Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Working" in Italia

If you know me, you know that I love to laugh. And it is not difficult to make me do. I think just about everything is funny. I've been told multiple times by my friends that they love to be my friend because I make them feel funny. I don't have control over it, I just like to laugh.

But laughing to the point of tears, this is quite rare. I laugh loud, a lot and often but with tears running down my face; you should consider this a huge accomplishment. This took place this past week on tour with Club Fusion. Twice. In the span of two days. 

One was the most perfect jump bump in the form of a cheerleader high kick, and the other was a selfie video filmed through large 1000 euro rolls of Parmesan cheeeeeeeese. Both had me losing all control, my tear ducts included. 

These events were the mere highlights of 7 days with this group. I can't even call my "work" as a tour guide, work. I get to travel around Europe, sightsee the big tourist cities then take on small villages like Carpeneti; one of the most breath taking mountain towns tucked away in the Italian mountains near Reggio Emelia, and hang out with some genuine fun loving Americans. 

I loved watching the energy of these girls as they tore through Europe, most of them for the first time. They gave Americans a very good and entertaining name as there was never a dull moment with this group. 

Between spontaneous dance parties, endless joking, putting food on each other's shoulders while everyone around buckles in laughter, taking some pretty legendary selfies, Ellen Degeneres style, and competing with the American spirit I so know, love and crave, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

So many times throughout the week I felt like I was looking in the mirror from my 18's club year. A great group of girls, fighting with so much pure passion to play to the potential they have not even touched or can fathom yet, and on a mission to win a National Championship. 

I won 18 Open at AAU's my senior year and the advice I leave you girls with is this: embrace each other and the journey and let the result take care of itself. 

Volleyball is such a great sport because it teaches us more about life than we bargain for. While we are busy pursuing success, volleyball is slowly shaping us in to great human beings and companions. Which I saw this week in 18 Black. Their competitive spirit was very inspiring on the court but more importantly they were connecting in ways the stat sheet doesn't record. These are the moments to treasure. 

To be honest, I forget that I won AAU's. When I think back on my club career that is not what comes to mind; it's the memories I made with the girls and how the fight and struggles on the court brought our team to a bigger accomplishment to shaping us individually in our lives. 

Keep being you, because what you are is awesome and obviously the rest of Italy agrees as they all gravitated to you effortlessly this last week each place you went. 

You all rock, thank you for a great tour and best of luck! 
See you in Florida! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reason #549398 why playing overseas has been good for me.. down sizing.

The art of simplicity. It's a beautiful thing and it took moving half way across the world for me to discover it.

When you have to pack your life in to 2 1/2 suitcases for 9 months you are forced to determine what is important. I had a whole lot of crap, to put it plainly, and having to pack everything up several times over the years has taught me just how much I really don't need a lot of it.

I'm in the process of packing to go back to America after year #4 and if my apartment could speak it would say: who threw up on me? Everything from the closets and drawers have been moved to the floor into piles; a sort of organized chaos.

They consist of three groups:
-Travel for the next month
-Give away

Being in the same city for 2 years equals me accumulating more 'stuff' than the typical one year go and requires extra consolidation tasks.

But what a great feeling it is to see the "Give Away" pile growing and growing.

I'm a girl, I love to shop, and I don't think that will ever change. But, my purchases have come few and far between over the past years in Europe.
1. Because it's just not possible to get it all back and
2. I've come to the realization that I just don't need it.

And big added bonus, all the items you decide to part ways with and give away, someone else who really needs them is seeing the benefit. Give a little, get a little. It feels good!

Simplicity. Thank you Europe.
Peace out crap I don't need :) 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"I'm learning to trust the journey, even when I don't understand it."-Mila Bron

You know how sometimes you have a bad day, which can turn into a bad week and maybe even dominoes into a bad year? It's no ones fault, it's just how life is sometimes. It beats you down and makes you question what you're doing, where you came from and what on earth could possibly be next? 

This is the type of year I had. It wasn't an easy one, we lost a lot during the season. A. Lot. And this makes life hard, and bleeds over into the rest of life, fogging judgment and views on life. 

Facing all of the different challenges that were put in my path this year made me start to question life and what my role was in it, I no longer felt like I was the positive, vibrant, optimistic, fun, helpful person I had prided myself on for so long; and these were hard facts to look at. 

At the end of the 8 month season that didn't bring very many wins to our door step, I was beat down, confidence low and not very high on humanity, my faith in good people had diminished. Again, no one's fault, just a really bad string of bad events. 

When the last whistle blew from this season so did a big weight off my heart. I could wake up the next day and start fresh. Start new. Take on anything I wanted, with what I had learned from the past 8 months in tow, with me. 

My wheels were spinning on where and what I wanted to do, it's not uncommon for foreigners to be on the next flight out after the season is over, back home and to the comfort of the hugs of their family and friends. Although this option was tugging hard at my heart strings, I had to follow the little voice deep down inside of me that was pushing me for adventure. 

I didn't have much spark left for a whole lot, but what I did know was that I wanted to explore what other places had for me, breathe new air into my lungs which felt like they had been compressed over the season making my breaths and yearning for life small. I could feel the answers waiting for me, out in the world, in undiscovered cities; I just needed to get there.  
Step one of Euro Trip started with running to familaiarity. I ran to a place I knew I could find love, laughter and great times. And this was in Emlichheim, Germany. Tori, Jola, from Texas A&M and Alicia, an American abroad friend I had made the past couple of years. These girls make me happy, to the bone and I couldn't have asked for better friendship as we hung out in Emlichheim and toured a quick trip in Amsterdam for St. Patrick's Day!
These 2 have conquered Europe this year more than I have in 4, their stories are awesome

Aggies around the world <3

I have been lucky enough this year to have a fellow American at my side, Alyssa. It is her first year abroad and her passion for traveling was a good match for mine. So we settled on our first destination, Belgium. Without many plans or expectations, we knew a girl that was playing in the second league in Turnhout, Belgium and that was all the information we needed. Time was our best friend, being done in Mid March. So we packed our bags and set off in search for adventure. 

The set up that was waiting for us couldn't have been any better. Our friend, Liz, was staying with a family in a house that had 2 extra bed rooms, they were incredibly gracious hosts. And for the next 7 days, each day we would wake up, pick a new city to go see, hop on a train or drive the short 2 hour distance to each city, the beauty of Belgium is how small it is. 
Our Awesome Belgian host family, Patrick and Ingrid, with Liz

Each day unfolded with ease as we held ourselves to our only requirements:
1. Hot Chocolate
2. Waffle
3. Chocolate
4. Beer
We wouldn't consider it a successful day without a check mark next to each one of those because Belgium just does each one of those, hands down better than anywhere else, it didn't matter which city we went to, they were all filled with these delectable goodies. 

It was a great week filled with hanging out with Liz's teammates, her host family, and the Belgian friends she had made that year. The only thing better than soaking up what a city has to offer in history, ambiance, attractions and food is getting to know the people that fill them. 

The great Mannekin Pis, what Brussels is known for, still not sure why haha It really is tiny
He has hundreds of costumes and the day we went he was dressed as a Thug lol

Walking the streets of Brussels

Skol! As they say in Belgium, Delerium cafe, they had over 3000 choices of Beer, the most in the world

A fun fact about Brussels, there is cartoon artwork on random building throughout the city, really cool!

Can you spot the American in this artwork? :)

Antwerp, this city is just impressive, on so many levels

Belgium and it's architecture, I love. 

And this is what we call fantasy land..Bruges, Belgium. GORGEOUS, to say the least.

In 7 days we ventured to Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp (2x), Turnhout, and because we weren't ready to leave, we extended our stay an extra day to check out Ghent, as well. 

By the end of our trip we had come to the conclusion that we had probably walked a marathon's worth around all of these cities. We would wake up at 8 am every day, make the trip to the desired city and then just walk. Having the few landmarks on our radar to check off the list but just BEING in the city and walking the streets and noticing the intricate and beautiful architecture that each city had to offer was very fulfilling. 

We didn't realize just how tired we had become until Day 8 hit. Day 8 = exhaustion. By this time Alyssa and I had said our teary goodbyes to beautiful Belgium and made our way to our last 2 stops on the list together, Dusseldorf and Cologne. I have to say after spending a week in Beligum where the streets were literally so clean you could eat off of them, and lined with wonderfully constructed buildings and statues, Germany was a little tough to take on. But they were both great cities to see on the Rhine river and in Cologne we were able to see a teammate, Jenny who showed us around for the day and then once we got to Dusseldorf our feet wanted to walk no more. Our day consisted of walking from park to park and taking naps in them, incredibly worth it.

JENNIFER PETTKE clap clap clap clap clap :)

I concluded Euro Trip Part 1 by taking a train to friends in a little village town Renkum, Holland. It was the perfect way to wrap everything up. A weekend that consisted of feeding reindeer, bike rides, drinking Heineken's and watching March Madness, making mexican food with real salsa (!), playing with precious little girls that have now become my best friends and soaking up American goodness in friends.
Hanging with little Nell

Feeding the reindeer with Nellie and Lucy <3 <3 <3

By the end of this two week adventure my faith in humanity and the world has been restored. Adventures, people's stories, their passions, their way of life, the variety of life and history throughout various cities; all aspects that have lit my passion for life again. 

Just another reason why the answer to many problems is quite simple: TRAVEL. You will find yourself, you will make memories, and so much more. The world is HUGE, be an adventurer. 

EuroTrip Part 1 = SUCCESS. 

Now it's time for some R&R to wrap up the chapter in Hamburg this week and then head to Berlin for a week and conclude Europe 2013/14 abroad with a trip to my favorite Sloves, and to Italy.