The Luxurious Side of Thailand

While volunteering at an orphanage in Chiang Rai, Thailand this April and May, I lived in village-like conditions. With that said, I was able to travel during weekends because our foundation did not allow volunteers to stay in the grounds in order to clean, etc.

I visited downtown Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok during my weekends off. Below are some of my favorite photos of my “vacay time,” which was full of affordable three-course meals, rooftop bars and pools, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences! 

An Old City with a New Friend

As I grow older, my friend circle dwindles down and becomes more tight-knit. This may sound like a bad thing, and at first I thought it was, but I get it now. 

I am blessed to have great, close friends in my life who I would do anything for and vice versa.


One of those friends is someone who I met in Sweden. Bethany and I visited each other in Chicago two months ago – I will always cherish our weekend together, full of exchanging study abroad memories, sore feet from walking everywhere, and acknowledging newfound inside jokes! 


It was also special because I have been to Chicago several times (many of my favorite childhood memories are from Chi-town) and Bethany had never been there prior to this summer. I was able to show her my favorite places, as well as experience new bars and clubs together! 


Bethany, I’m not sure if you’ll see this anytime soon, but thanks for being a gem of a friend! I’m beyond thankful to have met you in Sweden! 


 Cheers to more adventures together! 

South Haven, Michigan

I know that the title of my blog is “A Michiganian Abroad,” but I have been doing a lot of domestic travel since I’ve been home from Thailand. 

This summer has been filled with student loan payments and a new job, so my international trips are on hold until 2018! 


On Thursday, I traveled to South Haven, which is right on Lake Michigan, for an overnight work retreat. The scenery was beautiful, the food was amazing, and the company was much needed! 


A few of my team members live out of state, and getting to know them for the first time was awesome. We had ice-breaker challenges and I won the cup stacking competition (I never win anything…)!


I went swimming in Lake Michigan with Kevin for about an hour. The water was much warmer than usual, but the waves were as high and frequent as I remember. Tonya and I skipped rocks for a while and I failed miserably every time. I still loved my time on the beach with them; they’re two of my favorite coworkers and getting to know them better over the two days meant a lot to me. 


As dorky as it sounds, being in South Haven was a highlight of my summer. My company owns the property we stayed on, and I can’t wait to go back! 


At dinner, we played adult Clue/had an interactive murder mystery game. I’ve always wanted to do this and it was so much fun! The only awkward part was that my character had an affair with my boss’s character, but we had to play the part! I had to cry every time someone mentioned my dead lover’s name, which was “Sal Fee” (like selfie)! 


Sitting around the bonfire with a view like this was something special. Tonya, Steve, Kevin and I played corn hole and the sunset came alive. I can’t wait for next year’s retreat! 

Making New (Animal) Friends While Traveling

Happy Tuesday everyone!  If you’re feeling that post-lunch tiredness or mid-week “blah,” I hope you enjoy some animal photos from my travels!  Here are a few of my favorites:

A dog at the market (Aix-en-Provence, France 2014)
A dog at the market (Aix-en-Provence, France, 2014)
Ronaldo, the seven-month-old elephant (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2017)
Ronaldo, the seven-month-old elephant (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2017)
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When the monkey tried to steal my chapstick… (Hamburg, Germany, 2012)
Pierre my teddy bear, NOT a real bear :-) (Hamburg, Germany, 2016)
Pierre my teddy bear, NOT a real bear 🙂 (Hamburg, Germany, 2016)

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part III)

At the beginning of 2018, I hope to go on a trip to Europe with my brother.  He will graduate college in December of this year and has never gone to Europe, so I figure this would be the perfect gift for him (expensive, yes, but perfect…) 🙂

And if that doesn’t work out, then my mom is willing to take his place!

Until my next adventure in Europe, I can look back on the past and cherish the memories I have already made as I excitedly plan on making some new ones in the near future 🙂

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I hope you all have a great Monday and a great week ahead of you! 🙂

Returning Home (2016)

My parents are coming back home from France as we speak (they are driving back to Michigan from Toronto).  Their homecoming makes me think about my return from Norway last summer.

Here are some photos of my last moments in Europe (to date…):

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My last few days in Norway consisted of hiking in Jondal (a glacier) and boating with Kjell in Bergen.  I miss it dearly, and I hope I can experience new European countries in the near future 🙂

Finding Beauty in the Mundane

I walk from my company’s headquarters to my building, which is about four or five blocks over, every morning. There was something special about Monday morning though; it was dark and cloudy, but warm and comforting simultaneously. 


Taking photos of my surroundings made my Monday feel more like a Friday. Try to find beauty in the every day, “boring” things; you might be surprised at what you’ll see! 

Location: Jackson, MI 

Seven “Takeaways” while Living Abroad

Take risks

Studying or volunteering abroad is a huge risk in and of itself; there are many unknowns when it comes to traveling.  Live abroad with the same open-mindedness and courage as well!  If you do exactly what you would already do at home, you won’t grow as an individual.

When I arrived in France at age 20, it was only my second time in Europe and I had a fear of speaking French with strangers.  With that said, however, I knew my French wouldn’t improve unless I did so.  Instead of approaching a stranger at the station asking when my train would arrive, I asked in French and my use of the language continued to improve.

Fourth of July, France

Make mistakes

If you never make mistakes, you never learn!  Living life out of routine or far from perfection is actually an advantage while living abroad.  In Sweden, I would attempt speaking Swedish while combining it with French by default.  I definitely made a fool of myself on more than one occasion, especially when ordering food!  But if I wouldn’t have made mistakes while speaking Swedish, I wouldn’t have learned and I was able to jump out of my English-language comfort zone even more.

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Get lost

I traveled to Paris with my friend one weekend while studying abroad, and we couldn’t find our way to the hotel for a while.  It was intimidating because it was nighttime and many of the metro stations had stopped running until morning, but it taught me so much about myself.  I learned that I had to resort back to the basics (I had no cellular data) and I was forced to rely on myself, even though I was panicking at times.  Getting lost, with limitations of course, can make you find yourself again, as strange as that sounds!

La Tour Eiffel at Sunset

 

Make friendship a priority

While volunteering in Thailand, I befriended many Americans and Canadians, but also many Europeans and people from Asia.  The beauty of traveling is that you can make friends from all over the globe.  The world is much smaller than the United States you know!

Picnic time!

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Don’t stress about money

This is MUCH easier said than done, trust me!  But each time I have traveled abroad, I have learned to not “penny pinch” like I do at home; live with caution, order the dessert, too!  No one is stopping you but yourself.  I don’t regret a single dime I spent on Thai iced tea, Swedish pastries, gelato, or German beer, no matter how broke I was.

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Live day by day

As a student, I was very type A: organized, planner always in-hand.  However, while studying abroad, I seldom had a “schedule.”  I would go with the flow and live very type B in comparison.  I traveled to twelve countries when I studied in Sweden for five months, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so with too much structure.  One weekend I was in Germany, the next in Budapest, and the following in Spain; I lived life to the fullest and I never looked back!

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Be open-minded

While traveling or living abroad, not everything will be like home (maybe even the exact opposite).  Not everyone will act or think like you; be not only aware, but embracing of this.  While studying in France, I was able to learn about other Americans and how my friends in other states lived, as well as learning about French culture through my host family.  In Sweden, I was one of six Americans in an eighty-student cohort; I befriended people from Finland, France, Macau, China, and Greece just to name a few places!  In Thailand, I was among volunteers from all over the world, immersed in a new way of life.

Embrace cultural and religious diversity!  You will appreciate your travel experiences much more if you have an open mind and heart.

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I get a little teary eyed whenever I document my travels because of all the memories!  :’-)

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai 

This weekend, I participated in something extremely spiritual and heartwarming. I visited an elephant sanctuary with my friends from the Mirror Foundation. Mind you, we didn’t ride the elephants, nor do we condone that behavior; however, we fed and bathed them! 
Riding elephants, no matter how “well cared for” they are, is awful. It’s an exploitation of Thai culture, as well as a form of animal cruelty that I won’t even get into. The bottom line is this: always educate yourself on animal treatment, as well as cultural acceptances, when researching zoos and animal sanctuaries!!! 
The experience was incredible. A songtaew picked us up from our hotel in Chiang Mai, where we met three Swedish girls. I recognized the Swedish instantly, and it turns out they lived in Kalmar, where I lived for five months! Small world! 
When we arrived, we immediately changed into matching shirts to wear over our clothes. We had an educational lesson about elephant sanctuaries, which ones are proper, and how to feed/behave around the elephants. 
Feeding them was beyond what I thought it could be. They didn’t even need the bananas to be peeled for them; the only one who did was the seven month-old male named Ronaldo! How cute!!! We held the bananas behind our backs and fed them one by one. I absolutely loved the experience, even if my hands became muddy from their thick tongues! 
Throwing mud at the elephants seemed like an odd task, but we all had so much fun getting messy and the elephants were enjoying themselves! Bathing them off with buckets of water was probably my favorite part, because we could really get up close and personal with the elephants. 
My words and photos don’t do the experience justice. Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary if you’re ever in Chiang Mai! 

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