525,600 Minutes: 2018

I’m just a traveller on this earth.

Like a bubbly glass of champagne, the holidays fill me with excitement, celebration, and elegance. It’s familiar, but completely special. Maybe that’s why I also treasure travel and family. Seven years ago, my family began the “test” if we were going to be able to survive on longer trips together. And though there was some roaring as we were in the African safari, we realized something: family, like travel, is a gift.

And so, each year (almost), we go on a trip together. This year, we are making a record of it (3 in 1 year)! Napa. Mexico. and now Colombia. Each of us can count on the following: We’ll eat too much. Drink too much. But also laughter will always play a part. And the spa will be a definite.

It’s funny how the older I get, the more sentimental I become, but how I desire for others to find a tribe of people (family, friends, or both) that they can travel with. Like families, each city and country, has its own uniqueness. From the rugged ice-capped mountains of Patagonia to the warm temperatures and colors of Cuba, to the vastness and lush landscape of the Azores to the 200+shades of blue in the Bahamas, each place has its own beauty to share. Like your aunt who takes too many pictures, to your relative with the poor fashion taste, to the familiar smells of your home, to your nieces and nephew’s laughter, family members bring color to the room. Green to red and to all the shades in between, it’s family.

So, get in the car or on the plane or cross the street. Travel + family = the best gift of the year.

As for me, I’ll be toasting to 2019 in Colombia (Latin style)! Keep celebrating and keep traveling.

Cheers to new adventures ahead!

Salt + Swimming Pigs

The air was thick with salt and endless possibilities on that hot summer day. My shorts stuck endlessly to my thighs--reminding me of my desire and longing to be out in the sea itself. The water was like a piece of glass dipped in as many shades of blue as there were stars in the sky.

My heart beat quickly as the boat moved away from the shore. Like many parts of the ocean, there was much of myself that I still needed to unlock and discover. The wet salt from the sea beat against my cheek as the boat sped up and a new adventure began to take place.

1. 2. 3. 4. Off I went...

We rode for miles and miles further into the sea. After about an hour, we arrived at Iguana beach. It appeared as if we had entered the Galapagos. There were lizards and iguanas everywhere. So, being the friendly southern gal that I am, I decided to make friends with them. They opened their mouths wide in hopes that I would feed them--bringing humor to my soul. My heart couldn't resist the moment to jump in the salty water--enveloping myself completely in it.

We were soon off to the next stop--a visit to the infamously famous swimming pigs. Legend has it that they had overrun an island in the 80s. The government decided to place many of them on a deserted island. But the picnics of sailors and yachters tempted the over-abundant stomachs of the pigs, and before too long they were swimming out to the boats requesting a meal or two. Well, I'm not certain if all of this is true, but the pigs do swim and they are incessantly hungry--running after a piece a food like it is their last. I was able to lure one into the ocean with a carrot. And in a not so typical pig fashion, he came swimming to retrieve his food. He was then kind enough to turn around, so that I could have a photo snapped with him. Definitely a moment to remember--and all on the Fourth of July!

My adventure continued to a deserted island where I laid out in the sun and enjoyed the nature around me. The boat ride back, I breathed in the overwhelmingly beautiful views and allowed myself to relax--as I dozed back and forth into a summertime nap.

Hair and skin full of salt and endless memories, I recounted the tale of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and how the salt water is mysterious and enchanting--bringing you a moment of unexpected gifts. And for that moment, though I was alone, my heart once again became alive.

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. -EH
@worldwidewillett with the swimming pigs

@worldwidewillett with the swimming pigs

Looking Forward

At the beginning of 2018, I decided to make a conscious and dedicated effort to my body--caring for it emotionally, physically, and spiritually. As an avid traveler, I am frequently on the go--leaving my home at least once per month (sometimes more). This oftentimes can take a toll on my body. It can be tempting to not care for my state of well being. So, I began regularly taking barre classes. Similar to ballet, it focuses on isolating muscles and strengthening your core. It is truly a mind + body exercise. It has affected me greatly that I take many of the exercises on the road with me. Recently, it became a tradition for me to pose in a particular yoga pose with the destination in the background. As I've gone through these photos, one thing has come to mind: Looking forward.

Looking forward.

Like a compass, my body is pointing in a direction. Looking not to what is behind me, but intently and intentionally focusing forward. But at the same, moment, remaining still--captured in the moment. Enjoying the moments around me. Breathing it in. These pictures are reminders to me that wherever in the world I am, I am encouraged to remain present, but to forever gaze forward--boldly with hope and anticipation and in wonder. 

What about you? What direction is your body, soul, and spirit pointing towards? The attitude of your heart will reflect this. Allow yourself to be open to all that is around you.

Always looking forward, my friend.

Rose-Colored Glasses

n. (pl.): an optimistic perception of something; seeing something in a positive way

I am a fan of rose colored--everything: champagne, decor, flowers, clothing, accessories. The list could go on an on. Pink is a sure way to make my day happier. As I was scrolling through my photos of delicious food and wine experiences, I noticed that I had many pictures of rose colored glasses. Being the curious gal that I am, I looked up what "rose-colored glasses" actually meant. To my delight, it is a phrase to describe who is the eternal optimist--perceiving things in a positive way.

Now, being the avid traveler that I am, I experience moments daily where it can be tempting to darken or fog up my rose-colored glasses. It's much more difficult to remain positive when your baggage has been lost or your transportation fails to arrive or your flight is cancelled. But let me reassure you of this (as well as myself):

Every moment in our lives gives us an opportunity to choose. We can choose to see with darkened glasses or with rose-colored ones.

Choosing the rose-colored ones is a win win every time: for your health, emotional well-being, finances, relationships, and career. Perspective is everything.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't an excuse to not live in reality. You can maintain a very realistic perspective, but carry a positive attitude.

We have one life here on this earth and why not spend it spreading positive vibes.

So, cheers to rose, smelling the roses, and rocking the pink outfit.

Rose wins every time.

Rainy Days + Spa Days = A Perfect Getaway

Last weekend was unforgettable and truly memorable. The 5+ hours I piled in my nugget of a rental car wasn't too exciting, but my cramped body immediately relaxed into a puddle as I pulled into the entrance of Chateau Elan Spa and Winery. The rain was beginning to pitter patter on my windshield. The forecast called for a soggy and wet weekend. My thought--perfect. What could be better than sitting by a fire in my plush robe and slippers, sipping endless glasses of wine, while getting rubbed from top to bottom in between! Heaven.

As I pulled in, one of the bellmen greeted me and kindly took my things to the room. My mother, whom I was meeting, was waiting there. The warmth of the lamps in the room reflected the calm and relaxed feeling that would linger throughout the weekend. I opened a bottle of Chilean red--whisking me back to one of my favorite destinations in the world. The two of us caught up before heading to dinner at Cotton Calf Kitchen a few miles down the road. There, my burger craving met its expectations--all while being topped with tomato, brioche, gorgonzola cheese and paired with truffle fries. My nostalgic moment also called for the comfort of an old fashioned, which did not disappoint.

When we arrived back to Chateau Elan, the rain started to come down. The healing sound of the drops of rain, soothed me into a calm and delightful sleep. When I awoke, my mother had already been up for hours--walking the grounds and enjoying her morning peaceful ritual. All I could think of was my friend that was black and in a cup. Yep. Coffee. My mother and I soon got in our robes and walked down to the spa. The smell of lavender and vanilla filled the room. My shoulders began to relax and all the rest of me melted and I entered the realm of calm.

From the antioxidant wine bath followed by an hour and a half massage, to the endless bubbles of champagne and the delightful afternoon tea, the weekend couldn't have been more blissfully soothing. Every ounce was just what my physical and emotional well-being craved. Just as the rain brought healing and life to the land, so the rainy weekend at the spa brought nourishment to my soul. My mother and I laughed and talked and laughed some more. What a fun-filled weekend of time spent together paired with relaxation.

As I piled in my small rental car to head back to Tennessee, the rain sprinkled down, but not for long. There was just a mist as I drove through the welcoming gates and waved goodbye to my French paradise. "Au revoir!" I whispered.

I turned the corner--knowing that this was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

My. Heart. Soars.

It was a humid and warmer than usual summer month in Georgia. He picked me up in his Ford sedan. My legs stuck to the seats like a fly on a honey trap. I started to fidget and bite my nails. I did this not only when I was nervous, but it was now a well-formed habit. One I had picked up (or inherited) from him. We started our 4+ hour drive north. I waited for the radio to start our magic (and his epic air guitar skills). Huey Lewis and the News graced us with Hip to be Square. He turned up the dial and we both sang from the top of our lungs--windows down and ready for a hamburger run. Our journey continued north to the big city of Atlanta and then he turned down the stereo and it happened--the decision that would be the beginning of my heart's deepest longing. He turned his blue eyes to meet mine and said: So, how would you like to start flying to Atlanta? His words were still running through my mind. Fly to Atlanta? I was slightly confused, so I replied with So, would you fly with me?

No, you'd fly on your own.

I could hardly believe it. For the past couple of years, he had always driven to Savannah for our long visits. My dad was now letting me fly. By. Myself. And my mom had agreed. I wanted to scream and shrill with excitement, but somehow, I kept my cool and responded, "Sure. That would be great."

My heart started to flutter with nervousness and excitement at the unexpected. I had never flown by myself and I honestly couldn't remember the last time I had flown in the short 7 years of my lifetime.

But that hot and humid summer day was the day I fell in love. It was the day that I knew that life would forever change. Adventure was on the horizon and I had been given a ticket.

Travel and I would soon kiss and our love affair would never die.

Thanks to the man of my dreams--my dad.

My heart took flight.

Time. Stood. Still. (falling in love while traveling)

Travel is like love, mostly because it's a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity, and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never end. -Pico Iyer

As a single woman in my mid-thirties, I often get the question about my singleness--if I think traveling solo is the barrier for me being single. I realize that this is a challenge for most people to understand, but whatever sets you on fire shouldn't keep you from love. It should attract it.

As Valentine's Day approaches, I've started to reflect on love. Travel truly is my love. Like author, Iyer, states above, "Travel is like love because it's a heightened state of awareness, where we are mindful, receptive, and ready to be transformed." And travel does this. It transforms me. And each love affair that I have transforms me--prepares me for the best.

From the outback love in Australia to the glacier guide and trekker in Chile, travel has never come to a close.

Over the next couple of days, I will share my love affair experiences with you. The vulnerable and the valuable. How these travels awakened and transformed me--forever giving my heart the courage to love again--especially when it left me.


Above the Clouds

Where's my #WanderlustWednesday? It's above the clouds, of course. 

For me, flying, traveling, and discovering are at the essence of who I am. 

LIke air, I need to have it.

My truest and rawest addiction.

My deepest passion.

So, when someone asks me where I want to go, I say: "everywhere." Above the clouds is my best bet.

Life gets clearer. Problems seem smaller. Nothing seems impossible. The world becomes a canvas again and I, a bit of color, within the larger painting.

There was a movie I used to love to watch as a teenager: How to Make an American Quilt. It's about a girl who goes to visit her grandmother for the summer. She joins her grandmother's quilting group. And as she is surrounded by each of them and their stories, her own life begins to take shape and form. She realizes what is truly important to her and what isn't. She dives into her passion and even more importantly, into the lives of other people. 

The environment brings change.

This is what happens when I travel. The environment around me develops and grows me. It challenges me to gaze into a deeper perspective. There's immediate peace and the world somehow comes to a halt. 

I make it a habit to disconnect completely from my phone while flying. This is a wonderful "de-stresser" and encourages me to be in the moment. I would like to say that I do this once I'm on the ground portion of my travels. Rarely does this happen. Though I will say, I've made a new tradition recently to have an afternoon that is unplanned where I leave my technology behind and I allow myself to be completely immersed. What a breath of fresh air!

So, what is your Wanderlust Wednesday? Is it a weekend retreat with your friends? A solo getaway? Local? Abroad? Exotic? Adventuresome? Or calm? 

Whatever it is, may you gain new perspective and insight. May you soak up the moment and embrace it for all that it's worth and be thankful to allow yourself to go there.