Tag Archives: travel

I Love People

I get a lot of mixed emotions when I tell people that I’m a professional volleyball player. Most of them think of it as one of two things: not really a profession OR the coolest thing in the world. Well, this is how I see it: my job is to basically go to another country whose native language is not my own, play a fun, indoor sport with 8-12 different strangers under the supervision of an older person whose ideals and morals could clash with mine, living 5-7 time zones away from my friends and family, all while trying to “fit in,” stay in shape, and avoid injuries and illnesses. I love my job. I love every second of it (most of the time) which is really weird, I know. I am a weirdo.

One thing that most people who go overseas (study abroad program, work, just want to get out of America, etc.) don’t exactly get that I receive upon arrival is an automatic group of girlfriends. The absolute BEST part about my job! NEW PEOPLE! I land in a country completely jet-lagged and already have 8-12 people super pumped to meet me. I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I basically already have friends. Do they ALL become friends? No. Absolutely not. Some have a conflicting work ethic or they are just down right mean and I don’t want to associate myself with them.

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The point is that I put myself in a huge and uncomfortable situation with a bunch of strangers who don’t understand me when I talk at my normal conversation speed! Strangers: the people that our parents/elders/older siblings warned us to stay away from and not talk to. And yes, some people should be avoided but the more I venture out, the more I believe that people are beautiful. The strangers I meet sometimes impact me more than the forgettable figures I deal with daily.

Quick story:
I arrived in Paris around 10:30 at night on a Monday, alone. I can’t read any French and all I can think about is the movie Taken and I start praying on the metro that I don’t get abducted and sold into the sex trade. Instead of checking into my hostel first like a normal person, I decide to go straight to the Eiffel Tower to see the light show. As I try to navigate my maps and figure out where I’m going, a large group of young people hop onto the metro. They are speaking English and they are very loud, two things I identify with immensely. I eavesdrop trying to figure out if they’re Americans or what types of accents I can decipher. I finally muster up some courage to ask them where they’re from.

“Well, we have four Americans, a Serbian, a Mexican, a Canadian, a Brazilian, an Aussie, and a Kiwi.”
“How do you guys know each other? School?”
“We’re in the same hostel!”
“Oh wow that’s cool! Where are you headed?”
“Eiffel Tower. We’re recruiting. Would you like to join? We have wine and champagne!”

Instead of thinking of what 7 year old Kristin was once told, which was to stay away from strangers, I excitedly accepted their invitation and that’s how I got to hang out with 10 of the most random and diverse people I had ever met. It was that simple. Let me tell you something, it was one of the best nights ever. We screamed, we danced, we bantered, and we drank below one of the most iconic forms of architecture in the world. I actually had an aha moment where I just thought to myself, this is my life right now. All of my insanely unpredictable and sometimes careless choices had led me to this one moment…with a bunch of people I didn’t even know. One of the guys actually said out loud, “I wouldn’t want to spend this night with anybody else,” talking about our random group and he couldn’t have been more right.

New friends around the Eiffel Tower

I know my personality has never been scared of talking to people but being overseas has really put another take on that. Besides my Swedish and Greek eight month visitations, I’ve participated in other events where I knew no one and no one knew me. In Germany, we went on a beer garden hike with 10 people from all over Europe and weirdly enough, no Germans were in that group. I was introduced to a dozen new people in Amsterdam after meeting up with an old teammate. I met up with four random Penn State frat guys and toured around London with them a couple weeks ago. I have dog sat and babysat for strangers in the UK. Last but not least, I had some girls I met at the park take me to a pub for “day before my birthday” drinks after knowing me for about an hour after I started petting their dogs.
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The past two years I’ve had to go into a country as a stranger and leave as a friend and then not know when I’ll see those people again. When people ask me what the best and worst thing is about my job that’s what I say. I love people and I love meeting new people…but leaving sucks.

So to all of the strangers I have met, thank you. Thank you for being nice, for speaking English, for being rude, for teaching me all of the curse words in your language, for sharing your world and listening to mine. Also, thank you for not abducting me and selling me into the drug/sex trade. I really appreciate that. Starting with a smile, strangers can turn into friends…it’s literally that easy. Life is pretty much trial and error with the people that you meet and those you like, you keep. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone and don’t be taken aback when someone does that to you. You never know what good could come of it! I’m a firm believer in that you’re the average of the top five people you associate with…make them good ones.
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Ten Things I’ve Learned in 2014

So like my sister, I too have made a wonderful list compiling the exciting things I have learned in 2014. This was a year of more ups than downs with crazy opportunities and great people; it’s all in the process of growing up right?

  1. The world is big and way cooler than I expected.
    I am passionately in love with traveling. It has taught me so many things about so many things. I’ve tried foods that I never thought I would ever eat, I’ve befriended people whom I never thought I would even be in the same room with, and I’ve seen places that have more history than little baby America x4. I’ve been out of my comfort zone more than a few times! There are so many other places that are calling my name…I’m honestly just getting started.
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  2. Let God in.
    I grew up in a Christian, church every Sunday type of family. I was in the choir, helped with the younger kids, and of course was in youth group. I went to college and that changed a bit. I didn’t go to church but a couple times a year (if a couple) and was okay with it. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God anymore, it was just a brief hiatus of not really thinking about him much. I prayed occasionally, like when things were going “wrong” in my life but not any other time. Soon after I graduated, Sweden came up to me and smacked me in the face with a great opportunity. Was I ready to move to the arctic circle leaving my family, language, bacon, and small amount of wonderful friends behind? No. But I did it. The beginning of January this year, I decided I was going to start praying for everything. Everything that I was proud of, happy for, appreciated, scared of, the people around me, their health, my health, just everything! I talk to God on a regular basis and it is the best decision I’ve made. It’s attracted me towards a lot of great people and brought me even closer to my favorite people. Luckily He’s everywhere so I don’t have to worry about time zones differences.IMG_1286
  3. Driving is therapeutic.
    I reeeeeeeally enjoy driving. I have this adorable little maroon Mazda (that’s a stick shift because I have a short attention span) that gets excellent gas mileage. In the wonderful year of 2014, I was only in the United States for three full months…and drove over 3,000 miles. I sure do miss driving here in Greece. I haven’t driven since August!! I love driving with the windows rolled down and the feeling of the wind mazing through my blonde arm hairs (yes, I’m pretending I’m tan). I love putting my ipod on shuffle and SCREAMING, I mean singing, every word to every song. You’re alone with your thoughts, thinking about new volleyball drills or calling friends that you haven’t talked to in a long time…it’s so nice to be there on the road.IMG_1280
  4. Thinking negatively is seriously the worst idea anyone could have.
    I don’t think I even have to explain this one, but I will anyways. Whether it’s jealousy (um hello- he picked YOU, not her) or feeling sorry for yourself because you just got out of the hospital and can’t play and nothing is going right (spoiler alert: you get better!) or the horrible emotion of DOUBT (am I even a good volleyball player? Why is God doing this? How am I preparing for my future?)…all negative, all bad. It makes you feel like crap! I remember my new year’s resolution a few years ago was to think positively and to surround myself with good people who were also happy people (I’ve really tried my best to make that resolution more of a life habit). Sure, things happen in life that are sad BUT there is always a silver lining. The burden of negative thoughts can overtake you quickly and unknowingly and before you know it, you’ve eaten two chocolate bars and Taylor Swift’s second album is on repeat. It’s not always easy to find the positive out of unfortunate situations but there’s always something there waiting to make you smile…you just gotta search for it.IMG_1285
  5. My sister is actually a superhero.
    My sister is an awesome mom. She’s a good cook (which means she can read). She’s good at being protected from the bad guys in the kitchen. She’s good at driving people around everywhere. She’s good at teaching her kids and other kids numbers and letters and song lyrics. She’s good at being social with working out, bible studies at church, and selling make up with really great hand creams (satin hands- ask her about it and get it). She’s really good at watching Frozen. Umm…she does EVERYTHING which can only mean one thing: she’s a super hero. That’s actually the only explanation. I know one day I’m going to be a really cool and great mom but I just pray I’m half the supermom she is.
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  6. Gatwick airport is the worst airport in the world along with their passport control staff (slight exaggeration with the passport staff).
    From being strip searched to being asked if I was a prostitute (both very long stories)…I really dislike this airport. Maybe they’re still bitter about the Revolutionary War and they take it out on American travelers, who knows? I’ve never gotten out of passport control in under an hour and I don’t want to talk about it. Gatwick, you suck and I hate that cheap flights fly in and out of your airport. Wolverines-Airport-Security-Inspection_o_92884
  7. Long distance relationships are work:
    I bet you’re thinking about the long distance relationship I have with my rockstar of a boyfriend but truthfully, EVERY relationship takes work when you live time zones apart. Examples:
    a) I’m not physically there to watch my nephews grow up and it kills me. I get sloppy kisses on a phone screen (and dropped multiple times) which unfortunately, isn’t the same as REAL sloppy kisses. Asking them their favorite things and about their days are just better when I am physically there to give them a high fives and cuddles.
    b) My two best friends, including my sister, live in Richmond. One of them works from 9-5 and when she gets a chance to call me after work, I’m usually already asleep. I have to wait half of my day for my sister and the boys to wake up…just so she can eat bacon in front of me.
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    c) When you go from seeing your friends and teammates every day in college and now they’re all over the United States, it takes a lot of organizing and sometimes sacrificing some sleep to be able to talk to them. Also – you find out who your real friends are. People who contact YOU; the people who are genuinely interested in how you’re doing and what’s going on in your life. Sometimes, it’s not the people who you expect and you realize that it’s ok.
    d) Being in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend magnifies everything; fights are more complicated when you can’t physically be with them to talk it out, smiles are bigger when you talk to them, emails with “thinking of you” songs in them mean more, days are shorter when you’re with them, butterflies are just as strong as a high school dance when you see them at an airport, “see ya laters” suck even more when you don’t have another set date to see them next….a LOT of missing them takes place. Missing him so much it hurts – yeah I’ve actually felt that and I don’t like it at all. Lots of communication, trust, and appreciation are just some of the most important ingredients in the LD recipe.

It sucks big time and I’m sure you wondering why in the world I put myself through it? Why move away from home? Why have a relationship with someone who lives in another country? Well folks, that’s an excellent question but let me say this: DISTANCE is TEMPORARY. I’m young and I’m living my dream. I know God did not put me here on Earth to stay in one place. This technology we have makes us literally the luckiest humans in history…family and friends are a click away!! And you know what? Even if I had to send snail mail every day…I’d still do it because I like this guy that much (sorry for the PDA, Clay).
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  1. Travelling is awesome. Travelling with someone you love is even better.
    I’ve already expressed my love for traveling but the only thing BETTER is traveling with a really special someone. I’ve done a polar plunge in the Baltic Sea with my best friend and her boyfriend. I went and saw a concert at the bottom of a small, sweaty, and sold out bar in Denmark with my sister and cousin (thanks for sticking together so we could see you, Sick Puppies). I got lost with my parents in the second biggest city in Sweden and oh yeah, we broke some laws. I had an old teammate who was playing volleyball in France come see me on her weekend off! I traveled allllllllllll over Scotland with my Swedish sister and fed Nessy some chocolate muffins. I’ve drank beer in underrated Brussels, eaten pizza in the non-touristy part of Rome, and hiked mountains in magical Norway with the man who makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Sharing moments with loved ones are one of those things where you don’t realize how great it is until after you experience it. Actually that’s a lie; you know they’re great right when you start your adventure with them.
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  2. Writing down your goals actually works.
    Everyone has heard it’s statistically proven that people who write their goals down achieve them at a higher probability than those who do not write them down. Through sport psych classes and many mentors, I’ve heard it more than a couple times. When it comes to writing down my goals I would start them and then stop early because of [insert lame reason here]. When I got to Greece, I told myself I was going to do it this time and do it right. My first month, I wanted to keep myself busy outside of volleyball. I set up a 21 day challenge (it takes 21 days to make something a habit) and within those three weeks, I had cooked a dozen different healthy meals (thanks pinterest), been social outside of practice (tougher than it seems living in a village), I had finished three books (Bob Goff is the man), and I started a blog. Of course JUST writing goals down doesn’t do anything unless you act on it and set mini daily goals for yourself. Writing them down and seeing what I wanted on paper made it into a reality (I also had a great teacher). Write down your goals people and don’t just chase them…hunt them down. Make them realistic and challenging! Do it for you! It’s a life changer…(let me know if you’re interested in the methods I use).
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  3. Home is where the biggest piece of your heart is.
    There’s this quote that says, “I have left my heart in so many places” and I believe I actually have done just that. My heart is currently living in numerous countries and hundreds of cities. I could travel all around the world but there would still be one place that is home. Home is smelling mom’s fresh lasagna cooking in the oven when walking in the door. Home is my dad playing the air guitar when no one is watching and killing the solo. Home is having your leg broken by the dog’s tail because he is so excited to see you. Home is the constant sneezing because of the stupid cat. Home is having an actual fire in the fire place. Home is holding up a four year old so he can shoot a basketball in the same hoop his mommy and I used to shoot into. Home is a toddler cutting the grass with plastic push mower. Home is hearing “Kris” or “Punkadoodle” or “sis” or “Kwistin” or “Little Sh*t” echo throughout the house. No matter where I’ve been or where I’m headed, the biggest part of my heart will always be off the main road, second driveway to the left with the red door and flaming mailbox.
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I hope everyone has a great and safe New Year’s wherever you are. I’m going to be chilling in Greece (if I leave, I can’t come back for another few months) and living that dream!!! Cheers to more lessons learned, less complaining, being more appreciative, living it up in 2015!

Part two: It’s Constantinople NOT Istanbul

Turkey:
So Turkey is uh, how should I put this, a lot different than Santorini. Polar opposites actually. Little history for ya that I learned this weekend (I obviously didn’t learn it in high school because why would we need to know about that part of the world?): Istanbul was once Constantinople. Constantinople used to be a Greek city. During the age of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks had rule over the Greeks for about 400 years. Oh yeah, they don’t like each other. My Serbian coach informed me that the Turks had rule over Serbia for 500 years. This city is almost as old as Jesus. Twice in history it has been the largest and wealthiest city in Europe (now half of the city is technically in Asia). Seriously? This city is so old and so much has happened here. America is an infant compared to just this one city. They’re probably thinking, “1776 is cute. We had already tried taking over the world a few times when you were just being born, America.” Istanbul is still a Greek name (I’m quickly learning that every word is or has been derived from the Greek language) meaning “Into the City”. It’s also extremely diverse.
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The smells of this city weren’t like other cities I’ve been to though…and I’m lucky enough to have a lot to compare it to. You have the busy, industrial smell of New York City, the cinnamon pastry smell of Malmö, the beer and chocolate smell of Brussels, the marinara and wine smell of Rome, the smell of marijuana and tulips in Amsterdam….I mean smells stick with your brain! The smell of herbs, spices and tea will forever be in my head when thinking of Istanbul. It was the most wonderful combination of smells and my nose will be eternally grateful for it.

Oh yeah, I have one word that will probably bring me back to Istanbul just because and that word is BAKLAVA. The. Best. Ever. I know I love food and over the years my stomach has created a slight negative response to sweets (I can’t eat a dozen donuts anymore), but I probably ate my weight in baklava and my belly was like “KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!”

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Most of our meals were chicken or beef, with a different soup for both lunch and dinner. I commented to my coach that it kinda tasted like pork and he looked at me very seriously and said that absolutely no pigs were allowed in Turkey (I really hope he was joking). I then remembered the Muslim religion and that pigs (and lambs?) are considered a dirty animal for them and was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness for them (respectfully of course). Most of these people have never tasted bacon before. Not that I needed a reminder than I’m one of the luckiest and blessed people on the Earth, but that moment made me and my belly both smile.

Volleyball:
Well, we lost every game. We got a 6th place medal (thanks America for trending medals for participation, dummies) and a big ‘ol handshake from the president of the Turkish club that hosted the tournament. Yes we lost but wow, there was some great volleyball going on. Volleyball that reminded me of winning a national championship or watching 6 All-Americans play together. It was fast, full of at least five or six different languages and full of passion. The best word that comes to my mind when thinking about that tournament is fun. That’s what volleyball is all about! We hung with those teams! It’s not like we were completely stepped on…we made these teams fight. They came in thinking that this little Greek team is just a minor pot hole on their way to the final…sorry pal. You’re gonna need a serious detour playing against us. That was probably the corniest analogy I’ve ever used so I apologize but I don’t feel like erasing it. We did some great things. We also did some horrible things but I’m going to choose not to remember those incidents. Just a quick reminder for all of the middles/crazy opposites out there reading this, please get out of your setter’s way. That’s all I have to say.

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It was nice to see the potential my team could have if we started playing consistently. We still have a long way to go but I think we’re on the right track. First real game TOMORROW! The things I’m learning and seeing (and smelling) are things I’m going to tell my grandkids about one day. Plus, all of my Christmas shopping is done 🙂 I truly am living my dream.

Little bit of Traveling: Part 1

It’s been a very exciting past two weeks for me! First we went Santorini, debatably the most beautiful and romantic island in Greece. We travelled by ferry (more like a cruise ship) where it took around 6.5 hours to get there. It wasn’t the smoothest of rides but it was still fun. I went a little crazy on the “almost Titanic sunset photo”. IMG_6357-0.JPG Everyone got a nap and I taught some of the girls how to play BS with cards. It got pretty intense. We get to Santorini and it’s around midnight. We board a bus and not even kidding, the bus goes straight up a mountain. It was really dark so we couldn’t see much but the lack of side rails on the edge of the road and that we were driving upwards. We get to our hotel and it’s seriously the fanciest and most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen. There were gorgeous flowers everywhere and we each had a pool or jacuzzi in our rooms.

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IMG_6395.JPGIs this real life? I slept on the sleep sofa and let the taller girls get the queen size bed upstairs. Oh what is that you ask? Are sleep sofas actually comfortable? The majority probably not but this one was freaking awesome. I slept like a rock.

So Santorini is famous for the bright white and blue houses on the sides of mountains and the loveliest of sunsets.

IMG_6371-0.JPG Unfortunately, we played every day around 6 pm so we missed the sunsets. The sunsets are so famous because it looks like the Aegean Sea is actually devouring the sun. I’m sure you can google Santorini sunsets and get an idea of how spectacular it is. I did however, get to see a sunrise! It happened around 7:30 in the morning so I didn’t even have to wake up that early. I got to sit with my toes in the dark, black, volcanic sand and watch the sun start the day.

IMG_6492.JPG It was so peaceful and relaxing, I wish I could do it every day. It was so warm, with a nice breeze and well, the only thing that was missing was my man! Everyone says that it’s a couple’s island and I had to come back with him to experience the magic. We saw a few weddings that were seriously genius, (and probably cost the same amount as both Manning brother’s salaries combined) like things you only see in movies.

Volleyball:
We lost in 5 to the 2nd place team in the league (preseason ranked) . In the second game alone we had 18 errors and to be honest I’m surprised we scored 13 points. We’re a very giving team…..not exactly in a good way. If we can hang with that team though, it should give us some confidence when our season starts this Saturday…since we are up against the same team.

The second match we played wasn’t as close. The team had one experienced player and she was 44 years old. I repeat, their best, most experienced player, was 44 years old. 44!!!! I’m hoping to still be walking and not have a hip replacement at 44! God bless her. It was quite impressive.

Living the dream has kept me pretty busy the past couple weeks! Look for another blog coming soon about my experience in Turkey 🙂

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Cheers,
Kris