All in Travel

Top 10 Most-Read Posts of 2016

One of the best parts about running That First Year is getting to read all of the stories y’all send to me and thinking “Wow, that gal or guy is one helluva writer!” I’m forever grateful to be given this opportunity to take care of this space, creating community through stories shared of That First Year after college and beyond.

Below is a list of 10 posts that received the most reads this year. Give these posts a read as we bring this year to a close.

I Tend to Come Apart on Trains

I tend to come apart on trains.

There's something about the liminal space of them; that in-between, not quite anywhere feeling that nourishes my reflective (and overdramatic) side. Throw in a sunset or a rainstorm, or any kind of weather that feeds my ability to wander the full spectrum of my emotions; add my headphones and a Starbucks Christmas takeaway cup, and you've got the recipe for a dreamy, introverted girl's fall-apart-on-a-train kind of situation.

Somewhere Else

"I'm moving to Canada."

That's something so many of us have heard, or even said ourselves, over the past week once America's long-awaited election results stared us in the face. Canada's immigration site even crashed from too many disgruntled, scared, devastated Americans looking for a way out. Canada will be better, we thought. In Canada we can find our peace.

That Time I Wanted to be a Nomad

And regardless of whether or not I became a nomad, I was still leaving Nashville. I was over this city with its drunken country music tourists on Broadway and lack of ocean or mountains and awful traffic and skinny-jean wearing boys who have no idea what they want.

“I’m leaving.”

That was my constant refrain to whoever asked me what I wanted to do.

Being Present Where You Are

I bought a painting today to help my room look a little more homey, to help ease the tension of being here and wanting and waiting to be home. It’s the New York City skyline looking towards Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge. I walked across that bridge in the pouring rain last year; I looked up into that skyline on the anniversary of 9/11, so scarred with pale blue lights marking what used to stand tall. I flinched as planes roared over the hundreds gathered around the memorial. I bought books and drank coffee and rode the subway; I fell in love with a new city, unexpectedly.

But I knew the feeling deeply, as if written in my DNA, because I had felt it before, six years ago, walking much different streets, drinking chai, not coffee, and taking autos and overcrowded buses.

A New Blog, A Better Blog

New things, better things.

That’s been a go-to phrase for me for the past several months, a reminder in a rather transition-heavy and emotionally-turbulent time in my life to keep my eyes set on the good things to come rather than the worries I usually burden myself with needlessly.

And in the spirit of new things, better things comes along That First Year getting a makeover.

A Collection of Postcards

Some people like to put tacks on a map of the places they’ve seen, whether through the window of an airport or up close and personal in the heart of a town that doesn’t belong to them. But what I like to do is hunt down the tackiest souvenir shop, browse through the shot glasses and T-shirts, and walk away with a single postcard that will never make its way into a mailbox.

I look at the pictures on the front, try to recall seeing those views from a much more personal point-of-view.

Remember that time when…

How to Fit Your Life into Two Suitcases: Tips for Moving Abroad

Two months from now, I will be living 3,700 miles away from home in a country I’ve never visited before. 

My boyfriend and I have decided to move to Holland, where he is finishing his degree in The Hague. Several months ago, he asked me to come with him and after much deliberation, planning and money-saving, I’ve decided to take the plunge and come along for the ride. When he first asked me, I was terrified. I’ve never ever visited Holland, how could I move somewhere I’ve never been? I don’t speak the language, how would I get around? Or get a job? What could I do as a job? Where would we live? 

Being the planner that I am, I started tackling my list of fears one by one.

Dealing With Heartbreak at 35,000 Feet

Three days after my birthday I got dumped. Plain and simple. I was about to leave for a month in Germany, followed by a more permanent residence in Alabama for graduate school, when my boyfriend said he wasn’t prepared for the distance. It hurt, I cried, and then I drank more wine than I should have.  

I spent the time leading up to my trip to Berlin thinking about the what if’s: What if I wasn’t leaving for half the summer? What if I could stay in Nashville? Would things change? Three weeks of driving myself crazy with questions made me realize that I needed to go to Europe, if only to provide myself with a distraction from neurotically checking my ex’s Instagram page. I packed my bags and in mid-May settled into seat 27C on a flight from Dallas to Frankfurt, thinking that maybe this was a good way for me to take a break from the breakup.

It's A Small World: The Power of Vacation

It’s a small world, after all. Or at least if you let it be. 

I hadn’t realized how comfortable I’d become in my little part of the world until I thought about what I wouldn’t have if I stepped outside of it. I was always curious how some people could stay in one place their entire life and be perfectly content until I realized how easy it is to do just that.

It’s too easy to become so settled inside your own small world that you don’t think about what else could be around you, or – if you do think about it – you fear the change.

Finding Answers in Rome

On a warm July evening in Rome, after a long day on foot, Kristen and I shared dinner and dessert in one of the quieter corners of the city. Outside of the Italian cafe, at a little two-person table, we rehashed once again all of our wonders, fears and hopes for the years ahead while strangers filtered through unnoticed. Three hours into our conversation, in between sips of my lukewarm cappuccino, I blithely expressed a simple yet powerful intention that would ultimately change the course of my life.

"I'm going to marry that boy."

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: 5 Tips for Traveling Abroad

As a person with admittedly limited wisdom, I was initially shocked and delighted at the idea of my words being featured on any type of public medium. After all, I’m only 22 and survived a day and a half of Girl Scout camp, rendering me totally unwise. How many people, disregarding relatives and my therapist, could possibly care about my tales of adventure and woe? 

With that being said, That First Year has been my first experience with blog writing and after each completed post I continue asking myself if I’m saying anything that actually matters. Although my life got reasonably more exciting once I decided to spend the year before graduate school traveling, I didn’t know if it was fodder for blogging gold. While that gold part is debatable, I realized I have a lot to say. Not just about “figuring it all out,” but about some pretty big advice. Namely: what to do (or not do) when you decide to travel. From five months abroad, let me spell out my greatest learning lessons along the way. Traveling has been wildly fun and a little glamorous in the times when I haven’t been dining at a South American KFC, but if anything, my experiences are a constant serving of humble pie.    

A Winter Without Spring Break

The saddest I’ve felt since graduating is realizing I have no more set spring break. No more specifically set aside time to rush home from that last, ever-so-eternal-seeming class before freedom. No more frantic packing and driving all night to Florida and watching the sun come up over the Atlantic. If I wanted a spring break now, I would have to make it for myself, and that thought was daunting. How am I supposed to get through a spring breakless winter? Summer is too far off, too unreachable, so in the meantime, I’ve tried to do a few small things on my days off from work to beat back that winter idleness.

Just Trust It

Coming home from a foreign country is a weird thing, man. You’re picked up by an airplane some 6,000 miles away, and by the time you wake up from a Nyquil coma everyone speaks your language and you can once again get a pumpkin spice latte off the Starbucks menu. Walking through customs at the Miami airport was akin to peeing in swimming pools as a child – comfortable, warm, a feeling of joy quite literally spreading around me. There were Christmas carols playing and decorated trees spotting the lobby, and hearing the words to “God Bless America” played over the loud speakers moved me to tears.

Home is a beautiful thing.