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

Pisa and (finally!) getting my ID card!

A few months ago I had my first interview at my current job, and left it so (unusually) confident, that I arranged a spur of the moment flight to Italy for the next day, as I knew if I was hired I’d need my proof of right to work in the EU. I had originally planned to get it a few weeks out, and fly into Milan, rent a car, and drive out to the tiny mountain town my ancestors were from. However, with one day’s notice, Pisa ended up being much cheaper, and was about the same distance as Milan. It was also quite close to Cinque Terre, and this unplanned, last minute trip became one of my all time best travel experiences.

I flew into Pisa and stayed at Hostel Pisa. It was walking distance from the airport, and can I just say any city where you can walk to the airport is OK in my book. I was only spending one night in Pisa, and didn’t arrive until 4:00, so my expectations weren’t high. However, I had the best night. I don’t have major Pisa recommendations, other than the tower, obviously, and the most fantastic dinner/drinks place.

I headed straight for the tower because the light was fantastic and I wanted to see it in all its glory. While there I asked two girls to take my photo, and they recognized me from checking into the hostel. They were returning home to Germany a year volunteering at in International Hospital in Jerusalem, and we also met up with a guy who had just arrived in Europe for a year abroad in Florence.

On the walk to the tower I had stopped to take passport style photos for my ID card. (They did not come out well—Gareth kindly pointed out the shading makes it look like I have a 5:00 shadow, which is an accurate analysis of the photo). Nearby, I saw a dock on the river that looked like it may be a restaurant. I mentioned it to the crew I had met, and we decided to head there for dinner. It ended up being such a lovely night. Two of us were heading home after a long journey, both to graduate school. One was arriving for the first time in a country he was about to make into a home, and I was there to get proof of my newly recognized European citizenship. Arno Vivo was half on a dock and half on a floating raft, where we grabbed a table. There was live music, mood lighting, and the buffet style food was free with a drink. We shared a bottle of wine and swapped travel/life stories, and it was one of those moments that reminds you how absolutely wonderful travel can be.

The next morning I walked back to the airport to pick up a rental car, and headed out for Vernasca. I was so nervous the whole drive, that they would be closed (our communication was all in Google-translated Italian, and I wasn’t sure they’d be open until I arrived), or that I didn’t have the proper documentation. It seemed too easy, honestly, after the process leading up to it had been so drawn out and difficult.

The drive was beautiful, through the mountains and farmland, and the little village was so cute. I headed straight for the municipal building, and there was one woman working behind the counter. She was expecting me, and we chatted away—her in Italian, me half in Spanish and half in hand gestures. She filled out my ID card right there (so easy, it’s just made of paper!), and handed it to me with a big huge and a congratulations. It was such a surreal moment, being in my ancestors old village, even being in Italy, and I’m honestly so grateful that’s how I received my ID, rather than at a consulate in LA or London. Afterwards I wandered around the town a bit—there’s a big church up a hill right behind the municipal building that offered incredible views, before getting some lunch and starting the drive back.

downtown in the village

I was eager to drop the car off because that night started the second part of my trip—Cinque Terre!

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 Travel Wrap Up

I managed to travel to some truly incredible places in 2017. Though from my “official” goal list, I only made it to Italy, I was able to do a pretty thorough tour of the north, and quite a few other gorgeous European cities as well.

I’m really behind on my posts about each place, but find a taste of what’s coming below!





Lake Bled





Cinque Terre





2018 promises to be just as good (if not better) when it comes to travel, and I’m desperately excited for both the planned and unplanned trips that the year will bring!

Donald Trump: One Year Later

This time last year I was in Brussels, surrounded by women and men from around the world who needed a place, a voice, to express their shock and horror at Trump. I’ve been pretty silent on here about the election. Less so on Facebook, which has basically just become a platform for me to share links to political articles and outrages, but I didn’t know what to say when it first happened, and I still don’t know what to say now, a year after his inauguration.

It was really hard for me to get my absentee ballot. You can track it online and my status said delivered, but delivered it was not. There was an emergency number and I got a replacement right in time, but I remember my urgency (other than the normal, civic duty) was about wanting to be able to say I had voted in the election for our first female president–not any kind of worry about the outcome. I was embarrassed, especially living abroad, that Donald Trump had gotten as far as he had, but had read the polls and felt little anxiety. Actually, from the day he won the Republican nomination I stopped worrying about Hillary’s chances.

I spent the week talking about the election with my students, and we talked about words like racist, sexist, and predator. Those were the words my elementary school aged children associated with Trump–and I couldn’t blame them because they were the words I associate with him as well.

Because I was in Spain it took forever for news to start coming in. There was talk of arranging an event at a local pinchos bar, but when we realized it would be morning before anything really happened, we decided to stay home. My roommate Shaina and I stayed up until the bitter end. Even before Florida was called I realized it wasn’t going to be the same as Obama’s election, when his victory had never really looked in jeopardy.

By 7:00 am it was clear what had happened. I was sobbing, we all were. I called my mom and she had gone to sleep–had slept through it all and was shocked he had won. She was sure I was wrong. How could so many people have chosen to vote for him??

Afterwards I felt depressed, and very far from home. I had thought I was safe, in the impossibility of a Trump victory, by living so far from home. But in reality, as soon as he won all I wanted to do was be back in the states, trying to help in any way I could. I love America. I love being American. The more I travel the more I value where I came from, and how deep my patriotism lies. Being away is still hard. I seriously considered leaving Spain and going back to find a campaign or NGO to work for. I think it’s a large part of how I ended up working where I am now. 

I remember feeling so afraid. What would happen when Obama left? Who would protect those of us who aren’t rich middle aged men? Who would lead the country, and join the world in leading important initiatives–the Paris Climate Accord, the Mexico City Policy–so much of the United States decisions affect the international landscape. How could we trust Trump to manage all that??

I felt so angry. At the people who voted for Trump. At the people who voted 3rd party, or didn’t vote at all. At anyone who felt safe enough to say Clinton and Trump were equally bad, because that statement comes from such privilege I can’t even comprehend the sheltered lives of those who felt comfortable uttering such a sentiment. I wonder how they feel now.

As time moves on and we watch Trump fail again and again at following through on his campaign promises, but in effect kill Obamacare and lead through another government shut down, I’m still waiting for the next Democratic leader to show up. It still feels like Obama, but he can’t save us, not anymore. We need congress and senate to be brave, even the Republicans. To save the DREAMERs and save healthcare, and stand up to a leader I refuse to believe any of them actually respect.

Heading into the midterms I don’t feel very hopeful. We just had amazing local elections, where so many diverse people were elected, which was an inspiring and hopeful thing to see. But while we didn’t elect a pedophile in Alabama, but it was closer than it should have been. I do think the country is fed up with Trump, and I know historically the president’s party doesn’t fare well in the midterms. The issue is really just which seats are up for reelection. They will be hard wins and we’d have to win most of them, and hang on to all our current seats as well. It’s possible, I mean Trump’s election didn’t look likely either, but mainly I am just waiting for someone to step up and become the person who can lead us back from the edge, when they appear, that’s when I’ll really feel hopeful.