Happy New Year! I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and rang in 2018 with the people you love.

Greg, Ace and I traveled to Florida to visit my family for the Christmas holidays this year and made the trip via car for the first time. The 13 hour ride each way was pretty exhausting, but we broke up the trip on the way back with a stop in Charleston. More on what we saw and did in Charleston below, but read on for a recap of our activities during the holiday break.

New Smyrna Beach

I grew up going to New Smyrna Beach (NSB) on the weekends and in the summer. My parents recently moved there and are renovating a two-story house (affectionately nicknamed “the shack”) a few blocks away from the ocean. We had amazing weather during the first half of our trip and were treated to stunning sunrises and sunsets in the true Florida way.

On a free day, Greg and I also popped over to the lighthouse at Ponce Inlet. We took a tour of the museum that showcased the history of lighthouse-keeping and the history of the area. Much of the lighthouse grounds had been preserved, so it felt like taking a step back into a time with no WiFi, computers, or TV. The world was truly a different place back then, and mariners had to rely on lighthouses to guide their journey home. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by the lighthouse and the museum for a deeper look at Florida’s history.

Winter Park

It was so nice to be back in my hometown! With our wedding just a few months away, we took the opportunity while we were in the area to tour our reception venue and meet with our event planner/coordinator. After that was taken care of, we stopped by the church our ceremony will be held in.

Walking down Park Avenue quite literally was taking a trip down memory lane. I went to school from kindergarten until 8th grade at Saint Margaret Mary, which is the church (above) and school located right on Park Ave, and the place I’ll get married at in June. It’s also where I hung out with friends as a teenager after school and on the weekends. Although a lot has changed since I moved away, a few old favorite shops and stores are still going strong, like the Peterbrooke chocolatier and Barnie’s coffee shop.

It was a gorgeous day outside, so Greg, my mom and I went to blu on the Avenue for a bite to eat al-fresco. Hard to believe I was in short sleeves the day after Christmas. Floridians are pretty spoiled. I got the Lobster Cobb which was amazing – and incredibly photogenic in my opinion.

Charleston

The Holy City has been high on my list of places to visit for a long time now. Our short stopover on the way back to Arlington was just a taste of what the city has to offer. We had a wonderful meal at McGrady’s Restaurant, checked out touristy spots like the Battery and Rainbow Row, and enjoyed breakfast and coffee at Black Tap before making the final leg of the trip home. We’ll definitely be coming back for a longer trip soon – preferably when the weather is a bit warmer.

Savoring the last of these Christmas decorations. Until next year!

At the end of each year (and the beginning of each new one), I like to spend some time reflecting on highs and lows from the past 12 months. As with any year, there were some big ups and downs, but overall, I can say I’m in a much better place having been through the year.

This year, I…

Learned to love staying in. As an introvert, I’ve always needed space and time alone to maintain my sanity. In 2017 I started to fully embrace that. I still meet up with my friends regularly for dinner, outings in the city, or for workout classes. But the difference now is I don’t feel guilty about taking a weekend off and just relaxing by myself. This is likely a result of me settling into who I am and being very ok with having a small (but treasured) circle of friends.

Started a new job! This is one of the big ones. After working in media/advertising agencies since graduating from college, I had been hoping to switch things up and move to an in-house role. 10 months into my new job and overall, I’m very happy. The work-life balance is great, my coworkers are awesome, and the work is interesting and creative.

Took a big interest in photography. One of the best things that has come out of my new job is my newest interest: photography. After photographing a work event, I took an intro to DSLR photography class and was immediately hooked. I’m looking forward to having more fun taking photos and learning as much as I can in 2018.

Became an expert at the art of packing with just a carry-on. 2017 was a year with lots of air travel. I took lots of personal trips, flying to San Francisco for a baby shower, to two weddings (one in Mexico!), a few trips to Florida, and one work trip to Arizona. Save for one trip, I packed my belongings for each in just a carry-on suitcase. As a notorious over-packer, it took discipline and dedication to get my items down to the bare essentials, but I’m never going back to checking luggage. There’s nothing like breezing through TSA, onto the plane, and off to your destination.

Took some fun weekend trips. These have definitely slowed down as the weather has gotten colder, but when the weather was nice in the spring/summer, I was able to make a dent in my bucket list of local spots to see. I took my first trip to Rock Creek Park, hiked Sugarloaf Mountain, visited Harper’s Ferry, and spent a weekend in Hershey Park, PA. We’re so lucky in D.C. to have so much to do nearby, so hopefully these weekend trips are a trend that will continue into 2018.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!