Letter #684: Europe Lessons


Dear Europe,

Four weeks is a long time. A person can learn quite a bit in that span. Being in foreign countries adds even more layers to the lessons.

Being months removed has made me even more thankful for my time visiting you. I honestly don’t know if a day goes by where I don’t look back fondly on my trip, think about a site I visited, laugh at a hilarious moment or reflect on something I learned. I am the greatest advocate for people to save up and go see the world. There are things you will learn that you just can’t by staying here in America. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

This is not a green screen, I promise! Go to the Swiss Alps…it will instantly be your favorite spot in the world!
  • Nobody speaks English, what are you going to do?! Trust me, you figure it out. You have to.
  • You have no option to pull out your phone in lull times (unless you want to pay astronomical fees, and we already know I ain’t about that life!). I learned to do other things in moments of waiting. I grew to become more purposeful, but I’m already fighting falling back into this trap on the reg.
  • If something goes wrong, you are completely responsible. There’s no blame-shifting, calling home or getting out of it; you have to own it and figure it out. Decisions must be made in confidence and awareness of your safety at all times is vital. An intangible layer of responsibility is gained here. In other words, you just grow up.
  • Follow the local transportation rules precisely. You’ll pay for it (literally) if you don’t. I left a 50 euro donation fine in Paris! In all seriousness, it’s easier to take a train from Italy to Switzerland than for me to drive from Missouri to Oklahoma.
  • I think I learned the healthiness of a sabbatical at an early age! Time off and getting away is a win. We should enjoy life along the journey. But if we’re honest, it’s hard for us to truly ever shut off completely. A week off, and it takes 3 days to unwind and by day 5 your mind is preparing to get back again. A week of vacation is valuable, but I tasted something I had never experienced before. I was truly able to step away from work. I couldn’t pick up the phone and make a call. I only had Wi-Fi access occasionally. I tasted rest like most Americans never will, and I will do ‘vacation’ in a different way from now on because of it.
  • Clear vision casting to the right people can make dreams come true! This trip started as a pipe dream, but a little over a year ago I crafted an email that captured people’s attention and created buy in in a way that I’m now looking back at photos and telling stories from the trip of a lifetime.
  • Never let fear dictate your decisions. There are a million reasons I shouldn’t have gone. Safety, money, work, responsibility, the unknown. I could have believed them, but if I had I would have missed out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Fear wants to win. Let’s not let it. Life’s way better when I don’t live in fear. I have pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and in the Swiss Alps to prove it!
  • Stop waiting to live your life. If I’m honest, I waited for years before I made this trip happen. I’ve wanted to go since I was in college, but in the back of my head I knew it would probably be cheaper and for sure safer to do Europe with my spouse…it’s just easier to travel with a male, you assume a different level of risk. I never verbalized this but it was in my subconscious. Well guess what, I’m not married and it’s not on the horizon. So why in the world was I waiting? Not sure, but I’m done waiting to live my life.
Such a fun day! If you go, take a Fat Tire Bike Tour while you’re there! Pretty surreal to see this area on tv now, but may we not live in fear.

Europe, you were good for so many reasons, but these simple and practical lessons were for sure eight of them. I will live life differently because of my choice to visit and travel you. Thanks for a great adventure, the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for all you taught me that I just wouldn’t have learned in America. And in the same way I refuse to operate in fear, I beg you not to either in the aftermath of Paris and the refugee situation. May fear never paralyze us, but rather may fear remind us to face them, to make the right decisions rather than the safe ones and to rely on the One who brings hope despite circumstance.

Until next time Europe,


Letter #683: Six Months of Adventure

Last 6 Months

Dear six months,

Half a year…182ish days. At times you can seem daunting or really long ago; other times you fly by faster than Blue Bell’s flying off Texas shelves right now.

I’ve lived 57 sets of you but when I think of my last set of six, in many ways it feels like a dream. I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words what’s happened in my last six months. You have been hard, fast, exciting, exhausting, life giving and unexpected while being filled with firsts, adventure, fear, opportunity and life lessons I’ll never forget.

  • Beginning of March-Beginning of May: served as a Chick-fil-A team member as Branson’s first store opened; balanced two jobs and while I didn’t mind the extra money I was really doing it to learn more about how CFA trains their employees as they continue to set the industry standard in customer experience.
  • May-August 8th: summer 10 at Kanakuk K-West; hardest of my 10 summers in that place but so fun at the same time as I was able to laugh a ton and learn a lot as I got to sit front seat as the Lord showed up how only He can.
  • August 11th-September 6th: four weeks on the trip of a lifetime; the timeliness of my European Adventure couldn’t have been more perfect. My prayer was for it to be restful, reflective and purposeful…all three and more occurred.

In the span of time a viable baby can be formed, I fit all the above in and more. There will be few seasons in my life filled with more diversity and adventure, and as I look back I can’t help but laugh. Did all of that really happen?! If I were in any other life stage, I couldn’t or at least wouldn’t have done it all.

And I wouldn’t trade my experiences for a different life stage. I need to remind myself of this as it’s so easy to compare and dwell on what I don’t have. Even in just the past few months I have been able to do incredible things. Rather than wishing for things to be part of my life, I want to genuinely celebrate all I already have and am getting to do. I just did things people dream of doing their whole lives. I saw pieces of creation most will only see in photos. My scope is broadened, eyes opened and life changed because of it.

My last six months have been so fun, so adventurous. I may never have six that rival you in a row again, but I am incredibly thankful for the journey and always want to live willing to take risks.

Cheers to the beginning of travel season at work and the start of set 58 of you!


Letter #445: Traveling Update

Dear traveling,

We pick right back up where we left off next week, and I’m excited for the places I go and the people I’ll see! Our exact destinations still aren’t 100% set in stone, but I’m going out on a limb and spreading the word anyway.

  • January 23: Kansas State
  • January 24: KU
  • January 25: University of Arkansas
  • January 26: Mizzou

I’ve never been to Mizzou, and I’m stoked to go back to the other three schools. Lots of fun folks to catch up with! What’s really crazy is this is the only week of you for me this spring. The girl that lives on the road is only out one week. This is a total curveball in how Branson spring works in my world. I think it’s a good thing though. I’ve had zero stability in my life for the past year and half as far as long term Branson living. This will be a good gage of how I really feel about calling Branson home.

All this being said, when I was typing out my upcoming adventures I realized I never added up how many miles we’ve acquired thus far. Earlier I estimated I’d hit 10,000. Let’s see if I was remotely accurate…

  • First three weeks of you: 3,246 miles
  • Branson-University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY): 600 miles
  • Kentucky-Vanderbilt/Lipscomb (Nashville): 213 miles
  • Vandy-Union University (Jackson, TN): 132 miles
  • Union-Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau, MO): 158 miles
  • SEMO-Branson: 296 miles
  • Branson-Mississippi College (Clinton, MS): 424 miles
  • MC-Mississippi State (Starkville): 136 miles
  • MS State-Ole Miss (Oxford): 98 miles
  • Ole Miss-Branson: 348 miles
  • Branson-Birmingham, AL: 511 miles
  • Birmingham-University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa): 59 miles
  • Bama-Valdosta State (Valdosta, GA): 349 miles
  • Valdosta-University of Georgia (Athens): 245 miles
  • UGA-Branson: 716 miles
  • Branson-Southwest Baptist (Bolivar, MO)-Branson: 148 miles
  • Branson-Missouri State (Springfield, MO)-Branson: 85 miles
  • Branson-Drury/Evangel (Springfield, MO)-Branson: 100 miles
  • Branson-Missouri University of Science & Tech (Rolla, MO)-Branson: 294 miles
  • 8,158 miles in the fall…plus next week…
  • Branson-Kansas State (Manhattan, KS): 329 miles
  • K-State-KU (Lawrence, KS): 85 miles
  • KU-Arkansas (Fayetteville): 265 miles
  • Arkansas-Mizzou (Columbia, MO): 311 miles
  • Mizzou-Branson: 204 miles

9,352 miles. I didn’t quite make it to 10,000 with work travel, but sprinkle in all the driving we did around the cities once we were there and I bet it was close! Plus if I throw in my treks to Stillwater for the K-State and Bedlam games, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m sitting at 11,888 miles. Wow. That is A LOT of miles! Good thing I’m still enjoying you!

Excited to get back on the road next week,

Extensive traveler (who still wants a really cool U.S. map for my wall to track where all I’ve been)

Letter #356: Trail Beginnings…

Dear trail,

It’s time to release our traveling schedule again. Where oh where will my travels take me this year? Well, for now I’ll divulge my first two weeks. Based on these places and even more the people I’ll get to spend time with at these places, we’re going to be off to a good start this year!

I had the choice of going to interview at either A&M/Baylor or OSU/OU for my first week out. Seriously, what a choice. Of course my loyalties lie in Oklahoma, but probably 40% of K-West’s staff goes to school in Texas. I was hardcore struggling to decide, but then my scheming side took over. I realized OSU played at A&M this past weekend. The second this hit me I started dreaming up possibilities. What if I flew down early and could make it to the game? I let the idea stew for a bit, ran it by Beth, my director, and she thought it was awesome. The second she told me I wasn’t crazy for thinking up this scheme, I took it more seriously. After a few conversations with A&M friends, we decided it was doable. I found a flight; they graciously found me a ticket; here I am in College Station having a blast! The rest of my team will arrive Wednesday to interview staff and begin trail for real! This explains my huge stint in College Station and my 15 day journey!

  • Sept. 23-28th: Texas A&M
  • Sept. 29th: Baylor
  • Sept. 30th: Dallas Kanakuk Staff Reunion (Watermark Church, 8-11 p.m., be there!)
  • Hang in Dallas with friends
  • Oct. 3rd: Auburn
  • Oct. 4th: Samford
  • Oct. 5-7th: Catalyst Conference, Atlanta (I’ve heard raving reviews about this guy and am stoked to see what it’s all about. And Dave Ramsey’s one of the speakers!!!!)

So there you have it. The first two weeks of you look to be an adventure filled with fun reunions, meaningful conversations and unforgettable memories. In the midst of all this, I’ll be praying for three specific things: discernment and direction while interviewing; purposeful and intentional time with friends/staff; refinement and growth in my walk with the Lord in the midst of my crazy schedule.

On the road again,

Texas, Alabama and Georgia visitor

Letter #161: Do What I Hate to Do What I Love

Dear packing,

You stress me out. OK, stress might be a bit of an overstatement, but I can think of 9,000 things I’d rather do than you. Cleaning, organizing and procrastinating are all on that list, three things I don’t love, so obviously I’m not a huge fan of you. I drive to Tulsa tonight to fly to San Diego in the morning for family vacation, so you consumed last night. I couldn’t be more excited especially since San Diego is in my top five American cities to visit. The others, in case you’re wondering, are Chicago, DC, Seattle and the 5th is always kept open in case there’s a last minute place of interest! Soon, San Diego will have to be replaced! I digress.

You’re required in order for me to do one of the things in life I love most, traveling, so I’m not going to complain too much. However, let me explain a few of my qualms with you.

  • Laundry completed to have all options available.
  • Unpredictable weather causing the need for more outfits to accommodate anything.
  • Pictures lasting a lifetime, so taking outfits you want pictures in is key.
  • The what ifs: What if we go somewhere really nice? What if it gets hotter or colder than expected? I think through any situation and try to get items in for each.

Then, at the end of the process, it’s almost inevitable that I do too much of you and still forget something. You are a vicious cycle. A cycle I honestly loathe. After 10 weeks of trail for work, I should have this down. Vacation and work are two VERY different versions of you.

The truth of the matter is I may hate you, but I LOVE traveling. I’ll take the tradeoff. So last night, I had put you off long enough and took you by storm. For about 30 minutes, my bed was unidentifiable. Sorting, folding, pairing outfits. Deciding what was comfortable yet Cali…let’s be honest, I probably succeeded at comfort and failed miserably in trendy Cali.

All that being said, one more day of work and vacation is calling my name! When I forget the outfit selections for a minute, I get excited to spend quality time with my family and relax in Cali…plus, this is exciting…my first ever vacation from work and real world…these might even be better than being in school!

Doing what I hate to do what I love,

Terrible packer