Tag Archives: north carolina

2015: My Year in Review

2015 was very much a monumental year for us. Not only did I take a new job that will ultimately get me where I want to go, but we also got to travel to so many new places, and see so much. Here are some of our highlights from this  year!

January
We started off our year with a bang when we went on a cruise with Mitchell’s family; our 7-day cruise visited Grand Turk, San Juan, Saint Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. A mere 2 days after the cruise, we packed up everything and drove halfway across the country to start a new life in North Carolina.

I didn't have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I've been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

I didn’t have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

February
We spent most of February trying to get settled in North Carolina, and didn’t do a whole lot of traveling. We went to an over-crowded chocolate festival 40 minutes away and made our first trip (of many) to Wilmington. And, oddly enough, I don’t have many pictures of Wilmington despite our many trips there!

March
March brought our first visitors from Iowa, and we went to Myrtle Beach for the first time. We didn’t do a whole lot of touristy activities due to time, but we did explore the WonderWorks Museum, ate at a nice restaurant, and enjoyed our hotel’s hot tub. We learned the value of having a tourist destination so close to us, something we aren’t used to!

Beautiful Sunset at Myrtle Beach

April
Our love for gambling brought us on a spontaneous trip to the mountains in Cherokee, where the closest casino is; this is something completely new to us as we’re used to being within an hour of 3 casinos. On our way home from Cherokee, we briefly explored Asheville (didn’t love it) and took in the mountain views.

There's a good view around every turn in Cherokee

There’s a good view around every turn in Cherokee

May
May brought us our first 3-day weekend together; we obviously took advantage of this time and went to Gettysburg which was such a unique experience and travel destination. On the way home, we took a minor detour and hit up the casino in Baltimore. And even though this isn’t necessarily a travel experience, one of my favorite memories since moving here was in May; on my birthday, we rented a kayak and took it to a sandbar where we fished, found crabs, and drank beer all day.

Gettysburg

June
From about March to August, Mitchell was working 6 days a week with the only exception being Memorial Day weekend. We had to be creative in our travels, and I didn’t want to stretch Mitchell too thin. That means most of our weekends were spent at Topsail Beach, about 45 minutes away from our house. We made an exception one weekend when we took a ferry to Shackleford Banks where wild horses roam the small island!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

July
We crossed off one of my Bucket List items in July by going to Washington, D.C. for the 4th of July. I have always wanted to see the fireworks at the National Mall ever since I saw them on TV as a kid. Even though the rain made it a much different experience than I had imagined, it was still incredible to cross off such a big thing from my bucket list. We also moved from our crappy apartment to a nice, big house!

Washington, D.C.

August
In August, we mostly enjoyed Mitchell working normal hours again and finished settling into our new house. We knew that September was going to be a busy travel month so we laid low other than a day trip to New Bern.

New Bern, North Carolina

September
Labor Day weekend was spent in the mountains. Of course I loved the mountains when we visited in April, but it was this trip that made me fall madly in love. We explored Bryson City and made plans to return when the leaves began to change. Two weeks after our mountain trip, my mom came to visit and together we tackled Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and Topsail Island.

Charleston, South Carolina

October
October brought us back to the mountains for an incredible weekend. We explored a little more of the mountains than just the casino (only half joking), took a train ride, and just took time to enjoy ourselves. I’m not quite sure how we got so lucky, but the weekend we were there was the most perfect weekend for fall-color-viewing! We also checked out the North Carolina state fair! Iowa is known as being one of the best state fairs, so checking out a different one was a good experience, and it was so weird to be chilly at the state fair, since ours is in August!

North Carolina State Fair

November
November brought us a spontaneous trip to Washington, D.C. Let me tell you, spontaneous trips here bring you to much cooler places than what we are used to! And spontaneous trips are the best trips, especially when you can get away during non-tourist season (hello, cheap hotels and no lines!). We visited Mitchell’s family in Florida for Thanksgiving and had the best time there, too. They took us to the beach and we went boating every day. Also, this may be surprising, but we hit up the casino in Tampa on our way home.

Path to a Florida Beach!

December
It would only seem fitting that the year would end the same way it began – traveling halfway across the country. My mom got a new car and sold us her old one, so I flew home for the holidays then drove the car back to North Carolina. It was another check off the bucket list because I’ve always wanted to drive [halfway] across the country solo. Of course, I’d like to do it again and be able to take my time so that I can stop at all the places and do all the things! Before I flew home for the holidays, Mitchell and I took advantage of a huge Southwest sale, and spent our anniversary in Nashville. A post about Nashville is coming, but let’s just say that I did not have huge expectations but it ended up becoming one of my favorite vacation destinations to date.

Nashville, I love you so much!

Nashville, I love you so much!

That’s my year in a nutshell! My whole life, my grandma has said that time goes so fast, and the older you get, the faster time goes. She is so right because I honestly don’t know where 2015 went. I don’t know what 2016 will bring, but I have a feeling it is going to be the best year ever!

 

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11 Things Moving Across the Country has Taught Me

At this exact time last year, Mitchell and I were selling, giving, or throwing away everything we owned except for what could fit in our car. It was a bittersweet (and extremely stressful) time; I had no idea what was lying ahead of me and I was equally as excited as I was terrified. I have grown immeasurably throughout the last year and I can’t explain how thankful I am to have this opportunity. Because it’s the beginning of a new yearand the anniversary of our big move, I’m feeling nostalgic. So with that, I bring you 11 things I learned about moving across the country.

11 Things I learned about Moving Across the Country

It can be lonely
I learned this one the hard way, and I learned it immediately. For the most part, my new coworkers were welcoming but it took a long time to make real, lasting connections and relationships; and I learned there’s a big difference between feeling welcomed and actual friendship. At first, the only real social life I had was Mitchell, and this continued for probably 9 months. As much as I love my boyfriend, I really value (and need) girls’ nights; plus, asking a friend which shoes to wear over FaceTime isn’t the same (in retrospect, it also didn’t matter since the only person seeing them was Mitchell anyways).

Mountains North Carolina

You’ll second guess yourself at least once
Most days, living somewhere completely new fuels my desire and motivation for wanting to travel even more, but there are days where it is the opposite. Even though spending my weekends gallivanting up and down the east coast is the most incredible experience that I couldn’t have had from Iowa, it doesn’t replace being there to help my best friend plan her wedding or meeting my other friend’s newborn baby. That’s the big stuff. But the little stuff is hard to miss too – like countless dinner dates, happy hours, and my brother/our niece and nephews’ extracurricular activities.  Missing those moments can really make you second guess if you are where you are supposed to be.

Florida Beach

Your relationships will change
Even though everyone is a quick phone call or text away, it’s a lot of work to keep in touch when you can’t see each other in person. It’s easy to lose touch and drift apart in life, but it’s even easier to do so when you’re half a country away. But even though moving away makes it difficult, some relationships will become stronger. There are some people that I talk to more now than I did when I lived close to them; and although the dynamics have changed in every relationship I have, I am so happy that all of my relationships have remained intact.

North Carolina Beach

….and so will you
Part of the reason your relationships change is because you change too. You will not be the same person you were when you left. Let it happen, and embrace the change. Hopefully it will make you better and stronger in the end.

North Carolina Beach Sunset

It’s addicting
Need I say more? Moving to a place where you know no one is an adrenaline rush. I have learned that a part of me thrives on feeling that little twinge of homesickness. Plus, there are so many restaurants to try, places to explore, and people to meet. Living somewhere isn’t the same as visiting and once you get a taste of it, you may begin plotting out where you want to live next!

Roadtrip Road

You might have to pinch yourself a few times
I always dreamed of moving to the ocean and I never really imagined it would happen. I find myself thinking – “Is this real? Am I really doing this – DID I really do this?” pretty frequently. I have found myself thanking God many times for this incredible opportunity. And even though it’s my own hard work and dedication that brought me here, I feel so incredibly lucky.

North Carolina Beach

Greater appreciation
Learning about new and different cultures (yes, I consider the south to have its own culture 😉 ) helps me to appreciate others from different backgrounds while also making me appreciate my own background even more. Also, working for the military gives me the utmost appreciation for all of our service members, veterans, and their families.

North Carolina Mountains in the Fall

It will open up opportunities
When I dreamed of moving to the sea, I dreamed of sipping my coffee on the patio overlooking the ocean. And even though that hasn’t happened yet, mostly because we live a half an hour from the ocean, the opportunities here are even greater than that; reality has exceeded my expectations. By now, you know the opportunities for travel have been incredible for me, so there’s no need to go into more detail there. Instead, the opportunities for new friendships, new jobs, and a different way of living have all fallen into my lap. It’s crazy the opportunities you might get if you give them the chance.

North Carolina

Our newest friends

You become an advocate for “home”
Suddenly, everything from Iowa is “the best”. I find myself constantly talking about the sunsets, the food, and the people quite frequently. Because Iowa isn’t exactly a tourist destination, I have a lot of educating to do. I talk about it so much that I think my friends and coworkers wonder why I left in the first place!

No matter where I go, Iowa will always be home

No matter where I go, Iowa will always be home

It will become a part of you
I have left pieces of my heart in many places. North Carolina is not the first, and it will not be the last; and the problem with leaving your heart in so many places is that a part of you is always homesick for somewhere else. North Carolina was never meant to be a forever move, but I love this state so much. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be content where I’m at, and that’s both exciting and a little scary.

North Carolina beach

It’s completely worth it
Moving across the country was everything I dreamed it would be and more and I would do it again in a heartbeat . . . and I just might!

Myrtle Beach South Carolina Beach

 

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Facing my Fears: White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

When we went to Bryson City, one of the things on the top of Mitchell’s bucket list was white water rafting. I have been white water rafting once before, in Colorado, and I’m working on a post detailing that experience so I don’t want to drag you into the details now, but let’s just say it was not what I was expecting absolutely horrible. Despite my awful experience, I agreed to go white water rafting anyways (earning those good girlfriend points, ya know).

Bryson City, North Carolina

He is more excited than me to go white water rafting….

We had already checked off most of the things we had planned for that weekend, so on our last day we woke up and headed out to one of the recommended companies for white water rafting. Before loading the bus to take us to our rafting site, we had our safety briefing. This is where you basically learn about how you could die or lose every limb on your body. Even though all of this information was a repeat for me, I was literally shaking in my [rented] boots. While we listened to the briefing, I was sizing up all of the guides, secretly hoping for one of the guides by the name of “Papi”. Luck was on my side, because that’s who we were paired with, along with two other couples.

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

We got this!

We carried our raft into the water while I detailed my awful experience to Papi. We got into the water and hit our first rapid. And I didn’t hate it! It turns out that when you’re properly trained, you don’t fall in the water (stay tuned to hear more about that one later)! This company did a great job on training us what to do, and I felt prepared. Within minutes of hitting the water, I was enjoying myself!

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

Well, that was a big rapid….

The weather on the day of our rafting trip is the kind that September dreams are made of. Despite the perfect weather, however, the water was absolutely frigid. If the idea of cold water makes you shudder, I would recommend renting (or bringing) a wetsuit; I was honestly having too much fun to notice the cold water, or maybe I was just still a little terrified, who knows, but Papi told us that even on the hottest days of summer, the water is cold.

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

Falling in happens so fast, you don’t notice you’re cold; but luckily, it’s not so fast that photographers can’t capture it for everyone to enjoy later 😉

The biggest rapid was at the very end of our 2 ½ hour trip, and we must have hit it just right, because my entire side of the raft fell into the water (my biggest fear). My boyfriend pulled me back in, so I didn’t go anywhere, but after the excitement, we were casually floating along and laughing about what had happened when someone realized that Papi had also fallen it! Other guides from the company pulled us to shore and about 20 minutes later everyone who had fallen in finally made their way back to us. No one was hurt, and it was hysterical. The coolest part? Even though falling in was my biggest fear, it didn’t scare me!

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

I promise I am not pulling Mitchell into the water 😉

When we got back to the company’s shop, another employee told us that it had probably been 10 years since Papi had fallen in, and I’m happy to have been a part of that. We were told that when a guide falls in, they have to buy beer for all the other guides that night, and that in the off-season, the guides buy big inflatable toys from WalMart to see who can make it over the rapids. Can you imagine a group of adult men floating down rapids on a blow-up pool? These guys are so fun-loving and adventurous.

White Water Rafting in North Carolina

Half of the rafters are out, half are in

This was such an incredible experience, and it felt so good to face my fears. Mitchell and I have already talked about going back and doing it again. I won’t be doing it in an inflatable pool, but I would be happy to do it with any of the guides!

IMG_2989

 

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Five on Friday

It’s been a while since I have done a Five on Friday! I am excited to share this week because a lot has been going on!

1.Three weeks ago, Mitchell and I finally got to go to the mountains to check out the fall colors. If you’ve been following along, you know that we love the Bryson City/Cherokee area of North Carolina, and we were anxious to return to see the change of the leaves.  We had a fantastic time, and could not have planned a better weekend to go – the leaves were perfect despite my fears that we were going too early/too late. Stay tuned for a much more in-depth post about our weekend in the mountains, but for now, I will leave you with this preview:

On the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

2. I was a cheerleader in high school, and one of my favorite memories from all of high school was going to state in football my senior year (actually, if I’m being honest, it probably is one of my favorite memories ever). It was such an exciting time, because it had been a very long time since the football team had made it to state, and the entire community was so excited (nothing like football in a small town). It was exactly ten years ago that I was there (where does time go?!), and was my alma mater’s first time back! They didn’t win, but the whole community is so proud of them, as they should be. And here’s a throwback for you from state exactly 10 years ago 😉

Cheerleading 2006

That’s quite a nervous smile! May I also point out how much picture quality has changed since 2005? This definitely was not taken with a camera phone 😉

3. It is going to be a travel-filled end of 2015, and I can’t think of a better way to end the year. In two weeks, we are headed to Florida to visit Mitchell’s family for Thanksgiving and I’m going to go back to Iowa the week before Christmas to celebrate with my family. I’ll be back in North Carolina before Christmas to spend the holidays with Mitchell. In the middle of the holidays, we will be celebrating that in Nashville. And finally, we are planning on renting a cabin in Gatlinburg for New Years Eve. I’m so excited for all that is to come!

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Last time we were in Florida was 1 year ago in December. I couldn’t have imagined at the time how my life was about to change!

4. I mentioned that we recently went to Washington, D.C. for the weekend. We had so much fun, and the more I visit, the more I fall in love with the city. Stay tuned for a more in-depth post, but we hit up the Holocaust Museum and the Newseum with lots of walking around and exploring in between.

Washington, D.C.

5. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good book. Since Mitchell got back from Iowa a month ago, we’ve been on the go pretty much non-stop. However, our visit to the Holocaust Museum has motivated me to finally pick up Anne Frank’s book. I am really embarrassed that I haven’t read this book yet; I’ve picked it up a few times, but never managed to read it all the way through. In middle school, I read Night by Elie Wiesel and it was fantastic. I think I might pick up that one and read it again

Since we have so many travel plans coming up, we are going to be pretty low-key this weekend. We have some local fun activities planned for next weekend, though, so stay tuned because I’m so excited!

Untitled

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Deep Creek in Bryson City, North Carolina

When planning our trip to Bryson City, one of the absolute must-do activities on my list was hiking to seeing a waterfall! Luckily, with just a little planning, we were able to make this happen relatively easily. Bonus: ONE hike, THREE waterfalls!

Bryson City, North Carolina

You may remember my last post describing how I came to find out about Bryson City, which was a picture almost exactly like this one that I found on pinterest:

Bryson City, North Carolina

Well, turns out this picture is in Deep Creek, home to a ton of fun stuff to do! As though the opportunity to go tubing in the mountains alongside waterfalls wasn’t enough to make me want to go, Deep Creek also offers hiking, biking, cabins, fishing, and more, but it is specifically known for its streams and waterfalls. This is when I discovered they have a short hike that offers you not only one, but three waterfalls.

Bryson City, North Carolina

It was a simple hike to all three waterfalls. The hike to the first waterfall was the only time I would consider the endeavor an actual hike, and that was only 0.6 of a mile. This is also coming from someone who is severely out of shape. The rest of the time, we were walking along a path, and it didn’t feel like we were putting forth much effort at all.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Juney Whank Falls was the first waterfall, and also happened to be the one that I was least impressed with (yes, the one that was the most difficult to get to). Other traveler pictures show the waterfall with quite a bit more water than what we experienced, so my guess is that it was pretty dried up while we were there. Juney Whank Falls is viewed by a bridge, which adds a special touch to this particular waterfall. We also talked to a local who told us that Juney Whank Falls are said to be named after a man believed to be buried in the area, although some other locals believe Juney Whank is the Cherokee meaning for “where the bear passes”.

Juney Whank Falls in Bryson City, North Carolina

Tom’s Branch Falls is the waterfall you see so many tubers and floaters pass by, the exact waterfall that inspired our trip to Bryson City. There’s something special to me about Tom’s Branch Falls, and I think it’s just that I’m obsessed with the fact that you can tube right by it. Maybe I’m easily amused, but how many times do you get to do that in your life? We also saw some tubers set their tubes aside and climb amongst the waterfall. We weren’t wearing proper attire so we passed on that opportunity.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Indian Creek Falls was my favorite! This is also the farthest away from where you will park your car, but so worth it, especially because it truly is a simple walk! We also kept stopping to peer out at all the people tubing the river. We found ourselves surprised that we were up so high because it honestly did not feel like we were on an incline at all.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Our hikewalk (I think that should be a word) was approximately 2.4 miles total. So if you are visiting the area for a weekend, like the situation almost always is for us, then it’s perfect for a half-day activity (give or take). Instead of taking a crazy several-hour hike, we were able to see three waterfalls while also crossing off a few other items on our bucket list that day.

Bryson City, North Carolina

See that little baby waterfall behind us? That’s the Juney Whank waterfall.

Helpful Recommendations:
If you are uncomfortable with hiking, you could skip the first waterfall (Juney Whank Falls) and just walk along the more-developed paths (they’re essentially well-maintained roads) to the other two waterfalls.

Once you start the hike, there’s nowhere to buy or drink water so I recommend bringing your own. We did not plan ahead so we didn’t have water, but we were fine because the temperature was mild that day.

If you are interested in tubing, you have to carry your tube to wherever you want to start from. This might seem like common sense to some, but in my tubing history, we’ve always mapped it out to where we could end in the same place we started, or we would bring two vehicles (one to drop off at the start, and one for the end); neither of these are options here. Also, while we enjoyed watching the people tubing, I’m not sure how much they were enjoying it – the water was pretty cold, and it was also very low (and it’s rocky!). I believe the water was lower than usual when we visited, so that might not be how it always is, but I’d recommend checking it out before committing to walking a long distance with your tube!

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