Zones of comfort

Man oh man..so we’re gonna go way back to where I left off last time..in the beginning of September.

We spent Aussie Father’s Day/ my host mum Janette’s birthday up in Yanchep National Park, a beautiful area about an hour north from Perth. We had lunch on the Barbie (they got me special veggie sausages..so nice!),

Tim and I dipped our toes in the frigid Indian Ocean for the first time,

and finally got to enjoy our first Kangaroo spotting!

I began picking up my teaching responsibilities at school as well, and even taught the lessons all day for a couple days while the teacher was away, which was an exciting milestone for me at that point.

This was around the time when I began to both grow more comfortable in my Australian routine, and also less comfortable in my teaching experience. I have not had much experience teaching students with milder disabilities since that isn’t technically what I’m studying..but I know that there is a good chance I’ll have some students with higher abilities in the future, so it’s really good for me to deal with things like defiant behavior, ‘wagging’ or skipping class, and complaints about lessons.

I also actually have had to re-educate myself on a lot of the topics I am teaching.. how does wind power work again?? I was a little bit down on myself for awhile feeling like I’m not showing everyone my full potential as a teacher, but thankfully have a lot of supports to keep me in check and say, hey this is hard- you’re doing well! So thanks for that, guys!!

Really what I’m trying to say is… I knew this whole experience was all about stepping outside of my comfort zone and growing, but I expected in more in the whole being on the other side of the world aspect rather than in my teaching practice. Although I had those two a bit flip-flopped, I’m so grateful that I’ve had these obstacles and am becoming a more well-rounded and adaptable teacher because of it. Also, I have had a lot of awesome moments and super fun lessons with my students and they continue to surprise me and make me laugh all the time! Whether it’s asking me if Pop-tarts are my favorite American candy, or showing me how they dance ‘Gangnam style’, I can’t get through a day without a laugh, and for that..I am blessed.

 

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”  - Oscar Wilde

How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately?

Up next…our trip to Margaret River!!

Ketchup (or tomato sauce)

Hello again!

I just wanted to pop in and say I’m terribly sorry I’ve gotten so behind on my blog posts…I guess the laidback Aussie lifestyle has gotten to me ;)

 

Anyways, I am planning to ketchup soon..or as they would call it here, tomato sauce. But that totally doesn’t work in my pun.

 

So thanks for hanging in there, and I promise there will be an influx of posts soon!!

 

Have a wonderful day,

Sara

Off to Oz!

My trip to Australia began with a bit of a rocky start…about an hour before I was to leave we got a call saying my first flight was delayed due to mechanical difficulties. As we looked into it the plane was more and more delayed and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make my connecting flights on time. After a stressful period of time on the phone with the airlines they were able to re-book my flights..for the next day. I was initially disappointed and upset because of the hurry up and wait situation, but quickly put things into perspective and chose to appreciate the extra day I got to be fully prepared and spend time with my family.

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So the next day, I was off! My travels were relatively uneventful, thankfully! I had pre-arranged to have vegan meals on the planes and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality for airplane food and very thankful to be given some fresh fruits and veggies along the way. I had a pretty solid rotation of eat, sleep, watch a movie throughout my long flights and apparently I did something right because the jetlag never really hit me too hard! I arrived in Perth around noon (midnight back home) and was greeted by the other 3 COST students in my program and our advisor, John. We dropped my luggage off and I met my new host parents very quickly and then hit the ground running to explore a nearby suburb, Fremantle. We had fish & chips (supposedly the best around) at Cicerello’s and explored the markets, which I instantly loved!

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I began teaching at my school the very next day, which actually proved to be really nice to just jump right in and get acquainted with things from the beginning. I am teaching at a secondary school in ed support (special ed) and have different Maths, Science, and English classes with students in years 8-12 ( which means they are 13-17 years old). It is a huge shift going from teaching students with intensive needs to students who often may not seem like they have a disability when in conversation. I am definitely enjoying the new challenges and insights it has brought me so far, as well as very different lessons from what I have taught in the past.

My weekdays so far mostly consist of school, exercise, delicious dinners with the ‘family’ (my host mum Janette, host dad Steve, and fellow COST student Tim), and watching Aussie tv/lesson planning. I’m hooked on Aussie X-factor..there is some serious talent!!

The weekends have been packed with exploring different parts of the city and meeting new friends!

My first full weekend here Tim and I ventured over to Karrakutta cemetary to locate Heath Ledger’s family plot..after almost giving up, we found it!! It was too bad he didn’t have his own headstone there, but still exciting.

ImageWe also traveled up to Mullaloo for the evening where the other two girls in our program, Jasmine and Lauren, are staying. The following day our host parents took us to Kings Park, which is a huge, famously beautiful park overlooking the city and Swan River. Janette acted as our tour guide and told us all about different plants and Indigenous stories which was really cool!

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This weekend we spent our Saturday  (the first day of spring!!) on a wine & food tour of the Swan Valley. We had so much fun and made new friends with a pair of au pairs (haha!) from Germany, and a huge family with people originally from South Africa, England, and Perth. They were so kind and welcomed us right in, which was just great.

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Today is Australian Father’s day AND our host mum’s birthday, so we’re off to celebrate with a cookout on the barbie and hopefully some Kangaroo sightings as well!

More to come later…

Sara

NLC at miniwanca

So the last time I left off was with my Alaskan adventure. Well..the travels didn’t stop there! My boyfriend Mo came to pick me up from my Alaska trip at the Columbus airport, and we arrived back home around 1:30 am..I had to do my laundry and re-pack so that I was ready to leave for Michigan the following morning at 9am..woof. But it was all so worth it for the experiences to come..and I actually did fine, thanks to my friends Tessa and Katharine who let me chill in the back seat of the car and attempt to sleep (I’ve never been able to do that..but I managed for about half an hour I think!) while they drove and navigated the way.

So why was I in such a hurry to get up and go again? Because I’m nuts. Or because I wanted to get back to this

Yeah, that’s more like it. I headed to my favorite place on Earth, also known as Camp Miniwanca. I am fortunate enough to be on staff with the American Youth Foundation (AYF) there for two weeks in the summer as a part of the National Leadership Conference.

This is a conference for high school age students who come from all over to country (and occasionally internationally) to participate in various aspects of leadership development through a four year program designed to inspire people to discover and develop their personal best, seek balance in physical, mental, social and religious/spiritual living, and to make a positive difference in their communities and in the wider world.

Whoa, I know..a lot to take in there. Basically it’s an incredible experience rife with silliness, seriousness, and inspiration all set on the beautiful sand dunes of Lake Michigan with some of the greatest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to know. I graduated from the program in 2010 and since then have been granted the opportunity to offer my insights and service back as staff.

We had lots of fun with games such as human foosball

And constant random dance parties

The National Leadership Conference is very focused on building community, and I was so glad to have some of my class (my year of the program and our mentors who guided us all 4 years) there with me on staff to represent that community which has grown into a true family.

I left Michigan and only had about five days at home before heading off for Australia, but it was so worth it to connect to new participants and leave fully refreshed, recharged, and ready for my new adventures to come!

I’m now hangin in LAX waiting for my flight to Sydney then Perth, finally..but I’ll leave that story for when I arrive and can post again!!

[edit..I’m in Australia!! I’ll get a post up about my trip and first week hopefully real soon]

Thanks for reading :)

Where is your favorite place to travel?

Ohio to Alaska

I’m back! So sorry it’s taken me such a long time to post again but a lack of internet for three weeks plus crazy prep for the next adventure will do that to a girl..thanks for being patient :) Now I’d love to share some of the highlights of my incredible trip to Alaska a few weeks ago. First, the story behind the trip: I have been visiting a group home for adults with disabilities weekly while at college for the past three and a half years and this year was offered a chance to volunteer on a trip with the residents! I’m not going to lie I figured it would be a fun trip to the zoo or something, so you can imagine my shock when I found out they wanted me to go on a cruise to Alaska!! There ended up being 6 residents and 5 other staff members on the trip with me, and I am just so grateful and blessed to have gotten to join them. Now for the recap.. We all met up in Columbus and flew to Chicago for the first leg of our trip. From there we flew to Seattle, and I got to sit in an aisle row seat  since I was hangin with our two guys who are in wheelchairs. It was really interesting for me to see how various places accommodate people in wheelchairs/with disabilities. I have to say, overall I was blown away by the kind words, support, and extra assistance offered by most people we met! Once we got to Seattle we boarded our ship and headed straight to the buffet for some delicious food. Let me tell ya, we did not go hungry..ever! We ate dinner (almost) every night in the formal dining room, and they were so accommodating with our group. I was registered as dairy free, and the head waiter would come to the table every night and show me the menu for the next night and let me make substitutions or special requests if I  needed. It was actually quite funny how attentive he was, but I didn’t hate it! Some of the food highlights of the week included lots of fresh fruit also some yummy seafood and veggies And of course delicious desserts.. We spent most of the sea days just kind of relaxing and exploring the ship. There were tons of things on the schedule on the everyday but we mostly just hung out to not let the guys get too over-stimulated..which still happened kind of inevitably after three port days in a row during which we had crazy awesome excursions. Our first port day we were in Ketchikan, and visited Saxman Native Village to see the native dancers and their totem poles. I brought one of the residents up with me and we got to wear the costumes and perform a dance with the natives! They also had an honor pole for Abe Lincoln..if you didn’t know I have a serious crush on him..I just think Lincoln is a slammin’ hottie, what can I say? But it was really neat to hear their stories and see (and smell the cedar!) where the totem poles are carved now. The following morning we sailed through Tracy’s Arm which wound us through incredible glaciers and stunning scenery. I know it’s July and all but I couldn’t help but be surprised at how green things were..there were a bunch of small waterfalls all over the place too! I kept my eyes peeled for a bear along the shore, but no such luck. That afternoon we docked in Juneau and set about to some shopping before heading to our whale watching tour! Holy moly, talk about incredible. The pictures just can’t do it justice. We got to see some sea lions laying around in the sun, which apparently is about all they like to do! We were even told that the coast guard has to come spray them off the buoy with a fire hose every year just to clean the surface! We even got to see whales bubble feeding, which meant there were about a dozen in a pod all coming up for fish at the same time! I didn’t get a great picture but it was quite the sight to see.

Our final port day was in Skagway, and we got to take an amazing ride on the White Pass Yukon Trail railroad through the mountains. The residents were starting to get pretty exhausted and overstimulates by all the change in the routine and excitement at this point in the week, but we still managed to have a lot of fun and enjoy the stunning scenery.

We went over bridges (fun fact: I used to be petrified of driving over bridges..I’m mostly over it!), through tunnels, and around the mountain to hear all sorts of fun facts and of course see the sights.

We had some fun hanging out between the train cars and catching the breeze…note the sundress- it was a beautiful sunny day and probably at least 75 degrees! I thought this was Alaska?! Not complaining..

Overall it was an unforgettable week and I had so much fun both with the staff and residents. I not only got to experience an incredible cruise, but grew in new ways in terms of working with individuals with disabilities. I feel so blessed and beyond grateful that I got to share in these memories, so a huge thank you goes out to all who helped make it possible!!

Family Fun

Hi again!

Last weekend I got to spend time with my family who were in town visiting from all over the place.

On Friday my Dad came home from a last minute business trip that ended up lasting almost four weeks-we missed him! Mo and I headed up to Players, the restaurant he used to work for, and caught up with some old co-workers and ate some delicious food. Our girl Hattie hooked us up with an original creation, the ‘Hattie’s Helluva’ salad which was seriously awesome.  I wish I could tell you what was on it, but I’m not used to this whole blogging thing yet, and failed to take any pictures there..next time! We also split the salmon entree which was perfect since neither of us were too hungry, and it was delicious as everything there always is!  We ended up just heading back to my house to hang with my parents and my best friend Katie on the porch to enjoy the beautiful weather and a few drinks.

 

Saturday was my cousin Krista’s high school grad party which turned out to be a beautiful day to just hang out, catch up with the fam and of course eat lots of good food. She is headed to Cornell in the fall, so exciting! I also got to meet the newest member of our family, my cousin’s baby Liam, for the first time and they came in from Wisconsin! We also had family in from Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania joining our Ohio gang.

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Sunday we headed to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Pittsburgh for a wedding shower for my other cousin Amber and her fiancée Ryan, who also live in Wisconsin. If you can’t already tell I have a pretty large family..all 5 of my Dad’s siblings were there which was great since it doesn’t get to happen often enough. We hit some storms on the way on, but Mother Nature played nice and gave us some time in the sun, which was obviously spent in the pool and grilling out.

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We headed inside to watch Amber and Ryan open up their presents and take the obligatory family pics. We were seriously lacking in the male cousin constituent, but hey out 9 of 16 isn’t too bad!

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The grandkids and our grandparents

My Aunt Sue worked hard all day baking and decorating this beautiful (um, and seriously delicious) cake!

ImageIt was a white cake with a layer of lemon curd in the middle and frosted with a light whipped frosting. I’m not a big cake gal, but guys…she did good here. She also said it was pretty low calorie too, which was great considering I was stuffed from dinner already… and had a slice of key lime pie and a mound of berries (obviously) on my plate as well. Although I really don’t eat dairy, sometimes I make exceptions. Like when there are delicious homemade desserts with lemon and berry flavors. The stomachache was totally worth it this time.

I think that’s enough for one update..stay tuned for part two! I’m heading off on my big adventure #1 of the summer…my cruise to Alaska!!

How to take a surprise trip


Hey there!

Welcome to my corner of the web..head on over to my about me to learn more about myself and what this blog is all about!  Today I’m going to share with you about my most recent road trip adventure.

2012 is the year of big travel for me! It’s actually the main reason behind my starting this very blog, because I want to share with you as I head from Ohio over to Alaska, Michigan, and Australia over the next few months!!

I’ve been preparing and planning for my trips (but still have lots to do!), but this one was a bit less thought out..at least on my part.

On Thursday night I got home after a day of work and a staff meeting and threw things in a bag and set my alarm for 4:44 am so I could prepare some healthy meals and snacks in the morning before heading to Chicago for a surprise!


Yes..it sounds crazy. But I figured I had to seize the opportunity and go with the theme of adventure in my life. You see, my boyfriend Mo and our friend Gabe had been busy biking all the way from Cleveland and planned to arrive in Chicago on day 5, Friday for a weekend of seeing the city! These incredible guys not only biked over 400 miles to get there, but did so in the name of raising money for a local non-profit in Southeastern Ohio through selling awesome t-shirts (that my talented and lovely friend Chloe designed!) and asking for donations online. They call themselves “Rewarding Rides” and have the motto of ‘do something nice for someone, today and everyday’. Aren’t they awesome!?

But anyways.. thanks to my incredible co-workers I was able to take a day off work (I work at a daycare in the summer) and headed to the Windy City to surprise the guys at the end of their ride!

So..without further ado..my tips on what to do when taking a last minute road trip:

1. Think about the weather and plan accordingly.

Um…yeah, I didn’t actually believe it could get below 90 degrees ever again because it was so hot all week. We (Mo’s sister and boyfriend and I) got to Chicago and the heavens opened up for a torrential downpour not long after. Good thing I remembered my umbrella!! Also good thing it warmed back up quickly, because I packed nothing but sundresses and shorts/tank tops.

Colin attempting to fill up his water bottle out the car window during the storm

2. When packing, think about what you’ll be doing when you get there.

I knew we would want to spend our days seeing as much of the city as possible, so I packed some good walking shoes and sunscreen, as well as layers like a lightweight sweater good for going between sweltering heat and blasting air-conditioning.

3. Pack some meals and snacks for the ride and trip.

I have some stomach issues which have led me to a more restricted diet than most. I also just simply enjoy packing healthy and delicious foods so I know I will have some fresh foods along the way, and to save some money for other fun things! For this trip I packed a smoothie for breakfast on the way there, two salads, a few packages of oatmeal, and containers of fresh fruit and veggies/hummus. I also brought some chips, trail mix, and other random goodies (like a 12 pack of beer for the guys..I figured they earned it!)

4. Grab some cash before you leave.

Especially when car pooling, it’s nice to have a variety of bills to be able to share costs on things like gas and tolls, rather than mumbling something about only having your card and never paying them back. It’s also good if you need small bills for public transportation, taxis, parking garages/meters, and tips.

5. Go to the library.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely have 6 hours to spend sitting and doing very little..perfect time to read a good book I say! If you get car sick then ignore this one..but spend the time doing something leisurely you don’t usually get to do (unless you’re driving, silly)

6. Look up some reviews or talk to a local.

My friend Gabe is a vegetarian so I knew I could convince the guys to try a vegetarian restaurant while we visited, which is something I don’t generally suggest to my carnivorous boyfriend! I am not strictly vegetarian, but tend to eat a plant-based diet so these type of restaurants appeal to me. Whatever your interest is in, look it up and read some reviews.. you may discover a gem you wouldn’t have otherwise found! I also talked with my brother who used to live in Chicago, and he helped me figure out public transportation and gave some suggestions for where to go which came in handy for sure!

               

7. Don’t plan too much.

First of all, I only knew I was coming about two days prior to this trip, and then was home for about 2 waking hours during those days..so planning wasn’t happening! I also knew the biking boys would be exhausted, so I thought of a few things I really wanted to do/see and figured we would play it by ear. This worked out well because we enjoyed our time, got to see plenty of things, but didn’t feel disappointed by not fitting everything in to our small time frame.

8. Just do the damn thang!

Pardon my French, but don’t let yourself get caught up in the stress of planning, packing, traveling, etc and just enjoy the experience. This is something I really tried to focus on with my impromptu trip and hope to continue doing so on my upcoming adventures. I really am so grateful I was able to experience the city for a weekend with people that I love, and that’s the whole point. Try to tear yourself away from texting/facebook/twitter/instagram/blogging as much as possible in the moments you have on your trip. You can do it all later!

Alright well those are my tips from my first random road trip, I hope they are helpful!! If you have any more you want to add please feel free in the comments section below.

Where have you traveled on a random/surprise trip? or, Do you like to plan everything out or be more spur of the moment with your travels?