Monday, June 27, 2011


So I have been absolutely M.I.A. from Passports & Pearls for the past month and for that I apologize! SO very much has happened since my last post. Let me give you a brief update on my life over the past month....

First and foremost, my thesis went over fantastic and I was able to graduate from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. Thank you all so much for following Passports & Pearls and helping me to achieve my goal of graduating with honors!

Second, I graduated from the University of South Carolina! I can barely believe it...Where have the past four years gone? Graduation was absolutely wonderful and perfect in every way. My whole family came into town-my mom, dad, brother (Michael), and sister (Caitlin), as well as my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It was a full house but I was so overwhelmed with happiness by having all of my family there to support me on my big day. Walking across the stage I was slightly nervous I would trip and fall but more than anything, I was so proud and happy of my achievement. It was almost surreal!

After graduation, I headed back to Atlanta for Mother's Day to appreciate the best mom in the world, Pam!

After staying in Atlanta for a few days, I headed back to Columbia so that I could pack up my apartment to move out. While we were back in Columbia, I did perhaps one of the craziest things I have ever done in my entire life: skydiving. Yes, you heard me correct. I jumped out of a plane. It was one of the scariest things I have done in my entire life but I'm glad I did it once. It was certainly something to check off my bucket list!

After skydiving, I spent a few days packing up my apartment to move out of Columbia. It was so strange to think that this time I would leave Columbia and not know the next time I would be back. Columbia, South Carolina would no longer be my home. It will now be the place that I visit friends and my will be the place I return to and reminisce on my memories of will be where I return to connect with my fellow Gamecocks. I was incredibly sad as I drove down the highway away from Columbia indefinitely. I absolutely cannot wait until I come back to Columbia to see the people I love and the school I love! I hope it's sooner rather than later...

After moving out of my apartment, I celebrated my 22nd birthday! Very exciting? I guess...Not as exciting as turning 21 but I got to celebrate with my family which was wonderful. My Aunt Cyndie gave me a fuzzy blue crown to wear so that was fabulous.

The time with family was well spent, especially with my mom and sister who I don't get to see very often. I also had the opportunity to hang out with some good friends from high school, Michael and Paige, while I was home as well. After two weeks at home I made a big move...well maybe not super big-only eight hours technically-down to Orlando, Florida. This brings me to my next announcement, what I will be doing for the next six months...

I will be interning for Walt Disney World as the International Travel Industry Sales Intern! I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity as it combines two of my favorite things: Disney and traveling! I have my first day of work today so cross your fingers everything that goes well!

Now that the craziness of graduation, moving, moving again, and starting a job has passed, I plan on writing regularly! Keep checking in to see my reflections on traveling, my adventures as a Disney intern, and my musings on Orlando, the various beaches in Florida, and whatever other things I get into! 

My family :)
All of my extended family came for graduation!

Friends at my birthday lunch

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mount Kilimanjaro Video

So I know this is overdue but I have been working on it for the past week to make it good. Drum roll please....

I'd love to know you thoughts and comments on this video! Any parts you loved? Anything you didn't?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

Okay, I know I said I was going to post reflections today but something exciting has happened. Aaron, who I hiked Kilimanjaro with, sent me video footage he took along the way. 

So instead of posting my reflections today, I will post them next week. Today I am working on uploading the video he sent me to YouTube so I can add it here for you all to see.

The first time I watched this I laughed because a lot of it I didn’t remember or didn’t know he was even recording. I’m going to post it as soon as I get it uploaded to YouTube for you all to enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thesis Thursday

Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection. ~Lawrence Durrell

As part of the process to graduate from the University of South Carolina Honors College this May I have to complete a senior thesis project. The project can be about anything of my choosing which is both a gift and a curse.

For a long time I really struggled with finding a topic for my thesis. With the freedom and flexibility to do my thesis about absolutely anything, it was difficult to narrow down topics. While I initially struggled with selecting a topic, as soon as I began hiking Kilimanjaro I knew that the whole experience would be my thesis topic.

My thesis focuses on two main things: reflecting about my hike to the summit of Kilimanjaro and providing detailed information about my experience hiking Kilimanjaro to others. First I wanted to look at the experience introspectively to identify what hiking Kilimanjaro meant to me in terms of a learning experience.

Second, I wanted to share this experience on a large scale which is why I opted to incorporate a blog into the thesis process. Hopefully this blog will help anyone considering hiking Kili or anyone who is planning their Kilimanjaro adventure with the preparation process and with what to expect.

Also I have found a love for blogging. I look forward to continuing to blog about my travel experiences. Summer of 2009 I spent five weeks in Spain, four of which were in Barcelona. Right before hiking Kilimanjaro I spent several days in London and two and a half weeks in Tanzania. Fall of this past year I took several weekend trips, one of which was to Asheville, North Carolina. Already since I began this blog I have been on a ski trip to Colorado and a spring break trip to Walt Disney World and Naples, Florida. I love to travel and want to continue sharing my trips and travel opportunities with others through this blog.

In the process of working on this thesis I have learned a lot. Tomorrow’s post will be about my reflections on the hike overall and what I feel I learned throughout the whole process.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hot Off the Press!

One of the coolest things about having hiked Kilimanjaro is the recognition I have gotten on my campus. 

So far I have been interview by the University of South Carolina media relations office twice, once for the Summer Series articles, and once for Discovery Day. 

I was featured on the USC homepage at the beginning of fall semester. It was so awesome to open the University’s homepage and see a picture of myself there. I had so many people come up to me and tell me they read the article and their thoughts. The article can be found here.
Right now I’m waiting on the final draft of the article on Discovery Day before it goes onto the webpage.

I also was interviewed by a fellow University Ambassador, Katie Rudder. She is the writer of the blog Let’s Be Preppy and is a contributing writer to HerCampus, University of South Carolina page. Her article was fun and focused especially on the girly aspects of this climb. That article can be found here.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the articles and doing the interviews because it’s fun to share the experience. And let’s be honest, what girl doesn’t love a little attention now and then? I hope you enjoy reading the articles too!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” ~Lin Yutang

The plane ride home was the longest ride of my life. My journey home consisted of two separate flights. The first flight left Arusha at 9 PM. Kind of. It was supposed to leave at 9 PM and because of delays with luggage we actually left at 10:30 PM or so. 

After an hour we landed in Dar es Salaam to load more passengers onto the plane before departing Tanzania. They quickly cleaned the plane out and began boarding more passengers. There were of course more delays and we didn’t get into the air until 1 AM.
They immediately served us dinner which was much appreciated. All of the extra time from delays had left me starving. I must say Royal Dutch KLM airlines serves really good food on their flights.

Though I was satisfied by the meal, I also realized I was starting to get sick. I guess all of the climate changes from trekking down the mountain so quickly, the minimal sleep, the physical exertion, the stress of repacking and flight delays, and the dry plane air had finally gotten the best of me. My throat was killing me.

On top of that I was experiencing the worst cramps of my whole life. I had insanely painful knots of cramps in my legs and abdomen. After such a high intensity level of physical exertion for a week straight, sitting still on a plane for an extended period of time was really not working for me.

One major point of advice I would give to people hiking Kilimanjaro is to not fly out the same day or day after getting off the mountain. Give yourself at least two days to recover physically and relax your body before subjecting yourself to hours-long plane rides.

Fortunately for me, I won the plane seat lottery by sitting next to an older lady who was a nurse on a medical mission trip. She stocked me up with Vitamin C packets to mix into my drinks, throat lozenges, and Tylenol. I befriended the flight attendants as well so that I would have continual drinks to sooth my throat. In total I would estimate I drink at least a gallon and a half of water and a gallon of orange juice on my flights home. 

The flight from Tanzania arrived in Amsterdam the next morning very early around 8 AM. I had a two hour layover in the airport so I took advantage of the opportunity to stretch my legs and walked around. I also connected to the internet to e-mail my mom and let her know my flight schedule. Skype and e-mail are such a godsend when traveling. I used it to call and update home all throughout my trip to Tanzania and while I was in route.

Eagerly, I got onto the plane as soon as they began boarding because by this point I was so excited to get home. Fortunately on this leg of the flight I was seated in a bulkhead row and was able to stretch out my legs. First rule of picking flights: always try for a bulkhead row or exit row.

On this final flight I was far too anxious and excited to get home to sleep. I watched Dear John and Alice in Wonderland, chatted with the woman next to me, and ate the in flight meal to pass the time.

By the time we landed I was so happy to be on the ground and almost home. By this point I had been traveling for twenty-five hours and I was exhausted and still feeling sick. I gathered my luggage from baggage claim and waited in line at customs. After being cleared, I took the train in the Atlanta airport to meet my family.

Words can’t begin to describe how excited I was when I found my mom and dad. After giving them a big hug and having my mom cry she was so happy I was home safe, we drove home. 

After a month away, I was finally back. My mom made a big dinner to celebrate and invited over my grandparents. It was so nice to see everyone and share with them my adventure.

Shortly after seeing everyone and telling them about my trip, I crashed. The bed was beyond comfy after a week of sleeping on the ground. I slept through the night and until at least 2 PM the next day. It felt so good to be home.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Kili Song

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

“Jambo! Jambo Bwana!
Habari gani?
Mzuri sana.
Wageni, mwakaribishwa
Kilimanjaro yetu.
Hakuna matata
Twende pole pole.
Hakuna matata!”

“Hello! Hello sir!
How are you?
Very fine.
Foreigners, you’re welcome
To Kilimanjaro.
There is no problem.
Go slowly, slowly.
There is no problem!”