Can you believe that CMU students are only a week away from final exams? I know, I can’t either. This year has been one of the craziest school years of my life. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and everything ordinary in between, I’ve managed to (almost) finish it.
I thought that I would share the three biggest lessons from my third year as a CMU student. **These are not in order of importance, rather an order of how I came up with them**
1. It’s okay to not be okay
As a conversation around mental health has begun to emerge, I’ve heard this phrase a lot. When I first heard this it didn’t resonate with me in any way. I was a relatively happy person, and there wasn’t a reason for me to not be okay. However, as I transitioned from studying abroad in Italy back to Mt. Pleasant for classes on campus, I fully began to realize this quote.
There was nothing wrong with me physically, I have family and friends who love me, and so much more to be thankful for. Even knowing all this, I still felt sad. Once I started to recognize what how I was feeling during my transition home, I began to accept it and work through my issues. Sometimes you just feel sad, and recognizing it is the first step. It didn’t cure my sadness overnight, but I was able to let myself recognize my sadness and do something about it.
2. Saying “no” isn’t a bad thing
This was one of the harder lessons I had to learn this year. I came back from Italy and tried to jump right back into all of my old clubs and organizations. On top of accepting a new job for the semester, I found myself juggling a workout schedule, work, school, and my extracurriculars. Most days I was at the gym before 7:30 am and on campus from 10 am to 6 or 7 at night. Now, I’m not sharing this for anyone to praise me or take pity on me. This schedule is what kept me busy and worked for me. I’m sharing this because if I wouldn’t have learned to let the guilt of the word “no” go, then I don’t think I would’ve survived this semester. I would’ve worked shifts or gone to meetings because I felt like I had to.
3. Find the good in every day
Okay now, this might not always be easy. I had some days where nothing could compare to studying abroad, and my whole day would seem pointless. Those thoughts might be some of the most toxic thoughts in life. No day is pointless, and there is always something to be thankful for whether it be your health or a beautiful sunrise. It’s okay to not be happy at a specific season in your life, but every season has a reason.
There you have it, folks, the top three things I learned this semester. Honestly, I could write a novel on all the lessons I’ve learned. This was one of the most pivotal times in my life. I’m getting ready to close the chapter of my third year and start another. Cheers to new seasons.
Holy moly, it’s already the end of March. We’ve made it through spring break as well as the first day of spring. Believe it or not, Michigan’s weather is weirdly spring-ish. Most of the snow is all melted and temperatures are slowly rising.
I’m completely ready to leave winter behind and welcome spring with open arms. I’m talking about dresses, sandals, and light jackets. Unfortunately, it’s not that warm yet, but we will get there.
I thought that it would be a good point to check in. Since finishing the JLo challenge, I’ve been all over the place food-wise. I had a HUGE food-cation in Texas on my spring break. From FRIED OREOS (yes that’s a thing and yes they’re delicious) to my first-ever beignet (also amazing). I was lucky enough to be able to work out every day on my vacation because that’s what life’s about, balance.
Spring break in Houston was another great week. I got to spend it with my cousin who is basically my twin and my aunt and uncle. We always have such a blast. They took me to San Antonio because I’d never been. It was such a cool little city. We also went to the Houston Rodeo and saw Panic! At the Disco. I love the rodeo, and the concert was great.
The past couple weeks back have gone by rather quickly, but truthfully, I’m so ready to be done with the semester. I’ve totally had a roller coaster of emotions with transitioning back from Florence to Mt. Pleasant. I’ve had some classes I absolutely dread, not because they’re hard, but because they’re boring and university credits. That being said, I’ve had some good days with great classes too. One of my classes and some of my clubs have had amazing guest speakers that make me truly excited for my future career.
On that note, my future career. I’ve been working extremely hard towards finding and achieving an internship this summer. That entails applying to as many places that I feel qualified as possible and interviewing with anyone who will ask. It’s hard to consistently interview and interview and not get something, but I know everything will work itself out.
Some other fun things to mention was that St. Patrick’s Day was the weekend after spring break. I went out and spent all of Saturday with friends. On Sunday, a friend of mine had a photography assignment, so we went to Midland to Dow Gardens. We went and saw butterflies, and we spent the day laughing and exploring the canopy gardens in Midland. It was truly a fun, relaxing day.
Other than that, I’ve got some big projects in almost all my classes coming up since we’re winding down the year. I only have six weeks of classes left, and I’m getting anxious to know where I’ll be this summer work-wise. I hope to update ya’ll with some more posts before school lets out, but you never know.
Now that February has come and gone without me posting any new blogs, I think it’s time for me to jump back on and let you know what I’ve been up to.
As you’ve read the title of today’s post, I decided to spend the last 10 days in March trying Jennifer Lopez’s 10 days of no added sugar, no carbs. Yup, that’s right. The pancake queen herself refrained from breakfast sweets, dairy, coffee creamer, bread, fruit, and more.
Now, I first heard of this from Hoda Kotb on the Today show. JLo challenged her at the end of January, and by February I kept feeling like I wanted to get a piece of the action. Fast forward to Monday, Feb. 18. – it was official, I was doing it.
Originally, I took daily video diaries of how each day felt or went, but they bored me to death. I’ll recap what I droned on about for about 20 minutes total: I don’t know if I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t feel like this was the hardest challenge in the world. The lack of fruit sucked and I felt a little bit tired, but I truly did fine for the most part. The weekend was hard, and I cheated a tiny bit when I went out with friends, but I didn’t cheat with food.
Here’s how I prepared and made it through the 10 days.
1. I researched it
I first researched the challenge then I researched any questions I had about it. I spent the majority of my time on the Today show’s website because, after Hoda did it, they had a couple good posts about it.
2. I prepped what I was going to eat
After researching what I could eat, I spend a lot of time deciding what I actually would eat. I didn’t want to waste money on stuff I wouldn’t make or wouldn’t even want to eat. The best way to survive this challenge is to make food that sounds good! I got ideas from Joy Bauer, who helped Hoda plan what to eat.
3. Meal prepping
If you’re hungry after a long day and you have no food, you’ll be more apt to cheat. I promise you that making some breakfast quiches ahead of time or dinner that works for lunch the following days, you will be able to fight the urge of quitting.
4. Have snacks ready
I’m terrible at eating when I’m bored or snacking when I’m watching a show or movie. Make sure you have snacks, like natural almonds around. I also would have carrots with guacamole for less of a dry snack. P.s. sugar-free Jello was my favorite “before bed” snack.
5. Don’t beat yourself up
If you fall off the wagon for half a second (I did during the weekend when I went out with friends) accept it and move on. I spent a lot of time worrying that I was doing something wrong because I didn’t feel as tired as people said I would. I was fine, and I talked myself into doing something wrong for a couple of the days. Don’t let negative thoughts control your time.
6. You can do anything for 10 days
It’s only for 10 days. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. I did.
That’s all the advice and thoughts I can think of on how I accomplished it. This experience was not at all what I thought it would be, but I found some of the things I was looking for. I needed a change to motivate me to finish February in a better attitude. I don’t want you to think this was the easiest thing I’ve ever done because it wasn’t. It will be different for everyone, but if I can do it then so can you.
If you have any questions about what I ate or want another post on how I felt, where I post “10-day challenge,” feel free to let me know.
Drumroll, please! I’m sticking to the promise I made in my last post (found here) to tell you guys about my New Year’s resolution. The problem is, I don’t want to call it a “resolution.” That word, in my mind, has come to have a negative connotation with it. I don’t know if it’s the countless years of promising to do something and stopping a week later that’s given me a bad taste in my mouth, or the genuine thought of only having goals because it’s a new year. Either way, count me out.
This year, I’ve chosen to start every day with a phrase. My mom first brought this to my attention when she said she just wanted to “be intentional,” when doing things. The more we talked about it, the more I realized how great of a goal this would be for my life. From simply being intentional about saying “hello” to a stranger to intentionally waking up and making it to the gym every morning, this phrase can be personal to everyone’s needs.
I’ve chosen to hold off posting about this daily goal until now because I wanted to make sure I was serious about it. According to the Today Show, January 17th is the day that most Americans abandon their resolutions. It was on that morning that I had woken up and intentionally dragged myself to the gym despite not wanting to go. When I got home and heard the anchors discussing being done with resolutions I felt so proud of myself. I didn’t do it because it was a goal for the new year, rather, I did it to be intentional about a healthy lifestyle.
Since making this daily change, I have told many people about how my mom and I have chosen to live. One friend of mine told me her friends’ experience with choosing a new word to live by every year. Through the word of the year, this friend has challenged herself to do so many things, for example, stepping out of her comfort zone in huge ways like skydiving.
This even stuck with my older sister, pushing her to write a lovely Facebook post. On the days where being intentional is hard because I’m stuck inside due to extreme weather, her post has added gasoline to my dying fire.
The thought of “being intentional” hits everyone differently. It can provoke a new way of living for each person who is willing to change their way of thinking.
Like always, I have to say, life is different for everyone. Some people have goals to lose weight while others want to socialize more. Being intentional makes you stop and think about what you are doing and the underlying reason to why.
Why did I stay in and watch a movie I’ve seen a thousand times rather than going out and spending money to see a new movie? Maybe I’ve saving to make my travel goals a reality. Why did I hold the door open for a stranger? Maybe it’s because human interaction is what I thrive on. It can be little moments like this, or moments thinking about something as big as your career, where we make a conscious choice to be intentional about what we’re doing.
So, what’s my daily goal for this year? Good days, bad days, and every day in between, I’m choosing to be intentional.
Hello pretty people, how’s it going? Today is the first truly snowy Saturday of the season for me in Central Michigan. I thought that now would be as perfect of a time as ever for me to check-in with everyone since it’s been a month from my last post.
The transition home has been pretty much what I expected. Some days I’m perfectly fine and frankly too busy to think of missing Florence while other days are extremely hard. I try to stay busy and think of the good times and how lucky I am to miss it on those days.
My semester has started off with a bang as I have moved into my first apartment at school, started classes, extra circulars, and jobs. Somehow I am still lucky enough to have free time during the weekends. I’m ready to get started on some big projects to help me learn more about the professional field of public relations. In addition, I am spending some free time applying for summer internships.
I’ve also found some time to catch up with all my friends here at school. It’s a little bittersweet telling them of my travels and experiences, but I love hearing about their recent semester.
Now, to the less boring part of this post. In part because of my New Year’s resolution (which I will soon post about), I’m hoping to post on a more regular schedule, maybe once a week or once every two weeks. I won’t know until I get a little bit busier and make a more definite plan for myself. I have some ideas to write about my school life and (finally) some that don’t have to do with Florence, despite the fact that it is etched in my being at this point.
If there is anything anyone would like to see a post about, leave a comment below or contact me on any of my social media. I’d love to hear from anyone.
Have a great, long weekend and a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
The day has finally come that I post from America once again. Since my last post, I have finished my time in Florence, flown stateside, and settled back into my life in Michigan a little bit.
Throughout my last week in Italy, my travel home, and my first couple of days back, I have felt an overflow of emotions. Multiple times I thought to start a draft, but, honestly, I had no motivation or I was overall just confused about what I was feeling. I had no idea what to expect when leaving. I was looking forward to seeing my family, yet I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. My first couple days home felt overwhelming. How was I supposed to transition back to my home when I was homesick for a place I’d only known for a short amount of time?
I found the answer to this question at mass last Sunday morning. On this particular morning, I was looking forward to participating in my first English-speaking mass since August. Luckily for me, I was home just in time for the third week in Advent. For those of you who don’t know, the third week in Advent represents joy. I will spare the details and cut to the chase; the answer to my previous question is joy.
The message during mass was all about finding the joy even in the worst moments of life. I can’t remember every detail to the homily, but the overall message of choosing and finding joy spoke to me. It is completely normal to feel all of the things I am feeling post-study abroad. Instead of letting every negative emotion or thought consume me, it is important to find the joy in even the smallest of places.
I’ve chosen to find joy in the new puppy my mom has gotten. He makes me laugh and forget about any sadness I may feel. I’ve found joy in holding my stepbrother’s baby. All the times I’ve gotten to spend with those I’ve missed, I have felt joy. Snuggling my other dogs and relaxing has also brought me great joy. My family has helped me find the joy in everything. Despite how I may be feeling, finding and doing the smallest things that bring me joy has been the biggest life-saver thus far.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that this has cured any negative feelings I may have, but I do know it makes the days a lot better. I’m thankful for the experience, but most especially, I’m thankful for my family.
Krystal, With a “K”
P.s. Below I have attached the link to an 8-minute video I made summarizing the last 3 and a half months.
Each of my days begins quite similarly: slow. I’m not sure if it’s the European lifestyle rubbing off on me, but I have dedicated extra time into each of my mornings to enjoy this new, slower lifestyle. Now that the semester is winding down and I’m headed back to the states so shortly, this routine is more of something I had in the past couple of months. **This post uses the 24 clock or military time because that’s what we use in Europe**
Rise & Shine
Depending if it’s a class day or a day off, I try to wake up around the same time every day. This doesn’t always happen due to my rather inconsistent bedtimes. My alarms go off anywhere from 07:25-08:30. If it’s a class day or I went to bed early, I am usually up and sipping my coffee at the table around 08:30. If I wake up later, 08:30 is my first alarm and I’m not out of bed until around 09:00 or 09:30. My goal is to wake up and not lay in bed on my phone which I sometimes do by lacing up for an early run.
This is an essential part of my mornings. I’m talking Lorelai Gilmore, “I need coffee in an IV,” essential part to my morning. Since moving to Italy for the semester, I have ditched my drip coffee ways for the only option in my apartment: espresso by Moka (or a percolator). Unfortunately, I can’t just drop my American coffee-drinking ways, so I either make a cappuccino or an americano to sip while I scroll through social media and news apps or while (like this morning) writing.
Mid-Morning & Early Afternoon
If it’s a class day I spend much of my day in the classroom or bouncing from one part of the city to the next to make it to class. On Tuesdays, I like to go with my roommate to our school restaurant for lunch before my second class of the day. The rest of the week or the weekend I spend this time walking around Florence, trying to find new places to get caffè and do homework all while enjoying my other favorite places. Lunch is usually thrown in somewhere around 13:00.
Afternoon & Evening
At the beginning of the semester, if I didn’t go for a run in the morning, I would go for a run after my classes, during the golden hour. I loved hitting the city streets while the golden sun gracefully fell down each building or reflected off of the Arno river. Although I still love this time of day, it is much harder for me to see it because I don’t get home from class until around 18:00. For the days I don’t have afternoon classes, I usually end my walks during the golden hour. Other times, I find myself doing much of my homework at my apartment or, more times than I’d like to admit, scrolling through my phone.
Most of my evenings are spent hanging out with my roommates in the kitchen. Everyone has different stuff going on each day (and even some nights), but during the evening is when we find ourselves spending the most time together. This is also when we find ourselves cooking dinner, exchanging parts of our daily happenings, and whatever else roommates talk about.
Not long after eating dinner, I find my way to my bed where I spend too much time on my phone or laptop. Sometimes I’ll surf the web for more things to do in Florence while others I watch Netflix or scroll through social media. Due to my earlier mornings, I find myself falling asleep anywhere from 22:00-23:30. Even that seems late on my earliest of mornings. Lately, due to my lack of motivation and anxieties for returning to the United States, I don’t find myself sleeping until after around 01:00.
It varies day to day, but for the most part, I find myself in a similar schedule. Despite the exciting city environment, my daily life doesn’t differ too much from my school life at home. Okay, you got me; I do way more exploring here. . .
Leave a comment below if you liked this post or if you want to see more like it.
Firenze, Italy is home to some of the world’s most beautiful churches. From their crown-jewel, the Duomo, to multiple smaller, equally beautiful churches tucked throughout the city, Firenze is largely known for their churches.
One of my favorite parts of living here is being able to pass by these churches and admire their beauty throughout my daily life. I decided to share some of my favorites with everyone else so you may see what I’m talking about. I will say that if you have quite a bit of time while you’re visiting the city that you should either go into these churches by buying a ticket (some are free) or by going to one of their masses.
Florence Cathedral, or The Duomo
The Duomo is partly the reason I fell in love with this place. I did not do much research on my new home before moving here, so when I saw it I was all sorts of surprised. Each walk by this monumental church still amazes me every single day. From all the legends I’ve learned about it, actual history, and going to a mass, I fell deeper in love with the sky-piercing cathedral. If you ever visit Florence I highly suggest buying the ticket for the Cathedral. To go in is free, but to climb the bell tower and dome, go into the ruins underneath the cathedral, go to the neighboring baptistery, and to go to the museum across the street you need a ticket. It is all included in one, relatively inexpensive price, and the tickets are good for 72 hours. My roommate and I climbed the bell tower at sunrise and the dome at sunset. It was honestly one of the best things I could have done for myself. You get to experience a whole new part of Florence (from the top) and you get to see why the Florentines are so dang proud of it in its entirety.
**I plan to do a full post on the Duomo and everything you need to know about visiting in an upcoming post, so check back later for that.
Another one of my favorite churches is Santa Croce. I’m one of the lucky ones because I get to see this church every time I go to class. This is only the second church I have gone to mass in since being here. I went on a Friday, so mass was held in a smaller chapel. This particular chapel was floor to ceiling marble, paintings, and statues. There was not a bare spot in this chapel. Although I got to see the inside of this church, I have not paid to see the rest of the church grounds which includes a bell tower and a courtyard. I can honestly say that if you have time and money to go in while you’re visiting that it might be worth it to you. If all you have time for is to see the beauty from the piazza you should still make time to see it.
San Miniato Al Monte
One goal of everyone’s while visiting Firenze is to usually visit Piazzale Michelangelo to see an amazing view of the city and a fake David statue. What most people don’t know is that there is another amazing, if not better, view from just a little bit more up the road at San Miniato Al Monte. Not only is the view great, but the church is also gorgeous. When you walk up the front steps you are greeted by a beautiful green and white exterior with a gold mosaic at the top. Once you turn around you have a great view of the mountains behind Firenze, the city itself, and the rolling hills alongside one of the old city border walls.
One of the coolest parts of this church is that you could spend hours here and you would have no ideas just by looking at the front of it. The third time I went, I figured out that behind the church is a massive cemetery, and although this sounds very weird and kind of creepy is was not at all. There are dozens are chapels that look like tiny churches where people are buried that are decorated all differently. Some are decorated with beautiful mosaics while others different stones. It looks like a little city of chapels amongst gravestones. The property is massive and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
In one of the more local parts of town, past Santa Croce, you will find the church Sant’Ambrogio. This church is very plain from the outside, so many might not know what lies within. This, to me, is more of a local style church. It is near the Sant’Ambrogio market, so it is easy for me to imagine and witness people going from a church service to the market (depending on mass times). I never would have known for this church unless I lived where I do. I am just down the street from the church, and I pass it on the way to my school restaurant. One random Friday I decided to take a look inside. It is free to go inside, and I encourage you to if you have the time. It feels a bit homier in comparison to some of the other churches mostly because it is. It is much smaller and houses some very beautiful works of art on the wall. The alter is not nearly as large as the other from previously mentioned churches, but it is still a good size. This is a little bit off the beaten path of the main churches, but take five minutes to visit it. You won’t be disappointed.
Still On My List
Despite having so much time in Firenze, there are still multiple churches I want to visit and masses I want to attend. On my list still is Santa Maria Novella which is beautiful from the outside, and I can’t wait to see the inside. Another is Basilica Santa Spirito. This one is on the other side of the river and is also a more simple, locals church. I need to make a trip to visit the inside and attend a mass. Basilica San Lorenzo, tucked behind the Duomo, is also a church I have seen from the outside but have not ventured in yet. They are on my list to see for the last weeks I am here.
The pictures alongside my descriptions don’t do these churches justice, but I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re ever in Firenze take the time to visit some of these churches, they won’t disappoint.
Originally, I had a different post in mind. It was a day in my life while abroad. Since writing it (sorry it took so long) I have decided on a completely different, more pressing, topic. Time: it’s a very funny thing. You either have too much time, not enough time, people wasting your time, people begging for your time- the list goes on and on.
For me, I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with time. Most of my hate comes from my fear of it, more specifically how fast time seems to fly.
I am already in the last month of my study abroad experience in Italy. The time has flown by so quickly. There was so much I had planned for my time abroad, and there was so much I didn’t even know I wanted to do until I got here. I always say that you really can’t plan every day of life, and this place has truly taught me the reality of that.
Knowing I only have less than a month here is mind-boggling. I’m trying to use every second of my time here to do something I love or something new. Of course, I still have class and studying which takes up time, but all my free moments will be used wisely.
As for my weekends, I will spend them with the new people who have changed my life. The people who have been on this crazy experience with me. I will continue to find new places for me that are in fact not new at all. Exhibits, churches, memorials, statues- everything.
To think that a little over a year ago I started forming plans to come here. I don’t think I knew what was truly in store for me. I have fallen in love with people and places that I never even imagined possible for my life.
I’m going to leave this post with one of my favorite quotes:
Don’t count the days, make the days count,” -Muhammad Ali
So, here’s to making the rest of my seconds, minutes, days, and most importantly, moments count (more than usual)!
Ten days, three islands, and one trip of a lifetime. My Greece Island hopping adventure has officially come to an end, so I thought it would only be fitting to post my latest travel experience with all of you.
I used a student travel company that I have mentioned previously, Bus2Alps, which did all of the heavy lifting for this trip. They organized the travel and much of the itinerary. Usually, I would follow everyone else’s advice to travel on my own because travel companies can charge you more, but due to not knowing anyone who I would want to travel to Greece with when I booked this trip prior to leaving for Italy in August, I decided I didn’t want to travel alone. There are pros and cons to traveling with any student travel company which will become evident throughout the rest of this post.
Our trip started with a bus ride from Florence to Ancona where we got on a ferry for 24 hours. Personally, I didn’t mind the “ferry” which was more realistically a small cruise ship. It was a long day of travel, but I did upgrade to a cabin where I could sleep for the majority of the trip if I so chose. This ferry was the first place that I truly started to get to know the other students traveling with me. This is by far the best part of traveling with a student travel company because you get to meet so many different people. From the ferry, we had a short bus ride to our first hostel in Athens.
I absolutely loved Athens. We got to do some shopping as well as historical stops. The Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. I was able to get into both of these sites for free with my international student I.D. Nothing was cooler to me than the thought of stepping on land that people from thousands of years ago, before Christ, had also stood on. I was literally touching columns that I had once seen as a little girl in my history books. It was a truly humbling and surreal moment to be able to experience these places and this city first hand. I also got my first taste of authentic Greek gyros in Athens as well as my first ever bubble waffle cone. Both are to die for, and I surely will never forget them.
After a couple days in Athens, it was time to catch another ferry to the island of Santorini. Santorini is most commonly recognized by the eye-catching white buildings and blue roofs, and not to mention, Oía which is home to the most photographed sunset ever. Santorini was right out of a movie. Everything seemed so dreamlike. This island is also known for being one of the most luxurious vacation spots in the world, so I was thankful for my opportunity to see its Red and Black Sand Beaches as well as its famous sunset as a student. I was also able to visit the highest point on the island, at an ancient Monastery where I repped my home university, CMU. Aside from loving the sunset, I enjoyed Santorini’s other views and, of course, more gyros. We stayed in a town called Fira while in Santorini which was where a couple of my new friends and I found our favorite gyro spot that we visited four separate times in two days as well as a nice cliff bistro that featured an unforgettable view.
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Our final destination for our trip was the island of Corfu. Of course, we had another day of travel to get there due to the distance from Santorini to Corfu, but it was totally worth it. Corfu was a completely different island than the other two. We stayed at the famous Pink Palace hostel. They were not joking when they say it’s pink- it looked like Barbie’s beach getaway. Here we got to relax under the sun on a very cool rock beach, make it to Corfu town, and experience the famous toga party offered at Pink Palace. This was definitely something I had yet to experience in life. Due to tourist season ending, the island seemed empty which I liked, but I would love to see this place at the height of the tourist season when the hostel alone can hold over 700 guests. My favorite part of this island was the rocky beach where I sat for hours searching for new rocks. It was eye-opening to see boulders that made up the beach becoming sand firsthand. No two rocks were the same. Nothing was more peaceful to me than looking for rocks with my new friends, stopping every so often to show off a new one or try to skip a flat one.
By the end of the ten days, I was beaten. It was a lot of traveling to islands that are not that close to one another. This is where Bus2Alps gets much criticism, and although there were extra costs (just like any another vacation), I give this trip a huge thumbs up. I loved the people I met, including the guides, and I can’t imagine trying to book these three islands on my own. This truly was an amazing experience that I will never be able to forget. I am truly blessed to have met such awesome people whom I hope to connect back in the states with.