Big News Part Two: Madagascar

Hi there, it’s been a minute hey? We’ll be back to regularly scheduled Greece posts shortly, however I’m behind on everything due to some Major Life Changes. As of last Thursday, I no longer live in London. I’m home in Boston for a few (amazing) weddings, and next week I’ll be getting on a plane and arriving three days later in Antananarivo. Why you ask? I’m moving to Madagascar.

The when

I fly out next Sunday night, and arrive midday Wednesday. The contract is for 12 months to start, which feels great professionally and long personally. This is without a doubt the most exciting, terrifying, adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I vary between confidence and fear, along with overwhelming sadness at leaving Gareth (OH GOD AND BRADY), both of whom I’ve already had to say goodbye. But it is an incredible career move – and in that respect I’m nothing but excited.

The What

I’ll be a Project Development Officer for Community Health in Fort Dauphin, which is on the south-eastern coast of Madagascar. I’ll be working on project design and development, funding applications, donor reporting, and implementation for three projects – HIV in both rural and urban settings and WASH in schools.


ALSO, I was accepted to begin my Masters of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Classes are through distance learning, so I can complete the work online while living in the field in Mada. It’ll take 2-3 years to complete, and I’m honestly shocked my degree in writing/TV got me into LSHTM, as it’s one of the top programmes in the world!

So by this time next year, I’ll be halfway through a masters and have a year in the field as an Officer on my CV. I’ve felt this urgency to progress as I changed careers quite late, and haven’t been so pleased to still be an assistant at 28. But now (I hope) the ball is finally rolling and things are going to only get more interesting from here. These are two things I’ve been trying to do for years, and I am SO happy it’s all happening!

What next

I’ll be able to check off number 12 and 23 of my 30 before 30, which are probably the most important ones on there. I’ll be posting more frequently as this is definitely a time I’ll want to look back on years from now. I’ll be talking about how to survive long distance, the preparation needed before moving to a developing country, and once I arrive, all things Madagascar. I’m so excited for this next chapter!

30 Before 30 State of the Union

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve had an update to the 30 before 30 list, but as today is my 28th birthday(!!), I figure a little check in is probably in order. We’re officially past the midpoint to thirty, and I can’t lie and say I’m not totally freaked out at how incredibly quickly time is moving!

This year I didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped, but I did get a major one out of the way—I am officially a recognized Italian citizen! And I’ve visited Italy not once, but twice, going to Florence, Venice, Pisa, Vernasca, and Cinque Terre!

30 Before 30

The remaining items on the list are:

6. Visit Buenos Aires
7. Visit Costa Rica
9. Visit South Africa
10. Visit Greece
11. Visit Egypt
12. Volunteer in Africa or Asia
13. Stay in Shakespeare & Co Bookstore
15. Fix my tooth
17. Be able to cook 5 meals very well
18. Do a pull up
20. Live in France
21. Learn French
22. Reach a B2 level in Spanish
23. Get my masters
24. Get published
25. Read 10 books every year
30. Go to a Patriots game

So! We have 17 items left and just over two years to go. Because this is about focusing on what’s important to me, rather than doing something just because 25-year-old Kristen thought it sounded nice, this list is ever evolving. As a result, some of these things just aren’t that important to me anymore.

For example, items 15, 17, and 18. I don’t much care about fixing my tooth, and Gareth cooks for me so I’m eating just fine without any culinary skills to call my own. Also I just don’t care enough to put in the work needed to be able to do a pull up. Oh well.

That said, the rest I still care about mightily, and I think I’ll have the chance to accomplish some in 2018!

# 9 and 11: Gareth and I recently booked tickets for two weeks in South Africa, with a day layover in Cairo! We’ve just booked our accommodation in Kruger, and are looking into stop over tours in Egypt. I’m so excited, it’s definitely the most adventurous trip I’ve ever planned!

# 10: We’re also planning on spending a week in Greece this summer, so that’s three of the final five travel related ones done in 2018!

# 21 and 22: My New Year’s resolution is to pass the B2 DELE Spanish exam, so that should hopefully happen this year, and I’m organizing French lessons through my work. I’d like to be at an A2 level of French by the end of the year as well.

#25: I’ve easily read 10 books a year. That one I wrote back when I was crazy busy working on Marco Polo, and hadn’t read a book in what felt like years. I got the 10 in each year while living in LA and Spain and since I’ve started my epic commutes to work in London, I’m averaging a book a week!

#24: As for getting published, to be honest I write less now. However, last year I worked for a travel magazine for a few months, and had a few articles put on their website, so in theory this one is finished—but now I’m being selfish and want it in print. I ended my time there when Gareth’s mom got sick, but still keep in touch and think it would be quite easy to get something published in their print magazine. That’s something I’ll try to do this year.

So, those are the ones for which I have a plan. Others have a much less defined plan, like living in France and the masters. Not to say I’m not working towards them, more that they are less in my control.

The rest, I’m less sure about. I have no idea when I’ll go to Buenos Aires or Costa Rica (except, mom, maybe next Christmas?!). Staying in Shakespeare & Co will tie into the next time I’m in France (see above), and volunteering is something I still quite want to do, but finding the time is proving difficult. Over the summer I applied and was accepted to lead a group of volunteers for three months in Tanzania from January-March of 2018, but had to turn it down for a variety of reasons, one being my amazing job where I work all around Africa improving sexual and reproductive health.

I think that leaves just the Patriots game, which is becoming more urgent as I am desperate to see Tom Brady play before he retires. I might try to go this Christmas Eve, but if not it’ll have to wait to next year (though I’ll be in Boston for 10 days in the fall of 2018 for weddings, so it could be then barring serious injury/knock on wood/Go Pats!/etc).

I’m also so proud of what I have accomplished on my 30 before 30 so far!

  1. Become Italian
  2. Go to Africa
  3. Go to Morocco
  4. Go to Italy
  5. Go to Iceland
  6. Go to Turkey
  7. Get LASIK
  8. Get an IUD
  9. Be in a happy/successful relationship for over a year
  10. Read 10 books a year every year
  11. Be Debt Free
  12. Have $15,000 in savings
  13. Have $5,000 invested
  14. Work abroad

2018 Goals

So I didn’t accomplish most of my 2017 goals, but I’m giving myself a pass on self improvement and instead feeling proud I got through the year at all!

That said, I have some big (though not necessarily new) goals for 2018!

SPANISH. I am SO upset that I lived in Spain for nearly a year and didn’t leave with a higher level of Spanish. I’ve signed up for three courses here in London, the first was far too easy, even though I took their placement test, and the other two have been cancelled last minute due to insufficient enrolment. Why doesn’t anyone else care about Spanish?! I’m talking a placement exam with Instituto Cervantes, the official Spanish program, in a little over a week, and am definitely finding a class soon. I have two goals, one easy and one a bit harder. I want to pass the B1 exam that is being given in May. That should be easy as I don’t think I’m far off now. The harder one is that I want to pass the B2 exam that will be given in November. Eek! I’m quite nervous but that would be a HUGE goal I would feel so amazing to have accomplished.

I want to be physically strong again. I’ve barely worked out in the last six months and have eaten everything and anything unhealthy. I definitely gave myself a pass with my mom’s cookies at Christmas, but overall I’ve been eating better and I want to keep it up—I’ve even done a few Barry’s Bootcamp classes, which were hard when I was fit so they are basically torture now!

Learn to drive a standard. Living in the outskirts of London and not being able to drive is not great! Not being able to drive in Cornwall is worse. Most European cars are manual, and I need to get on it and give myself back the freedom of the open road!

Catch up on this blog. I have travel that I need to write about dating back over a year! I want to get it all down, as looking back through old posts makes me so happy–it’s a great record to have of everything I’ve done.

Get content. Like I said before, I’m having a hard time feeling at home in London. I think it’s a mixture of a few things–we don’t live in a very lively area, my commute is about  2 hours round trip, and I’ve been feeling out of control of my future. But I’m taking steps to correct this, as discontent isn’t my thing! We’re moving next week to a flat that is WALKING DISTANCE to the tube! That will cut my commute and make London so much more accessible. I’m traveling more, and taking classes (the aforementioned Spanish and I’ve also signed up for a pottery class!) I’ve also remembered that the future possibilities are endless, and I think maybe even just that realization will give me the boost I need to cheer up a bit.

Travel. There are so many places I still want to go in Europe, and as I have no clue how long we’ll be here, I’d like to get as much of Europe done as possible. This year, I’m thinking the most about Greece, Portugal, Granada, Latvia, Estonia, and Hungary. We’ve also got tickets to South Africa and Egypt already booked! I’m sure I won’t make it to all the above, but even getting to a few would be fantastic. I’m also quite keen to do Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, and the Ukraine. Ugh, there’s so much of Europe left to see!!

That’s my overall thinking going into 2018. Really, I just want to feel like myself again, which is already happening, and getting back to normal and refocusing on the things that bring me joy can only help!

2017 Wrap Up

Well, 2017. You weren’t the best.

This was a hard one to write, because in many ways 2017 was one of the hardest years of my life. I haven’t posted about it, but in June Gareth’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. I moved to the UK a few days later, and unfortunately the cancer was incredibly aggressive and she passed away  only a few weeks after diagnosis. There aren’t really words to describe what it’s like to watch someone get sick so quickly, or watch the person you love lose their mom, so I’m not going to try. But suffice to say, it was and still is quite hard.

However, I have to have hope that things will/are getting better, and I’m trying to focus on the things that bring me joy and hope!

To start, 2017 wasn’t all bad. It started quite nicely, with a visit from Lee and a trip to Belgium. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in the most incredible/heart stopping way, then Faye visited and the worst of winter passed. (I miss Spain one million times more than I thought I would! I’m honestly so desperately home sick for it, I decide to move back about once a week.) I GOT MY CITIZENSHIP! Then I went on an amazing tour of Europe over Semana Santa, visiting Italy for the first time, and Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. I had a wonderful goodbye with my students, and overall the first five months of 2017 were some of the best of my life.

Luckily I got the first job I applied for in London, and avoided the months of desperate job hunting I had assumed were awaiting me. It was one I really wanted, and I love what I do. It’s definitely more fulfilling than teaching, though much, much more serious and stressful as well. It’s been a lifesaver to have something I’m passionate about to throw myself into, and this job makes my time in London feel professionally invaluable.

It wouldn’t be honest to say settling back into normal life has been easy. I have a job in a sector I love, and truly think I’m making a difference with the work I do, but settling down was quite far off my list of things to do, and returning to normal life hasn’t been the smoothest of transitions. I miss living abroad so much—London, at this point, feels almost like I’ve gone back to America in its familiarity, and I feel this constant sense of dread the time I’m young and free of responsibility enough to travel is slipping away—though less so recently because I remembered to trust myself and my stubborn inability to let my dreams die!

I’m really happy 2017 is over. I’m hoping a fresh year and a new start will be a bit of a boost. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year, and I’m very ready to feel like myself again.


Are you ready for this?

I’m here with the update I never thought I’d get to write. I honestly still can’t believe it, and I think it will be a while before the reality truly sets in. But as of Tuesday night, I am officially a recognized citizen of Italy.

To be honest, this whole process became a bit of a nightmare. I had serious doubts it would ever get done, and was sure I was years away from any progress. Then Christmas happened, and while I suddenly felt sure it would happen at SOME point, the missing middle name correction was something the LA consulate had rejected plenty of people for in the past. I expected to need another court order. Because obtaining a court order takes a lot of work, time, and money, and I figured I should at least give what I had a shot. What was a few more months in the years this has taken? I’m so happy I did! I feel like as soon as I stopped stressing about it, it happened. NOT to say that had I stopped stressing before it would have worked, because it took a LOT of determination, commitment, and belief to get to this point.

From my research on the consulate, I was expecting to hear back sometime around now. So when I got an email at 1:00 am with the subject line ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP, my heart stopped for a second. The email was so short, I had to read it multiple times to understand. Like it couldn’t possibly be official. Do you remember when I got my first email with the huge list of problems that needed correcting? I didn’t read that one carefully enough, and mistakenly believed it had gone through. But this one was different. It was maybe three lines, most of which explained how I could obtain a passport. A EUROPEAN PASSPORT.

This means I can stay in Europe as long as I want, and I can get a proper job. It means no one can force Gareth and I apart (um, until Brexit happens). It’s weird because I have very little connection to Italy. Other than my love of the food, I´ve never been there (though give me a few weeks!), I don’t know a word of the language, and even my actual genealogy isn’t very Italian. The true value of this passport is Europe. I can stay in Spain for as long as I want. I can move to France. I can live in the UK. I suddenly have 28 more countries in which I can legally work. The amount of languages I can study, cultures I can get to know, and food I can try has just increased by so much! Also a lot of places in Europe have nearly free or actually free masters programs. So, that´s also a PRETTY big plus.

I can’t believe it’s over, but WOW, am I happy to cross #1 off my list!