Reflection of my 2nd Month Abroad & 1st Month in Grenada

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After completing over 440 hours of training in the Eastern Caribbean, I am just days away from being sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Sitting here in my own space writing this piece, my mind is going a million miles a minute while I reflect on the last 60 days. Truly, it feels like it was another life since I was graduating college and goofing off with my friends. The reality is, I’ve been through so much in such a short amount of time. 

In a matter of months, my life has been twisted upside down and turned sideways, and yet, it has me feeling more at home with myself and fuller than before.

Time moves as quick as lightning here, but sometimes, the night lingers longer than I’d like. My thoughts gravitate towards the notion that, I’m not the same girl I was when I boarded the plane in Miami in the beginning of July; I was timid, had an anxious mind, and worried that I wouldn’t find my place, my people, myself. 

Boy did I have to pony up quick to become an advocate for myself and unpack all my baggage. 

Especially in this last month/ phase 2 of my training in Grenada, I have experienced a whole new level of trials around and within me. Whilst on this journey, personally and professional, you’re pushed, you’re challenged, you’re lonely, you’re new, you’re doing, but sometimes failing, you’re vulnerable, you’re questioned, but at the end of the day, I look myself in the mirror and remind myself that I’m capable, here for a reason, and that I will show up better tomorrow.

I’m human though. I’m not invincible to the uncomfortable moments and the changing of the tides. My mindset keeps evolving in a healthy way to uplift my spirit and remind me of the goodness everywhere I look and the goodness in me. And that’s been my greatest takeaway from my 2nd month in the PC:

We don’t have to be who we’ve always been—we aren’t stuck in a bubble or under a rock. We are meant to be stagnant. We are meant to grow, learn, and blossom, and become the person our soul knows we are at our core. This PC journey has evoked so many important revelations like, who I really am, my convictions, and how I want to share my heart with others. 

I’m reminded the importance of this—there needs to be a correlation between how you truly are and what you portray to the world; there needs to be a parallel, a consideration that runs from your core to the surface, or else you’ll wither away under the stress and speculation when you don’t walk the way you claim to. It isn’t easy always acting, putting on a show to pretend to be something you’re not. 

When you show the world your colors, make sure they are your true, undeniable colors to show because eventually onlookers will see past the facade and you’ll only be shambles of the person you claim to be. We get this idea in our head of how we are suppose to act, look, behave, and speak to fit into a tiny box of what we believe others want to see. Quite frankly, none of that matters at all, if it doesn’t match what’s in your heart. I’m learning the importance of just being, unapologetically myself. 

All my quirks are part of me. I don’t have to dull my shine or play it down. This life is big, beautiful, and captivating, and I don’t take that lightly. It truly is the little things in life that I enjoy the most, and being on this journey reminds me to love deeper, speak kinder words, and appreciate every interaction. 

It’s a beautiful life and I hope you are creating a life you love too. 

Thanks for following along my journey with Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean! 

*** Disclaimer: These thoughts and views are entirely my own, and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps or U.S. government ***

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Favorite Hot Spots in St. Lucia

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Living on an island is really one of the coolest things I’ve ever done; life moves with ease and much slower than I’m use to, which has taught me the importance of being patient and understanding. Every passing face wishes you well, and everyone knows each other’s names, which brings me back to my small town roots. I’ve enjoyed the simplicity of my day to day; I spend a majority of the week at training and then spend my free time hanging out with my host mom, making memories with my fellow trainees, and getting to know the local Caribbean culture. 

So here are my favorite things I’ve done while in the beautiful island of St. Lucia—

Hiking the Pitons in Soufriere, St. Lucia

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Let me tell you, hiking Gros Piton is no easy feat, being 2,619 ft above sea level. It required some grit and more sweat than I had ever imagined, but it was a great way to spend the day. It was drizzling a little when we went, so it was kind of slippery, but completely doable. It took two hours to go up, a 45 minute break at the top to have lunch and take in the breathtaking views, and another two hours down.I highly recommend hiking Gros Piton with a fun group, especially if you like to be active and explore nature. 

For more info/ pricing: http://www.grospiton.com

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Sulphur Springs in Soufriere, St. Lucia

The world’s only drive-in volcano is nothing short of amazing, especially when the hot springs allow you to take an exfoliating mud bath in the hot spring pools. First, we took a 20 minute tour of the volcano, learning all the ins and outs and facts about what was all around us. The springs are the hottest and most active geothermal area in the lesser Antilles, which is really cool. Then, we went down to the hot springs, covered ourselves in mud, and ventured into the 4 hot pools. It was so much fun, and left us all feeling relaxed and fresh. 

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For more info: http://www.sulphurspringssaintlucia.com

Choc Beach in Castries, St. Lucia

It’s simple, quiet, close to shopping centers, the movie theatre, and food, plus beautiful views. What more can you ask for? 

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Choc beach info: http://caribya.com/st.lucia/choc.beach/

For more great beach options: 

https://www.tripsavvy.com/st-lucias-best-beaches-1488648

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I hope you enjoy St. Lucia as much as I have. I’ll be moving to Grenada on Aug 3, 2019 for the next 26 months, so be sure to follow along my journey on the Spice Island!

Reflection: 2 Weeks Living in St Lucia & Peace Corps Training

Reflection: 2 Weeks Living in St Lucia & Peace Corps Training

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who has reached out to me, wished me well, celebrated with me, helped me pack, and has been rooting for while on this journey. I already knew my family and friends were special, but now I’m blown away by how beautiful, deep, and loving all the relationships in my life are. So thank you again and be sure to follow along the Doer’s Diary on IG!

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On July 2nd, I picked up my life along with 39 other volunteers to move to St. Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean (Grenada, St. Vincent, and Dominica) for the next 27 months. I’m currently in phase one of training for 4 weeks in Babonneau, St. Lucia to become a Primary English Literacy Specialist Volunteer with the Peace Corps to focus on promoting literacy in primary/infant schools. On August 2nd, I will find out what island I’ll be living on for the next two years and that’s where I’ll be for phase 2 and 3 of my training before being sworn in in October. I’ll spend the reminder of my service working at the same school for two years and during that time, I’ll focus on integrating with the community, making lifelong connections, and working with fellow teachers and kiddos from grades 1-3. 

For more information on the volunteers and programs in the Eastern Caribbean!

After weeks of packing up my townhouse, moving 95% of my belonging into a storage unit, and the other 5% in to my mom and stepdad’s house, leaving for the Peace Corps was upon us. I had to fit everything I could possibly need (and then some) into 2 suitcases with a max weight limit of 50 lbs each and one carry on. Let me tell you, that carry was a hiking backpack that weighed as much as I do. The backpack I used was a god-sent, and a best seller on amazon. So check it out, fellow travelers.  

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Packing in and of itself was consuming, and I am currently working on a packing guide once I get settled into the island I’ll be serving on, so I save future volunteers from packing too much or not enough.

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After my first three days of orientation on the island, all the trainees left the comfort of each other’s presence to move into our host family’s homes.

This is where the real fun began. You know the saying: “growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone,” whoever said that definitely knew what they were talking about.

The embrace and instant love I felt from my host mom made me feel so welcomed in a new environment. I quickly jumped into learning about my surroundings— exploring her extensive garden filled with pineapples, limes, lemons, cashews, Chinese cabbage, coconuts, plantains and the list goes on, learning a new language, adapting to new norms, and being on a whole new level of integration into a culture I could have only dreamed of. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for my host mom opening her home to me, and the people of St. Lucia for being so welcoming and kind as I ask a million questions and learn as much as I can. 

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Once I moved into my host family’s beautiful home in Babboneau, I struggled for a few days— feeling the loss of all the things and people I had been comforted by in my typical days back in the states. I cried, I shed my walls, and saw a newer, more open and vulnerable side of myself that I was willing to share with other trainees, my host mom, and my family back home. I began to realize how important this time was— I had shed my ego and left my masks to hide who I truly am back home. It’s been so humbling to just be me, and that’s enough. 

I am not immune to the desire for consistency and normalcy, but I have felt a lightness in my heart that has allowed me to be fully present and loving.

Day by day, I learn how we are all more alike than different, and how loving one another is our most powerful tool.

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Our first week of training flew by so quickly, with amble information on culture, diversity, inclusion, medical procedures, consolidation routes, hurricane tips, and so forth. My head could spin looking back at all my notes, but I’ve learned more about my role in development and leaving judgements at the door. Hearing the point of views from fellow trainees and staff has been such an eye-opening experience, to be more receptive and transparent in my endeavor to inspire and connect with others. I have been able to make so many wonderful friendships that are already starting to blossom, so for now, I’m living each day to the fullest and on Monday, I’ll be hiking with all my friends to the Sulphur Springs in St Lucia, the Gros Piton which is the world’s only drive-in volcano. So stay tuned for a packing guide for Peace Corps EC and Hiking Guides. . .

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I made it on local news in St Lucia where Peace Corps Volunteer share their stories!

Please feel free to reach out, ask questions, and connect. Thanks for being a Doer and enjoy one of my favorite quotes!

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Ash’s Guide To Biking On Sanibel Island, FL

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One of my favorite things to do, especially when I have friends in town or have a weekend off, is biking all around Sanibel to discover the cutest cafes, stores, and locations. Sanibel Island has a bike/ walking path that is partially shaded and the best perk is, IT IS NOT SHARED WITH THE ROAD. (much safer) Once you are on Sanibel Island, go about a mile down Periwinkle to Billy’s Rentals. It is in the middle of everything and not too far from the beach. It’s open 8:30am to 5pm everyday.

For the bike I get, it’s $12 for 4 hours, but here are the rates and options:

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Once you get your bike, here are my top 7 places you should bike to:

1. Sanibel Bean Coffee Shop

 

It’s located at 2240 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957 and it’s open from 7am to 2pm. It’s my favorite coffee shop in all SWFL. Not only is the atmosphere chill, it has the best coffee too. I always get the white chocolate mocha, but they have tons of specials or check out their menu before going. #sanibelbean

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2. Lighthouse Beach

The lighthouse beach is at the end of Periwinkle, so just bike until you hit the water. 112 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL and the beach opens at 8am. The Sanibel Island Light is also known as the Point Ybel Light and it’s one of the first lighthouses on the Florida’s Gulf coast, north of Key West. It’s such an enjoyable beach and the water is so different and pretty compared to FMB. You just park your bike at the bike racks and all the bikes have baskets so bring your beach gear along.

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3. Lighthouse Cafe

It’s right by the beach at 362 Periwinkle Way and it was such a great place for lunch. They are known for their breakfast and they serve it all day. They have a ton of specials at their restaurant and totally worth checking out their menu. They open at 7am to 3pm and then reopen for dinner at 5!

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4. J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

1 Wildlife Dr., Sanibel, FL and it opens at 9 am. It’s a little bit of a trek from the beach and bike rental, but it’s totally worth it. This refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the US. It’s so serene and has a 4 mile path or 8 mile option, and you can ride your bike through it all. It costs $1 per person/bike to enter, so bring a few singles. It’s a great ethical way to interact with nature.

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5. Gene’s Books

The countless rooms filled with endless books– basically heaven. It’s located at 2365 Periwinkle Way, not too far from the bike rental. I’ve been to countless bookstores around the country, but this is my #1 favorite bookstore EVER! That should tell you how amazing it is. They open at 9am and you could easily spend hours there. So drag another book lover with you.

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6. Love Boat Ice Cream

It’s in the Jerry’s Shopping Center and is located at 1700 Periwinkle Way #9. It opens at 10 am. Homemade ice cream with every flavor you can imagine. I always get a chocolate shake or a banana split. For the ice cream lovers, this is for you! They also have a Fort Myers location, by FMB, which is the one I normally go to.

7. Sanibel Fresh

On the way to or from the beach, stop at Sanibel Fresh and get the Sangria. Such a yummy red Sangria! It’s located at 1020 Periwinkle Way and it’s a cute little cafe with outside seating and a health conscious menu. My mom and I loved it and shared a flatbread and potato salad, so I recommend those options. Check out their Facebook for reviews or their website: https://www.restaurantji.com/fl/sanibel/sanibel-fresh-/

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I hope you enjoyed my recommendations.

Comment any questions or your own recommendations for Sanibel Island. It’s a great day adventure, so grab your friends, family, or take yourself on a little getaway. Thank you for reading, my friends. #travelingwithash

Travel Guide: Puerto Rico & Wedding Recap….

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I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places like Punta Cana, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, St. Marteen, St. Kitts, and all over the Florida Keys. I’ve seen countless sunsets and played in the sand of many beaches, but nothing was as beautiful as Isabel, Puerto Rico. My mom got married this past weekend there and the photos don’t even do it justice.  

The happiness and care free vibes of the locals were contagious, and it was a blissful time. We stayed at Villa Montaña Beach Resort and had an amazing trip. Instead of staying in a single house or at a hotel/condo style, we had our own individual villas. We were all next to one another, but still had our space to recoup and relax.

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Trip Advisor Review of VMBR

We were only there for a weekend and my 22nd, but we spent the two days laying out by the water, swimming in the pools, walking the beach, and devouring delicious food at the restaurant, The Eclipse. It had the cutest boho vibe, and amazing service. They even hooked us up with a bonfire to end my 22nd with s’mores.

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Now to get to the good stuff….

THE WEDDING!

All I have to say, with the ease of the wedding and the guidance of Ashley Wright for putting on the most beautiful ceremony at sunset, a destination wedding is the way to go. So I’ve put together a few of my favorite photos from the day because a picture says a thousand words and I love all the love in these shots….

 

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From drinking Carlos’s coconut water to splashing in the water at the end, everything was perfect. We are all over the moon happy for Mom and Mark!

#destinationwedding #weddinginspiration

 

 

A Wedding Unfolds in Puerto Rico

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There is love in the air— flowing all around us, captivating our long weekend with appreciation and joy. The beauty of Puerto Rico, especially at where we are staying (blog post to come) illuminates the kindness and admiration in the hearts of my mom and soon to be husband. With wedding festivities on the cusp of the day, we are reminded that love is gentle and it’s kind, but you can’t deny it’s also trying and moving. It pushes you to be a better you, and along the way the true depth of love shines above all else and moves mountains to be.

And that’s the thing about love, it’s about just being. 

Being you.

Being enough.

Being loved for all that you are. 

I talk about this all the time— there are billions of people in this world and somehow these two souls found each other to adore, to build a forever with, and to love unconditionally. They found the one their soul needed and wanted, even if they were unaware of it at the time. Flaws and all, there is love to be shared. After five years, it was inevitable that they were hooked on one another for the long haul. The way Mark looks at my mom is as though she was the one who put the stars in the sky and could walk on water. He looks at her the way Nicholas Sparks writes in his romance novels, the way we all dream of being loved.

My mom and Mark taught me the importance of valuing myself and trusting that someone, someday will love my entire essence as they love one another, but my worth is not defined by someone else’s ability or inability to see all I have to offer the world.

You can’t settle in this life, there are billions of people awaiting your presence. It’s okay to love big because one day, it won’t go to the waste side. 

Love is at the center of all my interactions and my friends and family cant attest to how often I tell them ‘I love you SO much’. It’s a powerful lesson to love unconditionally without expectations or demands or reservations— let it flow openly and be enough to keep you afloat. 

As I sit here on my villa’s porch and write while watching the waves crash, I reminisce on my mom’s love story. I’ve watched hers and Mark’s love blossom over the years, an undeniable pull to one another, one that couldn’t be avoided if they tried. They are a force to be reckoned with, spit fires with adventurous souls. They bring out the best in one another, even if mom can’t navigate. It’s about having fun and enjoying this life together, and that’s what they are doing. 

This life is precious and short, and watching my mom and my soon to be stepdad love one another through trials and twists and turns, I’ve learned that you shouldn’t waste another minute with space between you and the one you love.

If you love someone, be vulnerable, give your love freely and accept them for who they are and who they will be. Nothing stays the same— this world is not stagnant, so grow together and make the conscious decision to be present and love into the depth of your core. 

So thank you Mom and Mark for showing me what a beautiful love looks like and I cheers to you a lifetime of happiness and loving adventures. 

BAHAMAS TRAVEL ADVENTURE

 

 

We traveled to the Hyatt Grand Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas  for the weekend and had an amazing time. My mom and I played in a slots tournament on Friday night and Saturday during the day (yes, that’s a thing, and no it’s not easy and we did not win). I would come back here again without a doubt, and I haven’t been to Atlantis, but my mom and stepdad raved about Baha Mar over Atlantis. If you ever do go to the Bahamas, you have to go to Carmine’s for dinner– best Italian food ever and it’s fun because it’s family style!

 

Enjoy my first ever travel vlog and let me know what you think in the comments or on my Instagram 🙂