southernmost, East tip, the drive was just around 12 hours. A drive that can be comfortably completed in just a single day.

Because I have not had the opportunity to travel very far west, I was in absolute awe of the endless miles of complete openness South Dakota had. It was absolutely beautiful. I also became very fond of the small, quaint towns found out West. People were good and honest, and life was far more simple than it is in the bustling cities I am used to.

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On a dirt road out in the middle of South Dakota, I was completely mesmerized by the natural beauty of the state.

Additionally, I loved being able to see an entirely different world than I am used to. South Dakota, as I mentioned before, is full of wide open spaces. However, it is also much more hilly than Indiana, and part of it is filled with wonderful mountains.

Naturally, while visiting the state, I had to visit Mount Rushmore. This iconic monument is set in Black Hills. This area was absolutely gorgeous, and unlike anything I had ever seen before. And of course, Mount Rushmore was mesmerizing, and much larger in person than I had expected.

One of the highlights of this trip was being able to go over Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills in a helicopter. Not only was it my first time in a helicopter, but it was also incredible to get to see nature like that from up above.

Like I previously mentioned, I adored the quaintness of both Beresford, and all of the other small towns I visited. People waved at one another as they passed by on the road. People were not as eager to lock their cars and house doors each and every time they left. They did not have as much to fear as we do in other parts of the country. At one point, I passed by the smallest town I believe I will ever encounter. This little place was called Nora, and according to the town sign, the population was five. I could not believe it. Just in my household alone do we have six people! That meant my family could pack up and move out west and become a town!

Hands down, the Badlands was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Hands down, the Badlands was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Another place I had the opportunity to see was the Badlands. The Badlands is an enormous National Park, and completely unlike anything else I had ever seen.

When I stood up on the rocks and looked out (as seen in the photo to the right), I could not believe what I was seeing. Now that is something you do not see in Indiana.

During my first real trip out West, I finally had the opportunity to experience a side of the country I had never seen before. It was beauty incomparable to anything else. Life was slower and simpler. I could not have asked for a better first trip out West, and the opportunity to cross state no. 18 off my list.

Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue

While I may not have any aspirations to ever skydive, treck through the rainforest, or spend a year of my life saving children in a third world country, I do have one life goal that will require just as much money, time, and commitment as any other bucket list item. The only difference is mine is to visit all 50 states.

I’m not sure exactly when or why I chose this goal. I have always had a passion to travel; it’s one of my favorite pastimes. I also love America. Even while I can’t wait until one day when I get the chance to visit other countries, I suppose I always thought it would be really awesome to say I had visited every square inch of the country (not exactly, but pretty close if I visit all 50 states).

My list is a little short now, but for a 19-year-old I don’t think it’s half bad. At least I’ve left Indiana a time or two. The older I get, the more opportunities to travel arise. One thing I’ve discovered is that even though all the states are contained to one country, the states still differentiate so much that there’s always something new to experience. So if these opportunities to travel are practical, I don’t see why I would ever turn one down.

The first place I have planned to travel this summer is South Dakota. I’m really excited about this trip because, as many people know, I have never traveled further west than Missouri. Although I have been directly north of Missouri in Minnesota (which was hands down one of the best places I’ve visited thus far). Regardless, from what I’ve heard and what pictures I’ve seen, the west is beautiful. Not only am I excited to actually be in South Dakota, but I’ll even admit I’m excited for the 12 hour road trip out there. I’m fan-girling just thinking about visiting Mt. Rushmore and the badlands.

I’ll also be visiting Sarasota, Florida this summer. While Florida is hands down one of my most frequented states, I have never been to Sarasota before, and I’m looking forward to going somewhere new–as well as going to the beach. Plus I absolutely love road trips because I have some weird fascination with cars, so I always look forward to the trip down. Especially driving through Tennessee.

While those are the only places I currently have on my list, I’m glad I get to add a new state to the list in 2014. And of course there’s always the possibility that there will be more states added to the list!

From Sea to Shining Sea

My most recent purchase in my Amazon obsession phase has been a 50×32 map of the United States. Not only is it ginormous, but it’s extremely detailed and even features my commonly left out hometown on the map. After I purchase cork board squares, plywood, and glue to make as a backboard for my map, I will finally be able to hang up my purchase on my wall.

I get what you’re thinking, blah blah blah, you bought a big map of the United States. What’s so special about that? But for me, this map is excruciatingly important to my future. Ever since I was little, my life goal has been to visit all 50 states. (That sounds really heartfelt, but at the time when I made this goal, I was probably googling “bucket list ideas”). But in all seriousness, I have grown to be an extremely patriotic citizen and this lifelong goal matches my personality perfectly.

Anyway, my mission is still in the beginning phases. My traveling has been limited to the midwest and the south, and even there, I’ve only visited the most common of tourist locations. Still, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to carry out my dream. I’m currently at 15 states, and hey, that’s better than zero, right? This year I was able to finally add the 15th state to my list, New York, which came after an incredible trip to NYC last spring.

So back to my map and it’s main purpose. After constructing the backboard for it, I plan on hanging up my monstrosity and putting push pins into each city I visit, in order to visually map the places I have been, and where I have not been. Even though I have only been to 15 states, I have been to a number of cities in each of them, fortunately.

So here’s a list of the 15 wonderful states I have been to as I look forward to visiting the next 35!

1. Indiana (of course, it’s the only place I’ve ever lived)

2. Ohio (Our state to the right, again, visited every single year for the past 8 years)

3. Illinois (State to the left, I’ve only been to Chicago, but even then, it’s been fairly frequent)

4. Michigan (Directly above us, and I’ve visited family in Detroit a few times)

5. Kentucky (Louisville for cheer competitions, Lexington for a college visit to UK)

6. Minnesota (Minneapolis is actually one of my favorite places I’ve visited)

7. Virginia (I stayed in Arlington while visiting DC, and I will be traveling to Williamsburg in a few short weeks)

8. Pennsylvania (Gettysburg and Hershey, all I can remember is going on a ghost tour, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and for some reason, eating a grilled cheese)

9.  New York (NYC was a breathtaking adventure, I’d love to go back)

10. North Carolina (Last summer’s vacation made me fall in love with the state.. well that and Nicholas Sparks)

11. South Carolina (Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, the vacation spots are incredible)

12. Florida (Okay, so I’ve been to Florida at least 10 times, and a handful of different cities, too. Who doesn’t love that place?)

13. Tennessee (I visited Nashville for a cheer competition once and got to compete in the Gaylord Hotel. Probably in my top 5 favorite states and I can’t wait to go back to Nashville in the future!)

14. Georgia (I spent a day doing a historical tour of Savannah. I love the state and its peaches)

15. Missouri (I have millions of relatives in this state, it would have been difficult for me to NOT have visited at least once in my life)

I hope you’ve all appreciated reading my rambling words about some random fantasy I have. Hopefully, I can achieve this dream by the time I’m 92. Preferably before then, though. And of course, I’ll accept any donations or free trips to fund my 50 states dream ;)

Life is a Highway

I love to travel.
In my lifetime, I hope to visit all 50 states. Additionally I love road trips. I love being in the car and driving around and seeing all the different sights. I love finding the beauty in everything, so even the so called “boring” cornfields on the side of the interstate are beautiful to me. Especially with a clear blue sky.
In traveling I feel like I learn a lot about myself, too. I meet and see so many different people and places out of my little bubble of Fishers, Indiana. It makes me appreciate people in different walks of life.
So a few weeks back I had the opportunity to travel to New York City, probably one of the coolest experiences of my life. All the different sights, monuments, and people were so amazing.
Now I’m on my way to Chicago. I absolutely adore glancing out the window and seeing all the different fields and farmhouses. And I know I’ll be in even more amazement in the city even after visiting it 5 times.
I love seeing the beauty in everything and admiring Gods work and all He’s blessed us with.