Engagement Story & Pictures!

Engagement Story & Pictures!

June marks six months since Vishal popped the question and to commemorate the milestone, I’m sharing the story and pictures from the day he proposed!

On the spur of the moment in May, Vishal and I booked a ten-day trip throughout Japan and Cambodia. It was a couple months before while we we’re planning all the details when he asked if I’d be interested in a guided photography tour for one of the days we were going to be in Cambodia. I thought it was a wonderful idea, so Vishal said he would get it all set up. We left for our trip on December 8th and, after spending the five days traveling throughout Japan, we arrived in Cambodia for the second half of our trip! It was the day of our photography tour and our guide, Chris, met us at 4 AM to start our tour with the famous sunrise at Angkor Wat. We spent the whole day visiting all the temples and ruins, learning photography tips, and taking pictures along the way. As we were nearing the end of our photography tour through the temples of Angkor, our guide, Chris, took us to one last temple for a few more shots. It was a beautiful site in the middle of the jungle with no one else around. We climbed to the top of the temple and as I was looking around to plan our next shot, Vishal said he had a question to ask me. Unsuspectingly, I turned around and Vishal got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! After lots of hugging, kissing, and maybe just a few happy tears, we ended the day with a champagne toast celebration on a private river cruise into the sunset!

XoXo

 

Visiting India: Night Out at Upré

Visiting India: Night Out at Upré

One of the best parts of my trip to India was having some friends from college (who were traveling in Morocco) come stay with us for a few days!

We decided to do some exploring during the night and came across an awesome rooftop restaurant with panoramic views the city and water!

Upré is located on the terrace of Lake Pichola Hotel. It was a great place to spend our second night in India enjoying among great drinks and wonderful friends! I would definitely suggest requesting one of the booths along the edges for the best views.

*Funny story: While we were enjoying our drinks a grasshopper showed up out of nowhere and landed on me! I’ve been told Grasshoppers are a universal symbol of good luck, so I felt extra special.

XoXo

Voodoo Doughnut: The BEST Doughnuts. Ever.

Voodoo Doughnut: The BEST Doughnuts. Ever.

Happy National Doughnut Day!

It’s no secret how much I love and enjoy food- all of our travels are pretty much focused on trying the most buzz-worthy places in each city- but it’s pretty safe to say doughnuts are my favorite!

I’ve visited lots of different doughnut shops, but one always stands out as my favorite: Voodoo Doughnut.

I first experienced the pure deliciousness of a Voodoo Doughnut doughnut after  becoming a Denver resident. We were driving down Colfax Ave and the bright pink building caught my eye. There was a line stretched out the door and around the block, but I made us pull over and wait. Even with the 45-minute line, IT WAS SO WORTH IT! Among their Raised Yeast, Cake, and Vegan doughnuts, my top two are The Homer (Raised Yeast) and Voodoo Doll (Raised Yeast).

Since this doughnut enlightenment in Denver, I’ve also checked visiting their Portland, OR and Eugene, OR locations off my list!

Doughnut lovers everywhere: If you ever come across a Voodoo Doughnut, wait in the line and get a big pink box of doughnuts!

As they say at VD, “good things come in pink boxes”.

XoXo

What I Learned From Someone Stealing My Phone in Thailand… and Other Tips for Traveling Abroad

What I Learned From Someone Stealing My Phone in Thailand… and Other Tips for Traveling Abroad

My trip to Thailand was one of the best experiences of my life- It was my first time traveling internationally. It was a bit of a culture-shock once we landed, but I learned more about myself and the world out there that I had yet to experience. While I had the best time in Thailand, on my first full day in Bangkok, I was the victim of pickpocketing. Not even realizing the “Beware of pickpocketing” signs around the temple- of course-until after i fell victim, it happened in the matter of less than 5 minutes.

I have come up with a list of some Do’s and Dont’s for traveling abroad with links to handy items below!

  1. Do yourself a favor and DON’T bring a backpack to use as your daily bag. I bought a Longchamp ‘Le Pliage’ Backpack specifically for this trip, thinking it would be the easiest way to travel so my hands would be free. I loved that it had a zip top and flap to cover- figuring this made it extra safe, but it didn’t, and my new iPhone 6 was stolen. After reading tons of articles, the best choice would be a crossbody of messenger-type bag. Two of my favorites are the kate spade new york ‘cobble hill – ella’ leather hobo  (on sale right now) and the Longchamp ‘Le Pliage Neo- Medium’ Tote. I always bring my Canon DSLR and GoPro with me on trips, so I like a roomier bag. These two work well, but each also come in a smaller size if you travel light . With these bags, you can zip them up and keep them in front of you and have the pickpocketers not see you as a target.
  2. DO bring an external battery pack. Life-saver on those long flights where you may be stuck in a seat that DOESN’T have a working port (true story). I love the external battery pack I bought from Amazon. It’s a little thick, but can fully charge my phone six times!
  3. DO write down all of the names, addresses, and phone numbers for the places you are going to- think hotels, restaurants, attractions! Do not rely on technology, because we all know things happen-Batteries can die, wifi can not be found, etc. The person in our group in-charge of the hotel address kept it in his email and once we reached the town, he phone didn’t work and we spent the next two hours walking around town trying to find the hotel… not the best situation.
  4. DON’T over-pack. I was in Thailand for 12 days and I fit everything in one carry-on and a small personal and it was still too much! I’ve been spoiled by being able to stuff an insane amount of stuff in my carry-on and I knew, as long as it fit in the overhead compartment, I was good! Imagine my shock when learning, first-hand, that most international carry-on items are subject to size AND weight limitations. I bet you can guess how my experience went. I either had to pay weight-overage fees or was forced to check-in my bag and pay outrageous checked baggage fees. Save yourself the trouble and pack smart and light. It’s also a good idea to invest in a handheld scale to be certain you’re good to go.
  5. DO have fun 🙂 Remember to enjoy your time on your adventure. Go with the flow, roll with the punches, and fully embrace the surroundings and cultures. Appreciate your opportunity to see a world different from your day-to-day life!

With Love,

Steph

It’s 2015!

It’s 2015!

Happy New Year, everybody!

It is so crazy how fast this year has gone by. It feels like I was just in Phoenix, AZ watching my UCF Knights beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to start 2014 and, since then, so many wonderful things have happened. This year I celebrated 3 years with my man, turned 22, became an Alpha Xi Delta alum, graduated from UCF with my Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management AND with honors, moved to St. Louis, became an advisor for the Alpha Xi Delta chapter at UMSL, moved back to Florida, and  ended this year beginning our road trip out to our new home: Denver!

As you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for this past year and I just know 2015 will bring more adventure and happiness.

I will leave you with some pictures of my NYE celebration this year and a favorite picture I stumbled upon from NYE 2011.

Happy New Year!

With Love,

Steph

IMG_7794New Year’s Eve 2011 in Times Square. Our first NYE together and we stood in the same spot with thousands of other people for 13 hours. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Exploring my new city: St. Louis

Exploring my new city: St. Louis

After driving 17-hours straight from Orlando to St. Louis, we arrived. We settled into our temporary hotel-home and Vishal prepared for his first day of work. I began the apartment search, something I urge you all to secure BEFORE you move, and explored my new city.

I am still so impressed by everything St. Louis offers. There are so many (free) things to do and all within a 5-minute walk to 15-minute drive. I live downtown and I am literally steps from the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams play, a few blocks from Ballpark Village (which is amazing!) and Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play. I can walk to a multitude of restaurants and bars all around me, including my favorites: Pi Pizzeria, Rooster, Sauce on the Side, and Bridges Tap House and Wine Bar. The unbelievably expansive Forest Park is a short 10 minute drive and offers golf courses, one of the best (and free) zoos in the country, museums, boat rentals, and so much more. St. Louis is also home to Anheuser Busch, a full production factory that offers free daily tours, beer school, a chance to see their Clydesdales and  Biergarten. Truly awesome. I’ve done it all over five times already. A bit out of the city limits, but well worth the drive, is Lone Elk Park. It is a drive along trail where you find bison and elk roaming the grounds. Pack a picnic to eat by the lake and be sure to bring a camera for awesome close-up shots!

St. Louis really is an awesome place to visit and live. I’ve become a cardinals fan, took the journey to the top of the Arch, and eaten some AMAZING food. This is a place you must experience and try out some of the places I’ve pointed out if you find yourself in this wonderful city.

With love,

Steph

Pictures and info captions below! I was even able to sneak in a piece of famous, St. Louis gooey butter cake and a few shots of Simba 🙂

Moving On and Starting Over

Moving On and Starting Over

Well, I’ve been living in St. Louis for three months now! While I never thought I would end up in Missouri, I can really see why people fall in love with this city.

When Vishal announced our new destination, I was beyond nervous and had no idea what to expect. I had never visited the area before and the only background knowledge I had on STL was that it was home to the Arch. That’s it. But, with only two weeks to pack up and move out of our place, I was more worried about how I was going to fit all of our stuff into my sedan (not an easy feat), than how life would be in our new city.

After a few weeks here, an overwhelming feeling I had when on my own was how cut off from my familiar world I felt. After living in my college town for the previous four years, having friends all around me, and always having someone to call up to hang out with, I began to realize that growing up sometimes means leaving the familiar behind. It was also hard that I used to only be a three hour drive from home and was accustomed to seeing family just about every other month. It was all just very comfortable. That comfort is what made it so hard, yet so easy, to leave. It is a shocking and in-your-face type of thought, but I’ve realized how necessary this experience was for me. I was able to reevaluate myself and given the chance for a period of introspection to better understand my wants and my needs, discover what’s important in my life, and where I want my life to lead me. If there was any a time to experience something like this, the time was now. This is time before there is anything holding Vishal and I back from being truly “free” in the we-have-no-real-responsibilities way.

A few things I have discovered during this new journey:

1. You realize who the important people are in your life. I cannot tell you how much I wish I could be just a short drive away from my family and friends.

2. You get away from the drama you always had to deal with before. Sometimes, when you’re around your friends and peers and just those various groups you end up interacting with, you get pulled into or are around negative people. When you move away, you get to leave all of that negativity behind and just focus on the people who matter!

3. You can start over fresh and have the chance to reinvent yourself. You have left the people who have formulated concrete perceptions of you, so if there is something you want to change about yourself, you can without being nervous of people’s reactions. You have the chance to make a new impression on the new people you’ll meet in your new city.

4. You discover how valuable hanging out with friends you’ve known since elementary/middle/high school is. It was a strange thought I had, but there is an interesting comfort in surrounding yourself with people who have known you through various stages of your life. You realize the relationships and friendships you form with people in your adult years are in a separate league than ones from your childhood, teenage, and college years. This is not a bad thing, it’s just something about growing up that makes those older friendships even more special and meaningful.

This experience has been amazing, scary, exciting, anxiety-enducing, but overall so important and valuable. So, take the leap, jump in with two feet, and take advantage of new experiences while you have the chance. It is the best opportunity for self-discovery and I urge you all to take that next step towards a new adventure.

With Love,

Steph

Getting Older

Getting Older
Just a few months ago, I celebrated my twenty-second birthday. I couldn’t help but realize how  strange it was- feeling like it was just yesterday that I was sixteen and a junior in high school dreaming of college and the places after that. Now, if only I was sixteen again and wasn’t worrying about  getting older and trying to get most out of life as possible.
On my birthday, people kept asking me the typical “do you feel older” question. I just laughed it off, as does anyone who doesn’t really know the best way to answer a question, But no. I didn’t feel older. I don’t think anyone ever physically feels older on their birthday…except for maybe for the twenty-first birthday when you can legally do more, but for twenty-two, no. It is just as pointless as twenty was. But, one thing I did realize: although I did not feel older, I came to the mental realization that I am getting older. It is a completely different feeling and brings on a completely different set of emotions, and possibly a few “quarter-life” crises.
I am getting older and life around me is making even more aware of that. Going back to the time of my birthday, graduation was growing near, I was packing up my student apartment, and watching my younger friends pick out their class schedules for the next year. I was officially getting into that “real-world” adulthood phase that was always looming around the corner and now it has finally crept up on me. It all seems so final.
Life during college seems to go by SO much faster than my high-school years and I feel that these quick years will become the norm. With everyday being close to a cycle and planning dates throughout the next year in my planner, it is no wonder how people get into this never-ending cycle in life and before we know it 2015 will be here in a blink of an eye.
So, with everything I have just typed out for the world to see, I am making a pact: a goal to treat everyday as bringing me something new, to pay attention to the small things throughout my day that I might not have noticed before, to wake up positively, to do my best to try new things, make spontaneous decisions, and to, overall, find my passions in life and pursue them. Because after college, there is no longer that sense of “I can do everything and try everything because I am a student taking classes with no rent, real responsibilities, or anything holding me down”. Life suddenly gets real.

Rambles from the Past: “Graduation and Life After It”

Below is a recount of idling thoughts I scribbled into my notebook in the days leading up to one of my biggest accomplishments: College graduation.
Thirty-six. The daily countdown has officially commenced. In thirty-six days, I will be walking across THAT stage in cap and gown and with that (hopefully) graceful walk, I will end my days as an undergraduate student.
That sentence seems so foreign to me.
College student is the only title I’ve gone by and all I’ve known in these past four years. Even crazier thought: I have been a “student” for the past seventeen years (since kindergarten). And with that Walk, it will be over. That chapter in my “Book of Life” will close and it will be time to start a new one. One that will include joining the real, and somewhat scary, adult world. I will soon have to find a “real” job, start paying my own bills, and ultimately adjust to living life without the safety blanket that is college. I will leave the friends and family I created here for a fresh beginning- one that will hopefully take me to the west coast. I have begun to realize what matters, who matters, and who will realistically still be someone close in my life. I think back on all of the memories-some bad, some good, some so crazy that it leaves me thinking how did I ever do that- and just get consumed with happiness, because I know I didn’t “waste” my college years. I did incredible things, took advantage of wonderful opportunities, and made the best friends I possibly could.
Scary as it may be, it is also a ridiculous exciting time with what seems like endless possibility. Think about it, come graduation, I will be a young, smart girl with a degree and nothing holding me back from starting a new life. I can move across the country, even across the world, and start MY life. One that I will define however I want. While the job-search seems daunting now, I know I will land a great job somewhere and have even started applying out of state. I cannot wait!
Mostly now, the thoughts that fill my head are mainly concerned with my career path. I feel like the first job you have, will greatly define where you will go in life. Yes, there are “career-changers”, but frankly, I don’t want to be one of them. I want to find something I am completely passionate about and make that my job. I want to love what I do, so that I never feel like I’m working. Because, as you’ve probably heard a million times before: “If you love what you do, You’ll never work a day in your life.” That could not be more true. Over my time in college, I have completed five different internships. Some I absolutely LOVED, and some I absolutely did not. That’s what makes doing internships so great, you basically get a first-hand test run of the job without being committed to it. Then you can find what you love and cross out the options you didn’t love. Cause, believe me, when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you will be miserable five days out of the week for everyday you walk into work- and who wants to live like that?
It’s honestly crazy to think, in a mere thirty-six days I will have an entirely different life from the one I’ve known for the past seventeen years.
If only I could make blogging, traveling, and just experiencing all opportunities in life my full-time, paying job. That would be amazing.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In one of my last senior leadership classes, we discussed Maslow’s Heirarcy of Needs and its application in the workplace as well as in our daily lives. Maslow developed this model to understand what motivates people. One of the questions we had to answer was which two of the five needs are the most prominent for us at the current time. There are five different needs: Self-Actualization, Self-Esteem, Belonging, Safety, and Physiological.
After much thought and reflection, I realized my two most prominent motivational needs at the current time were belonging and love. With graduation right around the corner at that time and so many possibilities at my footsteps, I felt a lot of upheaval in my life due to the unknown after. More than ever, I had been relying on that feeling of belonging in my personal and work life to maintain some balance. Feeling of belonging is important, because one will want to feel that they have a safe and secure place, whether it is in the workplace or in their personal lives, as well as the reassurance that they are wanted. If there is no feeling of belonging, one might feel outcasted or not welcome, which is never good. Second, love has been important to me because one always wants the secure feeling of having someone always there for you, whether in a time of need or just for fun. With that same feeling of upheaval, it was now more than ever, important to me to feel loved and supported by friends and family. Graduation meant leaving the safety-net that is college and going into the real world, which -you could imagine- is a big transition.
It is a very exciting time, but it’s also been a time for me to reflect on my years in college and realize everything I am leaving behind.  To be fully responsible for ones’ self after living a mostly carefree life is truly and utterly scary. It means leaving one frame of mind that is familiar and known for the unknown and strange. But, I guess this is what I and the rest of my graduating class had been preparing for the last four years?