This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

2011: Where We've Been

After work one Friday, a few weeks ago, I literally collapsed.  I sat down on my living room couch around 6pm - for what seemed like the first time in ages - and within minutes had fallen asleep. At 9am the next day I finally awoke, figured out where I was, and was astonished to realize how tired I had become.

I started to piece two and two together when thinking about the past year in review, as I always tend to do when December 1st comes around.  I've covered so many thousands of miles this year, and I'm so thankful for all for your notes of encouragement and support through all the journeys.  Let's see where we've been!

  1. Belgium...I was here with my beloved Belgian host family the entire, wonderful month of January. What an incredible time to rekindle old friendships and reminisce on the life-changing experiences I shared with them in 2006-2007.
  2. Spain...Meeting up with old friends from my exchange year in Belgium was one of the highlights of my travels in western Europe this year.  Victoria, from Britain, was studying abroad in Zaragoza, Spain this spring and invited me to visit!
  3. the Netherlands....Hadrien, another friend from my Belgian high school, was studying in Nijmegen, Holland. My favorite part of the trip with Hadrien was our visit to the Van Gogh Museum and  exploring Amsterdam, Nijmegen, and the Hague on foot.
  4. Russia...I survived falling icicles, crazy drivers, and an overnight train with some drunken sailors.  I also got to visit a few of the world's most beautiful feats of architecture and mingle with some of the most incredible ballet dancers on earth! Simply unforgettable.
  5. Finland...Vappu - the famous Finnish holiday, Suomenlinna - a private island, karpalolonkero - the best drink in Scandinavia, Finnish design egg chairs, sunset runs on the beach, all-night karaoke in a friend's private studio...enough said :)
  6. Estonia...An afternoon ferryboat trip from Finland had my cousin Maya, friend Liisi and I shopping, exploring, dining, and people watching in this seemingly half-Finnish, half-Russian country.
  7. Ukraine...Oh, how I fell in love with the little cosmopolitan city of Odessa, with its cute little cafes, hot summer days and nights, and clubs filled with dancers flowing over from the beach into the Black Sea. 
  8. Nashville...Returning to the South after nearly 8 months overseas was a bit of a culture shock, but the fall semester of my senior year at Belmont has been phenomenal. Great faculty, great friends, and great projects. I'm now savoring my undergraduate days while counting down to the completion of my thesis!
  9. Sacramento...A weekend in sunny California in October was a welcome respite from both a heavy work/course-load and the dropping temperatures in Nashville. Attending my cousin's wedding and spending a few days with family was well worth the brief trip!

In sum, 2011 has been incredible.  It's been a whirlwind of a year, and I feel truly blessed to have started it - and to be now ending it - at home, in beautiful southern Oregon, surrounded by my parents, friends, and five wonderful siblings.
A big thank you to all of my readers who have kept me in your thoughts and prayers - and have shared your own thoughts and experiences with me - throughout the year. My mobile lifestyle means I miss out on sharing daily life with the vast majority of my friends and loved ones.  I've traded the comfort of familiarity and routine for the excitement and wonder of an ever-changing environment.  But the messages, phone calls, and photos I've received from you along the way help me to feel that I am part of a very special community.  

Merry Christmas!

PS: to those of you who have been begging me to write a book....I've actually started!  No telling when I'll finish, but earlier this year, while I was taking shelter indoors from the bitter Russian winter, I put several of my stories onto paper and look forward to growing the collection into a real tome ready for publication.  Don't worry, you'll know well in advance when it finally comes out! -S.


  1. Merry Christmas to you, Shirah, and to your family. For those of us who can't or don't travel, your descriptions and photos transport us there and are so enjoyable to read about! Thank you!

  2. Where are you off to next?

  3. The big reveal comes out soon, Mags...stay tuned :)


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