“I hate Americans.”


We were ready to get out of Venice. Not that it wasn’t lovely and haunting in all of it’s mystery and history, but we’d spent days in Italy and wanted to make the most of what was left of our three-week post college backpacking adventure. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to secure the remaining tickets on an overnight train leaving in minutes to Munich. Again, we found ourselves rushing to the platform and just barely hopping on before the tracks started rumbling. We should’ve planned better, but that is part of the adventure, right?

We were late finding our compartment, and the third occupant was already fresh in her nightgown. Her gray hair, pulled up to get it out of her face as she went about her nighttime routine, glinted in the dim light; she acknowledged our arrival with a slight nod. Alicia and I had been traveling for around 10 days and were in dire need of freshening our laundry up at the next stop. We set our bags on the remaining two bunks, stacked all the way to the ceiling in the tiny compartment, and proceeded to rummage around for toothbrushes and a clean pair of underwear before we headed off to the bathroom.

After doing the best we could with the dismal bathroom situation, we opened the door to our compartment to find the other guest lying on the bottom bunk, tucked in for the night with the light on, a small but welcomed courtesy.

“You are American?” asked the woman. She said it with a German accent, but crisp and clear with an air of sophistication.

Alicia stopped folding her shorts, and I looked up from the toiletries I was trying to shove back into my quart-sized plastic bag now wrought with holes from a rogue toothpaste corner or mascara tube trying to make its escape.

“Yes, we are,” Alicia responded.

“Where are you from?” I said, trying to make friendly small talk.

The woman sat up slowly and moved her bare feet over the edge of the bed in order to face us.

“Germany,” she replied. “I’m on my way home.”

I continued repacking as I engaged further in the casual conversation. “So were you in Venice for work or holiday?” As I spoke, her feet moved slowly to the cold bare floor and she stood.

“I hate Americans.”

Alicia and I met her eyes. We were only 21 years old, and had both grown up in small towns in the Mid-West. Throughout our travel in the States, and our short time in Europe, I’d never felt such hate – and directed soley at me. It burned. But it was also ice cold. It felt like someone was pushing down on my shoulders. I was speechless.

She continued, but it only got worse. “My father was killed by Americans. He was innocent man, and you killed him.”

“I – I’m sorry,” I managed to stammer. There was nothing else I could say. Her life had been up-ended by the American people. It was all she knew, and it had fueled her hatred from a very young age. I was sorry. I hated what had happened to her, and I knew I’d feel the same if it had been my family, my father.

She left the compartment without another word.

Alicia and I were somber as we climbed into our bunks, and left the light on, as a courtesy. We both pretended to be asleep when she returned and switched the light off, but I don’t think either of us slept that night.

The engine stopped at the station in Munich before the sun came up, and our guest hustled out before Alicia and I felt compelled to get our bodies moving. Around 6 am, the service attendants started knocking on doors down the hallway to make sure travelers were heading out, and so we did. We walked into the station with more hesitation than we had entered the past few countries and unsure if we’d be welcomed with open arms, but willing to be sensitive to the apparent pain that still ran through this beautiful country.



Get Off the Resort

Drug lords, bacteria-filled water, pick-pocketers. Mexico sounds like a scary place.

All-inclusive, sandy beaches, endless buffets. Mexico sounds dreamy.

But how much do you actually know about Mexico?

I knew that when a group of friends booked an all-inclusive resort in Rivera Maya, I wanted to get off of that resort. I wanted to see the real Mexico. Were my friends up for it? I didn’t know, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

The next thing I knew, I was booking an ecoarchaelogical excursion with AllTourNative.

Flash forward to the Wednesday morning mid-relaxing vacation. The three of us, dressed and ready to go:

  1. Chacos
  2. Fanny pack
  3. Shorts and Tank
  4. Bathing Suit
  5. Sunscreen (minimal, by request of AllTourNative)
  6. Cash
  7. Camera
  8. Spirit!

Carlos picked us up as the sun was coming up, along with a family of four, the twins and one of their boyfriends and the Canadian couple. And we were off for our Coba Maya Encouter!

Remember when everyone said the Mayans were gone and their calendar predicted the world ending and stuff like that? So so wrong.

An hour or so later, we parked in Coba. We began our adventure by heading straight to the Mayan ruins. Our first task was to learn how to communicate with the Mayans – they were opening up the doors to their very private communities after all. We learned the most important basics, most importantly “Thank You” pronounced “Joomba-tik.”

Carlos explained that Mexico doesn’t spend a lot of money on archaeological preservation, but that the temples that are uncovered took years to do so and the large mounds of overgrown greenery were covering other ruins. Mexico is actually flat around these parts.

M showing off her jungle bike riding skills!
M showing off her jungle bike riding skills!

After visiting the initial temple and sporting arena, we hopped on bikes and rode through the jungle. It was a HOT day, and we weren’t privy to the ocean breeze like at the resort. The bike ride through the jungle was one of our favorite parts of this expedition (and was definitely M’s fav!).

We actually had the option of taking a “limo” or walking as well, but the bike seemed like a good compromise between super lazy and actually getting to see the rest of the temples. (M and J might be super slow walkers…)

There were several temples on the way to see the big man on campus
and we stopped at each one, examining their unique shapes and pondering their purpose.

When we arrived at our final destination (for the morning), it was incredible. The Nohoch Muul is the biggest temple in the Yucatan peninsula. Bigger than I imagined and ever-intimidating, the plan was to climb it.SDC17339

And so we did. As someone who is VERY afraid of heights (and public speaking), I started getting that nauseous feeling in my stomach. The more stairs I climbed the worse it got.

When we got to the top, all the people bumping around and taking pictures nearly drove my anxiety through the roof, but the view made up for the climb. (Sort of a paradox for life I think. The harder the climb, the better the view.)

SDC17348We managed to get close enough to the edge for some good pics! 🙂

The down part was supposed to be easier, but I think it took me twice as long scooting down on my butt for fear of toppling head first down the hundreds of stone steps.

After our excursion through the Mayan ruins we headed out to the community where J sampled some of the local beveragesSDC17352 and we headed off to the next part of the adventure.

Immediately suiting up and hopping aboard a canoe to make our way to the zip lines! We canoed, hiked and zip-lined through the jungle before taking a break to meet with a Mayan shaman. Hot and sticky, we were grateful to take a seat and soak in our surroundings. The shaman spoke with us and then began a chant to bless us “Estades Unites, Carlos and Canada!” You can check out the video on my Facebook.

After, we were instructed to shower any dirt, oils or sunscreens off of our bodies to preserve the purity of the cenote that we were about to rappel down into. (More heights, I know.)

My first question before plummeting down into the underground was “How do we get out?”

Don’t worry, there were options.

  1. Climb a massive rope ladder swinging through the air OR
  2. Be hoisted up in a Mayan elevator

As much as I thought the rope ladder sounded like a brilliant idea, and I’m sure I’d feel like a badass after, I decided to goDSC_8287 with the Mayan elevator. The cenote’s water was black, cool, crisp and clean. We floated around for while on tubes and watched the bats flit around in the corners of the cave before one-by-one were lifted back up to ground level.

After we dried off, we hit the trail back down to the Mayan feast that awaited us on a porch overlooking the lagoon we had earlier canoed across. Teas made from flowers, homemade tortillas, chicken (Carlos nearly had me convinced it was iguana) and soup and spicy salsa filled our hungry stomachs. If you’re not into trying new food, don’t worry, you couldn’t go wrong with anything served.

Finally, we had free range of the local artisan’s shops, and Carlos had promised tequila if we’d made it through our adventure. So tequila we had! 

SDC17355After everyone had taken their tequila shots and shopped the goods, we packed up, exhausted and feeling pretty accomplished with ourselves, and headed back to the resort. Today we had discovered the Mayans. The Mayans opened their world to us, let us in, and treated us like family. Joomba tik, Coba and AllTourNative!

My dream job turned into a nightmare

“Oh but you love your job!”
It’s right, I was one of the few people who LOVED what I was doing. Getting up and going into work wasn’t a problem for me, for two years straight.

My boss was a dream mentor, constantly encouraging and challenging me so that I was able to discover and grow in my talents. My coworkers were reliable, smart and genuinely good people.

My day to day routine was challenging, creative and never dull.

I was running marketing for 17 locations of a growing pizza chain. Strategizing menu items and content to reach our target audience was Monday morning, photographing and taste testing the items was Wednesday afternoon, meeting with a new potential vendor was Friday for coffee – you get the idea…


I felt grateful to love my job and grateful to work with such wonderful people.

One day, everything changed. My boss, whom I loved, let me in on her upcoming retirement, and my new leadership. A bittersweet announcement. More growth for me, and losing my day to day interaction with one of my favorite people.

I took the positive perspective and went on the proactive. I set up meetings with my new leadership to get on the same page going forward, I over-communicated as requested and stayed on top of my game – a new boss means proving your worth again. Slowly, over the course of a few months, I was put on the defense.

Constantly, I was reiterating and justifying processes that were already approved and proved to be effective; and constantly I was validating my timelines and expectations. Constantly, I was asking for goals to ensure what I was working for in marketing would help meet the business goals as a whole. Constantly, I was berated and talked down to. Previously, I’d never cried at work.

The day I marched into a meeting with my new leadership and said, “Do you want me to be successful in this role?” was the last day of cry-free work. The reply was, “I think you’re smart and talented, and you obviously know the business thoroughly, but I just don’t think you’re doing a good job.” I lost it. Like WTF, dude!??

My dream job had turned into a nightmare.

That job I loved, I now felt NO purpose for. And, as an ENFP, I NEED purpose. Any other ENFPs in the house??

I felt so betrayed by the job I loved and career I was making for myself. My coworkers had become my family and work was life; it was devastating. I know, it sounds like I’m being dramatic, but my whole world and happiness for the past two years had revolved around loving my job, so it really felt like the world was ending.

Thankfully, I had just secured a contract position (Which allowed me to directly approach my leadership – and call him out on his B.S.). I told him I was done.

My mentor then told me that of all the employees who have threatened to leave him, I’m the only one who has ever had the balls to actually leave.

To me, the realization that happiness with a job can change because of one person, or one action, or one day, is a relief. It’s ok to have a bad moment, and it’s ok to move on when you realize you’re not in the right place anymore. It’s ok to just live your life from day to day – your end goal, and your way of getting to it don’t have to be set in stone. Part of being human is being flexible, feeling emotions, and making decisions. You may not like the decision you make, but it’s ok. You can make a change. We’re so lucky to be human and be able to change our situations as needed.

Thanks for reading! It feels so good to get this story off my chest.

4 Qualities to Look for in a Travel Buddy

I just wrote my first feature for Pink Pangea and here it is! 


Who you travel with can make or break a trip. Whether it’s a work trip, or a vacation, or even just a trip with a set purpose, like a bachelorette party or a bar mitzvah, consider certain things in your travel buddy.

Traveling for work used to bring the added stress of, “Who am I traveling with this week?” For a past position, this essentially decided whom I was going to spend the next 3-5 days in the hot sun in the middle of Illinois for 12 hours at a time with. It’s easy to get on one another’s nerves in those situations. One spring break I took a trip to the Bahamas with close friends, but there was a mutual respect issue about halfway through the trip that made the last few days stressful, tense and lonely. There have been opposite situations as well. I’ve gone on work trips with a near stranger and come back with a loyal friend.

Thankfully, I’ve learned from my experiences, and can be more prepared when choosing a partner for future trips. Here are some qualities to consider when choosing your next travel buddy: Continue Reading

nassau, bahamas

Alone in Nassau

Otherwise known as “that one time I tried to buy drugs in a foreign country.”

NassauA group of five girls and myself took a Bahamian cruise for spring break. After we spent the morning soaking up alcohol, sunshine and saltwater jet-skiing above the clear blue water in an inlet just outside of Nassau, we decided to head over to Senor Frogs for some food and beverages.

Unfortunately, when you get a group of girls with strong personalities together, which my friends will not deny that they have, people can get annoyed and hurtful things can be said.

One thing led to another and I ended up drunkenly shopping down the main strip of Nassau alone. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave, but with as much liquor as I had had, I was feeling pretty comfortable with myself and needed to gather some souvenirs for my sister anyway. Although I tend to be a postcard collector, if I can get a product that is native or genuine to the area, I will!

nassau, bahamas

I entered the first shop I came too. The shops were touristy, with shirts with frogs and sharks and beaches on them. Sayings like “Someone who loves me went to Nassau and got me this shirt.” While those can be adorably corny sometimes, I wanted something better for my sister.

I checked out the overpriced swimsuits and cover-ups – designed for people who forgot their swimsuit (or lost theirs?) on their trip or something like that. What’s that? In the back of the shop was a bar, with a lone bartender in front of 3 empty barstools. I can buy a drink while I shop!? What a concept! Brilliant!

Nassau, Bahamas

I got a hurricane and checked with my bartender that it was, indeed, ok for me to walk from shop to shop with this beverage. He assured me.

I sauntered into the next shop, similar items: hats, t-shirts, sunglasses, magnets, etc. I finished my drink and purchased another at the back of this store. My pattern continued as I wandered further and further away from the “tourist-zone.” Eventually, I found a few local shops; an estate sale store and a couple local-looking boutiques. I stumbled into one of the boutiques. The dresses, hats and shoes in this store were not meant to be discovered by tourists like myself.

Digging through the racks with my hurricane in hand, I found the perfect beaded sandals for my little sister. They were gorgeous in my mind, and I knew she would love them!

I paid for my purchase and moved along through the streets, navigating my way back toward the boat when a man stopped me in the street. “Hey, you wanna buy some weed?”

nassau, bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas
“Wait on this corner, I’ll be right back.”

My good mood was persistent, and I thought, “heck, when in Nassau!” I told him yes, and he asked how much. (At this point I was lost. I was not familiar with the terminology.) I ended up asking him how much I could get with $20. He said he’d be right back, I handed him my money and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.nassau, bahamas, cruise


I’m an idiot. He wasn’t coming back. So much for serendipitous me! I knew I’d been had. I gathered what dignity I had left and headed back toward the boat. The girls would love this story.

Hey, could’ve been worse. At least I succeeded in soaking in as many hurricanes as I possibly could and had found the perfect gift.

Nassau, Bahamas, girl friends, beach

Nassau, Bahamas, sunset

Thanks for reading! Until next time, adios, ciao, sayonara, good-bye!

Published March 2015.