Final thoughts on 2011, and cheers to upcoming adventures in 2012

It’s here once again – my favorite holiday. The best day of the year for reflecting on the best and worst moments from the past, and looking towards the future with hope and an eager resolve to make the upcoming year even better than the last.

This year was the first year where I began to dedicate my life to the art of road tripping. Over the span of two cross-country trips and countless climbing excursions, I traveled to 21 states from Alabama to California. I visited ten National Parks – thanks to my wonderful annual parks pass. From the swamps of the Everglades and camping in Yosemite to the giant towering trees of Sequoia and the sand dunes at Death Valley, my explorations through America’s National Parks were one of the defining aspects of my adventures.

I graduated from Florida State University in April, and quickly sped off on my first road trip of 2011 – a six-week delve into car-dwelling and extended travel with my boyfriend, Niko. As we traveled across over 6,400 miles together, we climbed some of the most beautiful rock formations in the country, sampled amazing grub, and slept beneath the stars.

During our four-month relationship hiatus, I embarked on my own solo road trip. Embracing the idea of solitude for the first time, I traveled alone across 17 states and 6,657 miles. I also made my first ‘adult’ decision, and moved up to Denver, Colorado to get a taste of mountain living.

And now here I am, on the eve of the new year. You’ll currently find me holed up at Tallahassee Rock Gym, the place where it all began. It truly feels like I’ve come full-circle this year, and I couldn’t be most satisfied with where my life has led me. It feels so appropriate to be ringing in the 2012 with a final day spent slaving away setting new routes and cleaning the rock gym, then by the time the clock strikes midnight I’ll be on the road to Rocktown for a climbing trip to start my year right.

So, I propose a toast.

Here’s to 2012.

New adventures, new destinations, new climbing ascents,
and lots of saving up for 2013.

Readers, expect huge things from The Morning Fresh in 2012. My goal for this upcoming year is to position myself as an established travel and adventure blogger, and to begin truly dedicating myself to my photography and other creative projects. Here’s to finally catching up on overdue posts from my cross-country adventures, an increased social media presence, and working to inspire others to join me in the quest for living a simpler life on the road.

Thank you for your readership, comments, tweets, and unwavering support. I appreciate each and every one of you, and can’t express my gratitude enough. Have a wonderful new year, and keep your spirit high on adventures.

On spuds in the dirt, lemons from life, and rediscovering everything you thought you knew.

Well, a lot has changed since my last update on June 17, 2011, and I feel like I owe my readers an explanation before I dive back into the world of travel, photography, and adventure. I’d offer a choice between the long story or the short story, but the long version could fill a book. Here’s the spark notes version:

The last we met, I was living in Tallahassee, freshly graduated and itching to travel with my wonderful beau, Niko. The plan was to stick around Florida until he also graduated and could join me on worldly adventures. I had two jobs (amongst a million side projects), too many options, and about 2,000 photos that needed editing. We’ll use this as the before shot:

Cue the oohs and aws – aren’t we adorable? Ready for the after shot? Both were taken during the same day on my road trip in Death Valley National Park, but I think they provide a pretty damn accurate visual contrast to assist in describing the huge changes in my life. Here’s the after:

So here I am. Suddenly standing very alone in a very big sea of nothing. After almost two years of teamwork, and the most amazing trip of my life, Niko ended our relationship with no warning and a very vague explanation. With no clue and no plan, I packed up as much junk from my Tallahassee condo as I could stuff in my little Scion, and this lady promptly sped 7 hours back home to Miami.

I left and lost everything that was real to me. I scribbled ‘I love you TRG, always’ on my locker at the rock gym, grabbed my climbing shoes and filled up a mason jar with that dirty gym rubber so I could keep it close forever. I said a few goodbyes (and still owe most of you a proper one, I’m sorry!), and now it’s time for a new plan.

So here I am. The boxes and bags that cluttered my room in Miami were overwhelming, so I ditched my hometown to spend 4th of July weekend in Key West with my two closest lady friends. With a little help from tequila, fresh salty air, and Marisa’s no-nonsense attitude, I put on my big girl panties and am ready for a new plan.

So here it is: I put in my two weeks notice at my Tallahassee job, decided to purge myself of everything I left up in my condo (anyone need some furniture?), and I started dreaming of my next big adventure. I left my comfortable recluse shell, and have begun exploring everything and everyone in Miami. I’m mapping out an autumn trip to North Carolina, New York, and the rest of the eastern coast up to Maine.

I’m still trying to find peace without Niko, but eventually I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all just spuds in the dirt. I’m learning how to roll with the punches, and am enjoying suddenly not having a plan. I’m just going, and it’s been working out so far. I even had the pleasure of being approached by a fan during an open mic event – Lori, you really have no idea how much it meant to me for you to introduce yourself that night, you may have saved the fate of this blog.

Enough rambling. Ha, that was the short version too. Told ya the long one could fill a book. Folks, I am back. No more pity parties, no more sulking in bed – life is calling. I only have my job with LivingSocial now, and my unedited photo count is pushing past 5,000 images. I’m back on my grind, and vow to pleasure your eyes with plenty of photos and daily updates.

And while we’re at it: ADD ME ON TWITTER! @themorningfresh – I’m twitter-tarded, but why not? Keep calm, and carry on my friends.

What a Beautiful Day for an Anniversary!

Happy November 23rd, readers. Today marks the one year anniversary of my relationship with my boyfriend, Niko. It all started with an innocent bike ride up the St. Marks Trail during November of 2009. As I pedaled weakly behind Niko’s effortless pace, I found myself falling in love with a near stranger. As overwhelming as those first emotions were, the months following our first date proved that trusting love is not a vain effort.

Together, Niko and I have traveled all around the United States. We started small with a weekend trip to Atlanta in December 2009, where we visited the Atlanta Aquarium. We’ve ventured on an assortment of different climbing trips, from Horse Pens 40 in Alabama to Little Rock City in Tennessee. During May, we drove to Sarasota for a great beach house weekend with my family. Over summer, we embarked on a two-week road trip together and adventured through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. We’ve explored the beautiful city of Chattanooga, including stops at the Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Farmers Market. Traveling is a key element of our relationship, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the future has in store for us. A return trip has been planned to revisit Little Rock City and Rocktown in December, and climbing in Hueco Tanks awaits during springtime.

Tonight, I’ll be treating Niko to a rare occasion – a home-cooked meal by yours truly. If I manage to not burn the kitchen down, I’ll be serving a delicious feast of snow crab legs (complete with melted butter and lemon wedges), baked potatoes, my mom’s famous green beans and a roasted head of garlic served with naan. For dessert, we’ll be having vanilla shortcake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. After a year of putting up with me, Niko definitely deserves a good meal.

Niko, I love you more than words could ever express. Thank you for supporting everything I do, from my photography to my climbing. You’re the best coach a lady climber could ever ask for, and the best personal chef a girl could imagine. You are a phenomenal person, and you’ve brought out the best in me. Here’s to many more anniversaries, travel adventures and nights spent watching Food Network. I adore you, spud.