Now Playing: May 2014 Edition

Confession: you’re about to find a lot of country on this month’s playlist. I put the blame on warmer weather, weekends in southern Illinois, and Hart of Dixie (if you don’t already watch this, I highly suggest it. Lots of great actors. Quirky, small town in the south, and lots of attractive dudes with accents). Long story short… all of those things bring out the country in me. In between, I have: pinches of Alt/Indie (The Wild Wild, Jasia), Alternative (Slaves, The Cab, Birds of Tokyo), and Pop (no shame, I’m digging Cody Simpson’s new track). Also, there’s one band I HIGHLY suggest. I love everything I’ve heard from them so far. Their name is The Wind And The Wave… their sound is a little alt, a little country, and a lot awesome.

Enjoy! Let me know what you’re all listening to recently. Anyone I should check out?

Brantley Gilbert – Bottoms Up
Tyler Farr – Whiskey in My Water
Passenger – Heart’s On Fire
The Wild Wild – Alright
Jasia – Inverbatim
Slaves – The Fire Down Below
The Wind and The Wave – With Your Two Hands
Summer Heart – I Wanna Go
Perrin Lamb – Little Bit
David Nail – Kiss You Tonight
The Cab – Lock Me Up
Jason Michael Carroll – Meet Me In the Barn
Billy Currington – Let Me Down Easy
Twin Forks – Who’s Looking Out
Keane – Everybody’s Changing
Josh Abbott Band – Touch
Dustin Hatzenbuhler – Nothing Better
Cody Simpson – SURFBOARD
Sam Smith – Lay Me Down
Birds Of Tokyo – The Gap



Solo in Sydney

Looking back on my five days in Sydney,  I can’t believe I actually considered skipping the end of my trip because of one little panic attack. I am so, so happy I stuck it out, because I don’t think I would have fallen in love with this city otherwise. I was glad I checked off the bridge climb on my one day here with Lauren earlier in April, because it opened up a day for wandering and let’s be honest, it was so much fun getting to share that memory with her (at night and in the rain, no less). After three straight weeks of chaos/travel, I was ready to slow down and savor Sydney.

On my first day, I settled into my tiny airbnb apartment (which I should note: I grew to love), then wandered into the city to see if I could navigate around without a. getting lost and b. relying on a map. Proud to say I pulled it off! This was my third time in Sydney, so I was really hoping I’d learn it better. I walked all the way from Surry Hills through the CBD to Circular Quay. Now as touristy as this place gets, I love it. It’s quiet, beautiful, and full of people-watching opportunities. AND HELLO, THE ROYAL FAMILY WAS INSIDE WHILE I WAS THERE. Also made a stop at Angel Place to get a nice photo of the bird cages (and there were actually some birds singing because the weather was so perfect). On the walk home, I got gelato because why not?

Thursday was just a beautiful, simple, and fun (check me out, loving the solo travel life) as the day before. I took my time walking into the city (this time with my DSLR to get some quality photos), looking at the Opera House from across the harbour (bridge side), sitting at Circular Quay looking at the bridge, watching the sunset behind the bridge, and then getting a phone call from my best friend in Sydney– which was beyond cool, because I’m used to phone calls from across the world. The subject of our phone call? Hanging out together (OMG). Real life can be pretty freaking awesome sometimes. Got dolled up- even dared to wear some bright pink lipstick, then met up with Blake and his friends. We had dinner at The Clock Hotel, drinks at Tios and Low 302, and then wound up at the casino. By the end of the night, I was so. in. love. with. Sydney. (And Blake and his friends of course). There’s nothing quite like staying out until dawn and walking through Darling Harbour in absolute silence as the city wakes up.

Took a much-needed day off on Friday. Who knew walking around endlessly for three weeks could actually make your feet too painful to walk on? Saturday was low-key, but I couldn’t say goodbye to Sydney without one last night out with Blake + co and seeing the bridge lit up from the Opera Bar/the Opera House from my favorite rooftop bar in the city, The Glenmore. SWEET HOME THE GLENMORE. I have some fond memories from this place and after a year of Blake sending me photos every time he was there, it was about time we hung out there together. On our walk back to Surry Hills, I dragged Blake to Angel Place (by accident) and was blown away by how hauntingly gorgeous the bird cages looked lit up at 2am. Thanks for sharing your friends with me, Blake. Now get yourself over to Chicago so you can stop calling me “America” and I can start calling you “Straya.”

Bittersweet. My last day in Sydney was Easter Sunday and I didn’t have my family there to spend it with me, so I spend my day at Bondi Beach. Yes, it’s another touristy spot. But I don’t have beaches like this at home. I don’t get to sit in the sand watching the waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean. With a free day to explore a new spot by myself, I had lunch at Gabby’s Cafe (I picked it because I was seriously missing my Gabby back home), walked along the shore, read some John Green, had some fruity sorbet, watched the sunset paint the sky along the horizon, and headed back to Surry Hills to pack up. I’m going to miss my little apartment in Surry Hills and all the great food spots in the area (I’ve got a new soft spot for Mr. Crackles and Mad Mex). And you can bet I’ll be back.

Now Playing: April 2014 Edition

April in Australia… yep, it’s as good as it sounds. The only thing that sounds better? The playlist I created along the way (ok, that might not be entirely true, but I REALLY love this one). Wherever I went (Cairns, Gold Coast, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney, etc.), I kept track of the music I was hearing around me. It’s a bit of a music journal, if you will, and I think it’s a pretty fun mix: a little indie, a little alt, a little throwback, a little singer/songwriter, a little shameless pop, and a little more. From start to finish, this is what my trip to Australia sounded like:

Of Monsters And Men – Dirty Paws
Man Man – Head On [Hold On To Your Heart]
Ben Lee – Catch My Disease
The Presidents Of The United States Of America – Lump
Huey “Piano” Smith – Don’t You Just Know It?
Gavin DeGraw – Best I Ever Had
Tyrone Wells – Use Somebody (Bonus Track)
Dan Sultan – Under Your Skin
Woodlock – Lemons
Big Hits 2012 – Clouds
Whitley – The Life I Keep
Turin Brakes – Feeling Oblivion
Talisco – Your Wish
Rixton – Me And My Broken Heart
5 Seconds Of Summer – She Looks So Perfect
M83 – I Need You
ashray call – voices
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Dan Croll – Home


“23”: Updated (13/23 complete–including a trip to Australia)

1. Leave my job at IB

2. Get a new job (and love it)


4. Meet and hang out with BlakeThis might be the one thing on my list I’m more excited about than the fact that I actually was in Australia. I’ve known Blake for a couple of years now and in that time, he’s become one of my best friends. We met on tumblr, so it’s been a dream of mine to meet my best-friend-across-the-world. We met and then eventually, we hung out— it was the best. Highlight of my week in Sydney, hands down.

5. Get my first tattoo (if I’m feeling brave- second and third as well)

6. Hang out with Jessica (in NYC, NJ, or Chicago) again- without the anxiety this time

7. Visit California (esp. San Clemente & Kristen Stewart’s handprints @ TCL)Ok, this one’s a stretch, but I did make it to Cali. Granted, it was just a layover at LAX. But I paid for the flights and I was there, so…. the “esp.” will just have to make it onto my next bucket list.

8. Get paid to write

9. Go on vacation with Amanda — Our New Years Eve trip turned into a bit of a vacation… it’s a stretch, but we did spend 5 days together + 7 hours driving!

10. Run a 5K (with a few stops at most)

11. Do/try something new/spontaneous. Anything.I went scuba diving on a total whim and it was the most unreal, thrilling 45 minutes of my life.

12. Learn something new

13. Meet someone famous (actor/musician/writer/athlete)I met Sophia Bush on November 6th!

14. Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive wayI’ve been waiting to cross this one off, because it’s a big one. But between the people I met in Australia, my dear friend Blake, and the guy I dated for a few months, my life has been impacted in a positive way.

15. Impact someone’s life in a positive way

16. Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)Get this: triple whammy. I fell in love with my dive instructor in the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving with him. Ok, mostly joking about that. But I did manage to fall in love with a place on my trip: Sydney. This city is beautiful and it was ridiculously hard to say goodbye.

17. Finally finish my Invisalign treatment — SLOWLY WORKING ON IT!

18. Man up and get my wisdom teeth pulled

19. Go on a date (and maybe a second?!)

20. See the Blackhawks play in Nashville OR see the Western Sydney Wanderers play in MelbourneThis item is no longer possible, BUT I’m giving myself another exception here: I saw Hamish Blake IN REAL LIFE perform in a comedy show, which let’s be honest, was way more exciting for me than a soccer game would have been.

21. Do something for myselfI put all of my money into my trip to Australia and while it was a crazy thing to do financially, it was a gift to myself. I’ve been struggling to focus on where I want to head on my career path, so I took a month off to see what else is out there. My month abroad was SO different from the first time I traveled abroad alone. It was a new experience to explore on my own, create my own schedule, take a trip with strangers who became friends, and re-connect with old friends. It’s not about the money at all. It’s about the fact that I went on an actual adventure that has made me appreciate everything I have and everyone I know so much more than I did before. And now I feel more energized to figure out where I need to go from here.

22. Read a total of 23 books — WORKING ON IT!

23. Find a new favorite spot in Chicago

So many things on my list are pending right now (and I’m not going to say which ones exactly, but there are approx. 11). Here’s a little breakdown:

  • #3: I can’t believe I made it back to Australia. Unreal.
  • #5: I didn’t have time to fit in a tattoo on my trip, but I don’t see why I can’t man-up and get it done here before I turn 24!
  • #11: I had a fear of scuba diving, so I only signed up to snorkel on my trip. I’d be lying if I said the dive instructor who talked to me about the “Discovery Dive” didn’t play a part in my decision, but I’m SO glad I did it. My dive was 45 minutes long and we went ~10 metres deep. And I pet a turtle, so.
  • #14: I met SO many people on my trip that I lost track of where they all are from. Hearing how so many of them are still in their teens and are exploring Australia by working/traveling was so inspiring. I wish I’d had the guts to do that at 18!
  • #16: The Great Barrier Reef. Seriously. Amazing.
  • #22: I’m really working hard on this one and it’s coming along slowly, but I’m determined to read 23 books

I have so much adrenaline, simply from writing this post. If you’ve never written a bucket list, do it. Even if you give yourself a time limit like I did– it really pushes you to make changes, take chances, and find adventures as you go. Now it’s time to focus on what I need to accomplish in the next two months.


Sweet Home Melbourne

I’ve considered Melbourne my second home since 2011, when I spent six weeks studying abroad and loving every second of it. As a homebody, that was a huge deal– to feel like I was home. This is how I spent the rest of my week in Melbourne:

After my first day re-exploring Melbourne on my own (and catching up with Mitch), I was feeling SO ready to continue my adventure. I spent the next day hanging out with Sophie– seeing Divergent (yes, loved it the second time) and then driving to Flemington to stay in a hotel with her and some of her friends. It was a very chill evening, which got me pumped up for my next day of CBD exploring. The next night, I met up with Mitch in the city for dinner and a comedy show. Melbourne’s Comedy Festival is a pretty big deal, so of course I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see a show especially since one of my absolute favorite Aussie comedians would be in it. Hamish Blake himself. The next day, I packed up my things and headed to an apartment near Carlton/Fitzroy that I rented through Airbnb, then met up with Lauren in the city. We got to explore and wander around together– this time on my turf. Bonus? Lunch at Elephant And Wheelbarrow with Mitch. It was a blast to have these two goofs together with me in my favorite city.

After lunching, Lauren and I wandered to Fitzroy (my old stomping ground and hipster heaven), where we walked and shopped and I shared some of my favorite memories from a few years ago. Of course, our day wasn’t over yet. We headed back to our apartment to freshen up for a night on the town. First up: Cookie for Toblerones (God bless the bartender who knew what it was when I ordered it– think chocolate milkshake for adults). From there, it was on to Rooftop bar for some cider and a view of the city at night (my all-time favorite bar in Melbourne, I might add). The next day was a jam-packed one with a lot of things to cross off our list. After breakfast at the Pancake Parlour (or as Lauren referred to it, “heaven”), we accidentally ended up in Cotton On and did a little shopping. We roamed the city looking for graffiti, then met up with Sophie for lunch.

After lunching and chatting, we walked the Royal Botanic Gardens and saw the perfect view of downtown Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance (which is where Sophie and I had to say our goodbyes for this trip). Our list was looking pretty complete, so we headed back for dinner and ended up finding a really great gem called Trunk. Hello, best gnocchi in Australia. In an effort to say goodnight to our sister adventures in Melbourne, we headed to Rooftop one more time for a final cider and view of the city. The next day, Lauren was on her way back to Gold Coast and I had a rough day on my own in the city. I was really hoping I’d make it through my entire trip free of panic attacks, but that wasn’t what the universe had in mind. Looking back on the day is kind of a blur, but things settled when I met up with Mitch for a home-cooked meal and movie night. I’m really lucky to have this kid in my life. Even after crying about my panic attack, Mitch was on his A-game to get me pumped for my week ahead in Sydney (which, at that point, I was considering skipping). After lots of red wine, risotto, and comedy, I was ready.

Stay tuned to read up on my week in Sydney!