Saturday, December 26, 2015

There's no place like home

I am HOME.

Smiling big smiles, eating anything but carbs, and letting all of the chaos, settle back into normalcy. And best of all? Freedom. So much freedom I could scream. 

Last week I closed another chapter in my life, and moved back home from Europe. And unlike all other places I've lived, I've never been more ready and willing to say goodbye. 

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might know the heartache I faced when saying goodbye to other places like my home state of Wisconsin, Australia, and New Zealand, alike. Instead of me sitting in a pool of my own tears at the airport though, leaving Italy looked a lot like me singing, dancing, and desperately holding my boarding pass to Chicago with a big 'ol grin plastered to my face. 20 + hours of travel? Bring it on. 

If you can't tell already, my last few weeks were a struggle. And by struggle, I mean me standing in the middle of Milan, with everything I owned in my hands, and nowhere to go. If there's one thing I've learned through travel though, it's that finding good friends, and learning to keep your shit together as a human being, will be your saving graces. 

There was a world of people who pulled through for me that day, and deserve more than the endless amount of thank you's I have given. But the biggest thanks of all goes to Rachael. My favorite secret keeper, travel partner (shameless plug.. @travelalwayswins), and true friend for life. As you know, I couldn't have survived my time in Italy without you (and spaghetti carbonara). 

But after that really bad day, things started to look up again. Rachael and I had an amazing trip to Istanbul, where we indulged greatly in shisha, kebabs, mosques, and good views. The city exceeded my expectations completely, and was everything I needed in that moment of homelessness and desperation. 





And desperate for something to do when I returned, I found a 17 euro ticket to Sevilla, and on a whim, spent the rest of my time in Europe falling deeply in love with Spanish culture. I met some of the worlds greatest people, ate the most amazing food, learned Flamenco (terribly), and explored some of the most beautiful of places in the process.



Sevilla, Spain


L'alambra, Granada, Spain


Granada, Spain

It was easily one of the best trips I can remember, and I'm so happy I got to end my stay that way. Satiated, happy, and with a world of new friends. 

And then, I flew home. Before I let the sting of Italy ruin me. Before I let one bad situation taint the seriously incredible months I spent in Europe. To the people and the country I love more than anything. The last few months were crazy, adventure-filled, and some of the most difficult of my entire life. I shared in some of the greatest moments, and some of the worst, simultaneously. And overall, it was a good lesson in that...

Traveling is amazing, and beautiful, and many times, it's a royal pain-in-the-ass. It's chaotic, and scary, and equal parts wonderful. It's happy, it's sad, and time and time again, it's my favorite kind of heartbreak. It's what I chose, and I'd choose it every time. 

I don't know yet what life looks like in the future. I have an idea, but right now, I don't know anything for sure. So I'm going to trust in the process, enjoy my moments here, and know that now and forever, there's no place like home. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ode to Italy, Adventures, and heading home!

I did it again. I let my blog fall to the waste side. Not because I don't enjoy writing, but because I've been busy, lazy, and have trouble committing to anything for more than a year (sigh).

But I'm back. And I'm forcing myself to write about my time in Europe, because I never want to forget the way I feel in this moment. 

So how do I feel exactly?  Fortunate. So damn fortunate. 

My time here has been equal parts lazy, busy, and adventure-filled. A life combo I particularly like, and live for. I've found a new love for cappuccinos, my travel soul sister (brain twin!!), and have had some of the grandest adventures in all of my 27 years. Since I arrived, I've spent every single week traveling. Every. Single. One. That means 2 continents, 12 countries, and more cities than I would ever want to count. To new cities in Italy, nearly every country nearby, and places I thought were some of my very long distant and wildest dreams. From the alps, to the colosseum, to riding camels through and sleeping in the Sahara desert, to name a few. This experience feels almost unbeatable by anything the future holds, but I'm sure going to try.. 









And when I'm not traveling, I've been surprisingly lazy, which I feel is well-deserved and necessary for my sanity. Some trips into the city, learning (very few) Italian words, a coma-like state of sleeping in daily (AMEN), and late afternoons of making a 7 second commute to teach english (ehem play) to two of the coolest 5 year olds I know. Two passports and fluent in two languages? I'm jealous. Beyond jealous. 

Our lives typically revolve around barbies, legos, questionable hairstyles, and most recently, playing memory and go fish, a newfound favorite. It's been so much fun playing big sister to these two beauties, and I'm so thankful I found another incredibly generous and wonderful family to share this experience with. If I said my life was hard here, I would be lying. A LOT :). 



And beyond that, I've been simply (or not-so-simply) figuring out my next move. I had two amazing (and couldn't-pass-up) job offers in the states, but both fell through for separate reasons. I don't know if I believe in fate, but the amount of relief I felt about still being able to travel, made both of my decisions feel like right decisions. So beyond flying home in 3 weeks, at the moment, I have no definite plans. Yep, you read that right. NO PLANS. 

So, cheers to spontaneity!

Maybe I'll relax on beaches in Mexico, hike through Central America, or teach in South Korea. Maybe I'll do none of it or all of the above. But for now, I'll enjoy my last days in this beautiful place, soaking up the every bit of happiness I've felt throughout my time here. I'll make the most of every moment, and for the first time in too many years, I'll be home for Christmas! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Adventures in Europe

Saturday, September 5th, started like any other day. A tearful goodbye to a Florida and my family, a touristy day in New York, and catching a night flight to my new home near Milan, Italy. Ok, maybe it wasn't average, but after the craziness of the last two years, it sure felt normal to me. 

I began the flight as usual in these sort of situations. Wide-eyed, hopeful, and nervous beyond belief. And if I wouldn't have been jolted awake by the sounds and smell of vomit on the floor from the lady just in front of me, it would've been a pretty enjoyable ride. Curse the pile of puke that lay in my path for the remaining 6 hours. 

But when I arrived, I was greeted by my adorable little Italian family, and an enormous sense of relief. Already they've exceeded my expectations and I have a feeling that I've hit the jackpot for the 3rd time in a row. 

The next day, I flew to Croatia where I began a 3 week trip throughout Eastern Europe. Some of it solo, some of it with my friend from back home, and all of it incredible. Destinations included: 

Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, Brac Island, Plitvice lakes, and Zagreb, Croatia 


Dubrovnik view from Mount Srdj


Kayaking around Lokrum Island


Dubrovnik views from the city walls 


Trogir


Brac Island (Bol)


Plitvice lakes- unbelievable mirror image


Plitvice lakes again: #nofilter



Kotor Bay and Budva, Montenegro



Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia 


Bled


Lake Bled

Budapest, Hungary 




Vienna, Austria




Prague, Czech Republic




Munich, Germany 



Oktoberfest

And last but certainly not least, Fussen and Hohenschwangau/Neuschwanstein (The Disney) Castles





We'll let the pictures do the talking on this one and spare your poor souls a 384 page blog post. If however, you're still curious, the trip went a little something this: great food, the prettiest of places, many, many, MANY beers, and THE most amazing people. 

Like the only man who stopped as I stood lost in the middle of the city after a mishap with my bus. I was lost and nearly in tears as it turned dark, and in broken English, he said, "I help you" and walked with me the entire way. Miles in the opposite direction from where he was going. Just because. We could not understand each other much in terms of language, and yet, I understood him completely. 

Like the girl with bright blue hair, also traveling alone, who so easily accepted my invitation to get dinner together. We live very opposite lives, and visually, we could not have looked more different. And 10 years ago, when all of that seemed to matter, we never would have spoken. And I would've been wrong. Because she's more like me than I would've thought. A little bit weird, sometimes misunderstood, and in that moment, she was my closest friend. 

Like the Canadian who also lived in Milan, and shared with me the many must-do's while I'm here. She also happened to mention wanting to do a camel trek through Morocco in October. The exact same trek I wanted to do in October. And now we are both going. On the same weekend. Together :)!

And the girl from Miami, who without even knowing it, gave me such a sense of calm and reassurance over this somewhat unconventional life I've chosen. Listening to her was like listening to the thoughts running through my head every single day. Often I feel very alone in my thinking and my dreams for the future, but for the first time in my life, I never felt so understood. 

And finally, to my partner in crime, fellow foodie, and beer lover. Thanks for flying half way around the world to join me. You make good adventures better.

And while September was a whirlwind of adventure and emotion, I'm most looking forward to building a nice, quiet, a pizza-filled life in Milan. I've been busy planning upcoming trips to Switzerland, Morocco, and around Italy, and am currently spending the rest of my time in search of the best coffee, meeting new friends, and most importantly, gaining another family.

Bye bye. Until next time. Ciao for now :). 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Farewell Wisconsin. Adventures awaits.

My job is ending, the wedding is over, and goodbyes have begun. And with just one week left in Wisconsin, I've hit the sobering reality that it's all almost over. Again.

This summer was busy making up for lost time with family, friends, and many IPA's. I won't bore you with the details, but if you can picture beer and sunshine and me consuming both very heavily, then you've got yourself a pretty good idea. 

And if you're like the countless others who are asking what's in store next for my life, I can say with complete and utter confidence... 

THAT I HAVE NO EFFING IDEA. NONE. ZILCH. NADA.

But here is what I do know. For now anyway. 

Life beyond next Saturday looks a little something like this: 

- One way ticket to Florida
- One way ticket to New York
- One way ticket to Milan
- One way ticket to Dubrovnik
- One way tickets to wherever Jerrica feels like roaming for 3 weeks
- Beer (or should I say Bier) at Oktoberfest in Munich
- One way ticket to Milan

See the theme?

And in a small town outside of Milan is where I will be basing myself for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. Here I will be gaining a new family, new friends, traveling, and indulging in as much pizza and vino as my body will allow. And as long as I'm back to fulfill my MOH duties for my sister's wedding in April, we'll let fate, or whatever you want to call it, run its course. 

And while I don't know much, there are a few things that I do know. And I can't stress the word "few" enough. 

I know that my time in the Midwest has been incredible. I know that Wisconsin no longer gives me feelings of heartbreak and sadness (thank goodness). And I know that this summer at home has been one that I will always cherish and remember. 

To everyone who made my time here so extra special: Thank you. 

- Thank you to my (past, present, and future) nanny kids and families at home and around the world. You make it so hard to give up such a precious and beautiful life, and for that, I am forever grateful.

- Thank you to my very best friends for showing me that while I have made some seriously questionable decisions in my life, I did get one thing right. And that was picking amazing friends. Life has sent us in so many different directions, and yet you're always there. All of you. Always.


* A special shout out to my very best friend and one of the most beautiful brides I have ever seen. The biggest honor of my life thus far was standing by your side just a few short days ago. #soulmatesforlife #nomatterwhatjeffsays

- And Thank you to my family. For always having an open door. For following me around the world. And for always being my biggest cheerleaders. I am so proud to be a Peterson. 

I'll sign off for now as a girl without direction, and on again in the future, as one who maybe has a plan. And until then, I'll be loving, wandering, and enjoying every moment of the ride. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

There's no place like home

Excitement was a feeling I never fully understood until I flew home after nearly 2 years abroad. I landed in Los Angeles nervous, happy, and with a huge sense of initial unfamiliarity. I was overwhelmed by holy American food, a phone that I could answer, and surrounded by people who sounded like me, but suddenly had accents. And in most ways, it was as if flying home felt more foreign than flying away. 



I then flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I spent the weekend meeting my sister's fiance for the first time ever (he passed with a serious A++), catching up with my very best friend, and celebrating Father's Day, with my dad, in person, in real life. I also gorged on chicken wings, cheese curds, and almost cried as they poured the most beautiful amber ale I've ever seen into that perfectly frosted glass for a mere $4. And that's when I decided that summer's in the midwest will likely become a yearly tradition. Seriously, it's happening. 

And then I headed to Wisconsin, where life began to feel real again. Where I was flooded with emotion over the life I left behind. Where everything felt new, yet familiar. And where nothing and everything had changed simultaneously. 



But as I settled into life back home, I couldn't believe how truly easy it was. How normal it felt. How worried I was for nothing. I only got honked and yelled at a mere 2-3 times in the process of learning to drive on the right again, which was a small, but true victory. I only cried once upon entering target, where any and all purchases in the history of purchases could be made in one single store. And I only embarrassed myself a handful (or two) of times with shrieks of excitement as my fat girl heart was made complete with chicken philly poboys, and nachos, and $3 martinis, and I could go on and on and on... 

I also started a 9-week nanny job where most of our days are spent at the park, at the zoo, playing baseball, or swimming. I've had the simple luxury of spending many days with my family, doing little things like eating dinner together, going on walks, and watching movies. And the rest of my summer has been a series of baseball games, concerts, boats, camping, rooftop bars, and time with my very best friends. 

And while I desperately miss my crazy life abroad, I've also learned that simple is beautiful. Little things matter. And Wisconsin is home. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A life without the dread of Mondays

I've been sitting here for weeks trying to find the words and muster up the courage to get raw and real with you guys. To tell you that I am happy and more in love than ever. To tell you that I've found a passion for life, that I wasn't sure existed. To tell you that I finally found my something, and that my heart is breaking with every letter of this goodbye because of it.

I arrived in New Zealand quite sad, hesitant, and heartbroken after a devastating break up with my first love, Australia. I was hopeful, and headstrong, but utterly convinced that it would not and could not compare to my first year abroad. But because the country was so unbelievably stunning, I decided to make a pit stop (for 10 months...) on my way home to the good 'ol USA. I would hike some hikes, lay on some beaches, and hopefully work (and I use that term loosely) for a really nice family. But that was all I really expected from this place.

And I don't say this often...

But I was wrong. SO very wrong. 

Instead, I've built a life in New Zealand that makes me feel happy, purposeful, and alive. I've traveled often, worked hard, and saved more money than I ever could have imagined. I've made great friends, established many lifelong connections, and have even partnered with 3 wonderful people to turn a simple idea into my very first business (more on this later). I've also had big adventures, small adventures, and those (not-so-special, but so incredibly special) everyday adventures.

From jumping out of planes, many spontaneous road trips, and climbing many mountains. From paddle boarding, snorkeling, and swimming with dolphins in the wild. From play dates, and car pooling, and cuddles from my favorite littlest people. It's a beautiful life. And the one I've always wanted. Crazy and simple, and everything in between.







I love the way that new friends become best friends, strangers become family, and the way that Mondays feel like a blessing wrapped in the gift of another new week ahead. I love the ease of kiwi life, the cafe culture, and the way the big city feels small somehow. I love the way that I have become unguarded, undeniably soft, and get emotional when the sushi guy gives me extra tuna rolls just because. And I love the way that the house is a constant mess, that I am always tired, and that the two kids responsible for both, own every bit of my heart because of it.

To everyone I've met here and this beautiful country: You are my home away from home. Forever and for always.

Until we meet again.

With all of my love,

Jerrica from America

Monday, April 13, 2015

Northland New Zealand: 10 days on the road

Northland New Zealand is something I've been looking forward to since my very brief visit to the country in 2013. We missed it back then due to a lack of time, and I've been dreaming about the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga ever since.

We started with a quick visit down south before making our way up, and here are 10 highlights from my 10 days on the road:

1. The Waikato Balloon Festival

I first heard about this while living in Australia, and as a self-proclaimed lover of anything bright and beautiful, this felt like a bit of a no brainer. The weather was pretty questionable all day, but thanks to a lot of luck, we ended up with heaps of hot air balloons, a light show, and fireworks. And thanks to the hospitality of a sweet lady named Mary whom we'd met on a previous trip, we also had a free place to stay. Thank you!!! We so appreciated it and hope to cross paths again soon. 


And as an added bonus, I got to write Jerrica from America on something again. #winning. 



2. Raglan 

This hip little surfer town was everything I expected. Excellent coffee shops, beautiful beaches, and hippie-like surfer dudes and man-buns everywhere. I'm sorry, but I love it. And I'm not ashamed. 



Also.. fish and chips and double rainbows...



3. Poor Knight's Islands cruise

They promised paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and a trip through the largest sea cave in the world. And boy did they deliver. The snorkeling was better than any other snorkeling I've done in New Zealand (which isn't much), but compared to places like Exmouth, Western Australia and The Great Barrier Reef, it's pretty hard to impress me. Nonetheless though, there were a few pretty fish, a couple of stingrays, and I must admit, swimming through sea caves was pretty rad (and maybe a teeny bit scary). 



Paddle boarding as a first timer was also really exciting. I've had this on my list since I moved here, and it's finally been accomplished. 



#nailedit. #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag. 

4. DOLPHINS

I have never seen something so breathtakingly beautiful in my entire 27 years on this planet. NO JOKE. Like whale-watching in Kaikoura, this stood out as one of those moments I will forever remember. I don't know what it is about the ocean or marine life, but I was in awe. I've seen dolphins in the wild heaps of times while living on this side of the world, BUT this was a pod of around 30-40 dolphins... following our boat... for 30 minutes. It's safe to say that I'm in love. 



5. Camping

I become a bigger and bigger fan of camping every time I go. Maybe it's the excuse not to shower, the fresh air, or the sleeping under the stars on a beautifully clear night. And especially great, is finding that perfect spot on a beautiful beach for only $6 a night.




6. Sand Dune boarding

I've been looking forward to this one for months, and for the record, it is every bit as fun as it sounds. I think the pictures speak for themselves on this one. But just remember folks, be prepared for the climb up (so exhausting), to clean sand out of your hair (and everywhere) for days, and while I'm giving advice, it wouldn't hurt to bring the RIGHT kind of board from the beginning. Trust me on this one.





7. Cape Reinga

I love lighthouses and water and making my way to the end of any country. Watching the sunset here and catching the full moon all in one evening was truly a magical experience. This was the last major part of the country for me to visit, which means I'm making process, but also means that my time here is coming to a close. Talk about bittersweet.





8. Sunsets

I've seen heaps of amazing sunsets in this country, and this trip was no exception. There are few things so simple and so simultaneously beautiful. I'm a sucker for nature's magic so these little moments on the road were a wonderful excuse for peace, beauty, and reflection.





9. Flax flower weaving 

Hands down one of the coolest things I've done yet in this country. Common in Maori culture, we learned to weave flax into beautiful flowers on the beautiful Urupukapuka Island. #ididthis



10. Islands and beaches galore 

And speaking of Islands...

We were constantly surrounded by sandy beaches, cliff top walks, and spent a great deal of time looking for seashells, stumbling upon starfish, and swimming with no one around. No complaints here.






As my last big trip in this country, this was both special and equally heartbreaking. With perfect weather, good memories and endless beautiful scenery. 

As always New Zealand, thanks for being great. 

Thanks for being home.