Finally home with considerably fewer 25 by 25 to-dos remaining.

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Well it started with a slumber party in Charlotte and ended with a burger run in Charlotte. Both were wonderful; but it was the in-betweens that really made the past week and a half so breathtakingly, incredibly amazing.

I was reminded that:

– I’m blessed to have a wonderful job.

– I LOVE the outdoors. I am a woodsy girl through and through.

– Sometimes doing scary things alone are even more awesome than doing them with someone else.

– You should push yourself to do things. You should push yourself to be active.

– It’s not enough to look. You have to try.

– Traveling (especially air travel) requires an immense amount of trust.

– Some friendships are like steel. They just stay and stay and stay.

– I’m an adventurer at heart.

So, this is what alive feels like?

It started with a long flight to Utah that checked off the 25 by 25 to visit a new state when I set foot in the Minneapolis airport. Then I checked it off again when I stepped out into Utah.

Salt Lake City, Utah was never a place that I imagined visiting. It never would have made a “see before I die” list. So I’m all the more thankful that work sent me there and I saw some pretty wondrous beauty that I may have otherwise missed entirely. The mountains there? Wow. I thought I would compare them more to my home–but they were just simply so different. Every turn I saw another amazing landscape and probably took 500 photos.

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I was lucky and not only got to crunch in some quick downtown Salt Lake City sights like the Mormon Temple and City Center mall/plaza; but I also got to go skiing at Brighton resort and even made the trek over to Park City to see the hubbub over the Sundance Festival.

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If only I had been able to see a movie! Not only was that night my first night in Utah, first trip out West and first business trip–it was also my first night staying in a hotel alone.

The following two days were spent working the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and it was another layer to the great experience of Utah. Since I worked in outdoor retail with Mast General Store for almost five years it was awesome to see all of the brands that I had once sold and experience the excitement of the retail trade show atmosphere. I text my mom so many times to tell her that I had “found my people.”

You know it’s a great day for me when I get to wear plaid, a down vest, jeggings and boots to a work day. I was totally in my groove. Not to mention there were quite a few beautiful boys there, but that’s beside the point . . .

After a lot of hard work, long hours and awesome fun showing off my client and great food (Red Iguana Mexican is totally worth the wait if you’re ever in the area; the mole tasting was just the best) Thursday came way faster than expected.

Unfortunately so did a huge ice storm.

After waking up to see that one of the major interstates was closed, I had to rush a grand old 25 miles per hour on the other interstate to get to the airport in time to return my rental car and check my gigantic baggage. Rushing through security and scurrying to my gate, I was shocked to see that it was still labeled “On Time” when I finally saw our board. After a fairly quick boarding and finally settling in, I got a little anxious thinking about the four hours of flying in front of me. But at least I was going to have WiFi.

As we got ready to taxi over to the runway, the pilot came over the speaker. “Well, looks like a plane slid off the runway, so the airport will be closing indefinitely. We’re going to be sitting on the tarmac a while.” It turned out that a landing airplane had done a 180 on the runway and no departures or arrivals would be taking place for quite a while.

At first I thought we’d be back on the road in no time, but I soon retreated to the terminal. When the speaker announced that flights would likely be re-commencing at 2 p.m. I got excited. Plans were still alive. I would still be in Boston that night, hopefully.

But hopes were dashed quickly when a short ten minutes later my flight was officially cancelled.

The next two hours were spent in a fury finding an alternate route to Boston. It was either a 9:55 AM flight the next morning or a flight schedule from hell that would take me through two connectors overnight.

That meant that I had seven hours to kill before my 8:10 flight to Seattle.

To a restaurant I went. I needed food. And a stiff drink.

Squatters brewery not only gave me a solid lunch and great beer; but the longer I sat there–the more friends I made. There was the cowboy, the North Carolina lady, the Google people and the runner moms. It was so incredible the cycle of people who came through my table. Some staying for 30 minutes, some staying for hours. Before I knew it I had wasted my entire layover with strangers who became short-term friends and all was restored.

It’s funny how the unplanned became one of the most memorable and dramatic parts of my trip. The unplanned made the story pretty lively.

When I finally made it to my Seattle gate I laughed to see a fellow passenger from my original flight also braving the horrendous overnight flight schedule.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to sleep I thought.

Once I touched down in Seattle I notched my third new state. And also about dissolved to tears. Dear airports, when a person has had that much travel drama in one day–don’t make them go through security again.

While at the gate many people were sharing their travel woes and tires. All it took was a man in fatigues with a sheepish smile saying he was coming from Afghanistan, headed to North Carolina, to give us all a little perspective.

With a little help from a Benadryl, I didn’t even see the take-off from Seattle. After sleeping the whole way to Minneapolis, the next flight to Boston was also a breeze.  Again, a lot of sleep. And a smile when I woke up to see that a flight attendant had left two packs of cookies next to me.

As we finally touched down in Boston at 10 a.m. the next morning the six or so of us who had somehow all united on the final flight let out a bit of a cheer. We all looked gross. But we had made it. 26 hours, four time zones and airports later–we were there.

I was so relieved to not only see my baggage somehow made the full trip, but it was a huge treat to walk outside and see an old, very close friend. It’s funny how you don’t have to talk to some people constantly for them to still feel like home every time you see them.

Sarah and I had tried to plan many trips in the past. But we’re both a little plagued with follow-through issues.

It was a gigantic victory that Sarah mentioned Montreal. I booked a flight. She found us a discount. And we freaking were there. In Boston. And we were roadtripping it.

Massachusetts marked new state number four. A short few miles down the road, New Hampshire became new state number five and a handful of mountains and white steeple churches later we found ourselves in new state number six, Vermont. So many new states. And I only asked for one!

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The next six hours were a great adventure of crossing the border and finding ourselves eventually in Montreal, Quebec.

I vastly underestimated the amount of French that we were going to encounter and it was a happy surprise to find myself testing my memory everywhere I turned. I’m sure Sarah got tired of me reading all of the signs out loud; but darn it, I just couldn’t help it ha. It was a lot of fun to remember everything and actually put it to use. Give me a few months there and I was just certain that I’d be mumbling along the French fluently with the best of them. I’m counting this as my 25 by 25 to surround myself with French.

While we were there we mostly ate. It was so freaking cold that you didn’t want to be outside any longer than you had to. But we also fit in a few sites, mostly exploring around Old Montreal. My favorite was the Notre-Dame Basilica. It was absolutely gorgeous and throwback to my 90’s childhood–it was the place where Celine Dion got married. Crazy gorgeous architecture and impressive stained glass. Also came with a side of a history lesson, so that was appreciated.

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Yup, that’s escargot. And then some poutine. It was a tasty trip. And we walked away with some totally awesome slippers and syrup — ha.

Crazy enough, winter storm Luna caught back up to me on our trip back and we were faced with a ridiculous snow storm driving the six-hour return to Boston. We made a short pit stop at a Mom and Pop Vermont restaurant for breakfast and booked it back to the States.

The best part? Getting my iPhone to work fully again. Oh how I missed mobile internet.

Once we made it to Boston it was really my first opportunity to get a taste of the city.

It’s amazing how different it was than I imagined. Somehow I simply lumped it into the New York City bucket and boy, was I proven wrong. Instead Boston had this great, neighborhood, home and cozy feel. It’s rare that I visit a place I could see myself living; but I really loved Boston. In a mere 24 hours we did the trip halfway downtown to explore Brighton, Alston, Kenmore and peek downtown. We had coffee and bagels and then wandered to Cambridge to see Harvard and some shops, then having some pizza and Sam Adams.

It was such an adorable day. Boston was covered in snow and everyone looked helplessly bundled up. Compared to Montreal though, Sarah and I finally felt comfortable! There were drinks with Sarah’s boyfriend and friends and navigating the train back to their apartment.

Boston was really something and while I was there only for a flash we really packed in some sights. The next morning before my flight home we made a trip to Brookline for pretty much the best French toast I have ever had, witnessed drama when someone fell in front of a train (I don’t think they were hit, but it did cause quite a delay) and a final awesome last stop to see Fenway Park. It was again. . . one more kind of beautiful.

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Once I finally returned to Logan International Airport I couldn’t get home fast enough. An anxious flight to Atlanta, a gorgeous sunset from Atlanta to Charlotte and then I was back in Katie’s Jetta. Finally, finally on my way home. This time with some pretty worse-for-the-wear luggage, dirty snow boots, wind-burnt cheeks and a lot more travel savvy.

Truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime trip opportunities and I am so glad that I sucked every good second out of the eight days. I am so proud. I’m doing things. Saying I’ll do them. And doing things. Whew, but I did have one small failure.

That 25 by 25 to get a stamp in my passport? Border services failed me.

So . . .who’s up for some tropical international travel? Let’s start planning. Preferably before October 7 : ).

In the next few weeks I want to do some closer recaps on the great restaurants we visited–but in the meantime, no more hold-ups on me making new posts!

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The interesting people I’ve met on my travels today:

(And this might be edited to add more once I get to Boston)

– The Harvard neuroscience / pragmatic philosophy graduate student

– The couple who had been on a ski trip and were suffering altitude sickness

– The mom who swore her son’s prayers to not go on her business trip are why she was grounded and likely going back home.

– Roy, the cowboy, retired-professional bull rider who now delivers trucks all over the county.

– Katrina, the friendly Google girl who I over-trusted after meeting her for two minutes to watch my luggage.

– Rob, the guy who had just moved to Chicago but really missed Boston. And also worked for Google.

– Beth, who lives only 45 minutes away from me and knows so many mutual connections.

– The runner moms who write for Runner’s World, oh and they just so happen to be authors. One day they’re going to be on Amazing Race (my suggestion) and I’m going to take credit.

– The mom who had had too much to drink en-route to trying to make her daughter’s 21st birthday.

– Daniel, the guy who agreed that sales reps blame advertising people first if something isn’t working.

– The two guys who represented a construction fabric company and shared Montreal memories.

– The soldier who was returning from Afghanistan. He won most tiring travel day. Hands down. No contest. Mostly just a “thanks for what you do.”

You guys today has been so crazy. But it’s wild looking back at how many people I talked to. Haha, they’re almost like breadcrumbs through my day. Here’s to seeing what Minneapolis has up it’s sleeve. Just one more hour until boarding in Seattle….

Today has been nuts.

Suffice to say, I was supposed to be well in Boston hanging out with Sarah, Brian and Egor by now. But instead I’ve spent six hours at a restaurant in the Salt Lake City airport making new friends with fellow estranged travelers.

When I woke up to an ice storm I figured the day could get ugly; but I didn’t really know what to expect.

Needless to say an interstate was closed, it was an obstacle course to return my rental car and I made it to my gate in time to board . . . only to be informed that a plane had slid off the runway and we were officially grounded with the runways closing.

So we waited two hours. Were given hope, only to hear that our flight was officially cancelled.

And then I was able to LUCKILY get on an 8:10 p.m. flight to Seattle. To then fly to Minneapolis. To then fly to Boston.

It is going to be a hella long night. And I’m already sleepy. But, hey–adding another state to those new ones. Now I’ll be up to:

– Minnesota

– Utah

– Washington

– Massachusetts

– New Hampshire

– Vermont

Now, please everyone, say some prayers that the next THREE flights go: smoothly, uneventfully and on time. Because mama needs to get some sleep and needs no stress about missing any more flights or having any more cancellations.

The good thing? Most people here are in a good mood. Sometimes you have to take life for what it is; and how often does it go not to plan?

On with the adventure!

Side note: I will have flown over North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and South Carolina. WOW, that’s ALMOST half of the United States. And honestly, West Virginia might have been in there I just can’t be sure.

I’m seriously having too awesome of a time.

So, I apologize for the lack of posts. And I apologize for the coming lack of posts until the 30th.

But. You guys, I’m in Utah. And it’s awesome. (And I’m awesomely busy.)

And then I’ll be in Boston. And then Montreal.

And I think it’s worth the pledge to go spend my time having fun and then catch you up on it later, right?

PS: Disclaimer. I’m in Utah for work. But this work is so fun, I seriously can’t possibly feel like I’m laboring. I’m at Outdoor Retailer researching outdoor wear. Like, seriously? Anyone who knows me also knows how much I love shopping and thinking about things I need for outdoor adventures. And I’m kind of a junkie when it comes to outdoor knowledge. So, I’m in entire heaven.

PPS: There are a lot of boys with beards in flaid (flannel plaid, duh). I may never go home . . .

**But I leave you with a few teaser photos from my first night just to tide us over to next week!

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Sunday Devotion: The one who made a way for us.

Sorry, folks. With all of the prep to be away for 9 days I have admittedly neglected the blog a little bit. So today I share a favorite worship song in lieu of a full-out devotion post. Say some prayers for me with all of my flights this week! I’m an antsy flier so I’ll be a puddle of nerves tomorrow.

I had the best kind of impulse purchase today.

Boots.

And not just any boots–boots I have been dying to have an excuse to splurge on since I moved away from Boone.

Meet Sorel’s Joan of Arctic.

Deal of the day worthy, right now at Campmor this boot in the color “Hawk” is only $89.99—like woah, crazy savings. Above is “Shale.” Probably my favorite; but I went with “Hawk” because of the even more savings and it’s just a brown shade so it’ll go with my other outdoor wear well.

So I finally said yes to the Joan of Artic boots and I cannot wait to get Utah, New England and Canadian snow on the soles. It is going to be freaking great and I am going to look like a total pro at the Outdoor Retailer show. Gah, I LOVE outdoor gear.

I also may or may not have splurged on a new North Face beanie.

What can I say, I think it’s worth it given this is the current 5-day forecast for Montreal!

This week is totally crazy.

What did I expect with two big client presentations and the fact that I’m going to be gone for the next week and a half? I have no idea.

But between a cripplingly long work and personal to-do list, while it’s only Tuesday it feels like Thursday!

So needless to say the following things have not gone well and I think they might need to start on February 1st:

– Implementing a budget! Yes, I’m still going to do envelopes. But to do this requires creating a budget that I can stick to. (Vacations aren’t usually a good time to start that either.)

– RUNNING. What the French. Yell at me, please. But last night I chose to drive an hour to watch “Bachelor” with a best friend instead of the gym and tonight I worked until almost 9 p.m. So perhaps we say, start back tomorrow? But yet I’m more realistic and hope for next month.

– Eating healthy. I was doing OK. And then I ran into the peanut butter jar tonight . . . .

I’m serious about this stuff; but had to have a public confessional. Sometimes life things hit the bottom of the list when other things are crazy.

Now, while I have five minutes before bed I must make a to-do list!

Five days and I fly . . .!