Lessons I learned from spending the summer abroad- #3

image0 (3)Between holidays, celebrations, work, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying every minute of this chapter of life, I haven’t found the time to finish writing my lessons I learned in the Dominican Republic this summer.

We’ve almost been home for the same amount of time we were gone, which is just insane to me. I feel like time went slow much slower while we were away, probably because we were on island time, hardly working/ had a routine, and I was counting down the days until I had my warm bath and A/C again. (haha, oh the good ol days. 😉 )image8Even though it’s been a while since we lived abroad, the lessons I learned this summer are still affecting my every day life. And that is why I continue to write these posts. So, here is number 3 and a ton of cute photos of the Dominican babies that I miss seeing everyday. (and one of my favorite DR baby of all) 😉 image0 (5)

Lesson # 3 I learned from living abroad this summer:

This world isn’t a bad place. 

When we first broke the news to our family and friends that we decided to spend 3 months in the Dominican Republic, we had a lot of responses like “are you sure?” and “is it safe there?” Like anywhere Derek and I have traveled, we expected this response. We knew that these reactions come from loved ones caring and worrying about us, and wanting the best for our safety and health. But we also knew that we would never purposely put ourselves or each other in situations where we didn’t feel safe, and our friends and family should know that we’re not THAT dumb. 😉

We obviously did our research before packing our bags and temporarily leaving reality behind, which is one of the reasons we decided to go with the same program that we did in China. ILP’s main concern with their volunteers is safety, which is why they have such strict rules. (No alcohol, no beaches after dark, in the house by 9PM, etc.) If you want more information on this program here is their website —> http://www.ilp.org

image6 (1)In addition to choosing to go with ILP again, we researched the safety of the country, which areas to stay away from, which beaches to avoid, what health concerns came with the bugs and food there, and so on. But I have since learned that no amount of research and preparation can affect the outcome of certain situations, or bad ones from happening.

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While were away this summer, the news back home broadcast-ed that a few Americans had passed away while visiting the Dominican Republic. Most of these deaths were from being poisoned at a certain resort by a Dominican local who worked there. Of course, news like this is going to spark concern in our family and friends. I had a total of 8 people reach out to me that week asking if “we were okay, if we felt safe, or if we had heard the news of the deaths.” Again, I know this was coming from their hearts, but we had to remind our loved ones that just because 4 american people got poisoned at a resort 6 hours away from us, while drinking alcohol late at night, didn’t make Derek and I any less safe. In fact, this situation left us feeling more safe and thankful of the strict rules of our program and our concerned neighbors in our community.


image2 (5)With this certain situation and a few others I experienced, I started to realize that a lot of people have the mindset that this world is out to get them. That traveling is scary, foreign countries are unsafe, and seeing the most beautiful sights, and experiencing different cultures isn’t worth the risk of getting sick with a virus or putting themselves in unsafe/ uncomfortable situations.It is perfectly okay if you think this way, but you most likely have this mindset due to things you’ve seen on the news, have read on social media, or have heard from your paranoid family and friends. I know this because I used to have this same mindset. I used to get overly anxious while leaving home, and think of every bad situation that could possibly wrong, even though I knew bad things happened close to home too. (Why is it that our minds naturally jump to every bad situation while traveling, and not just living our every day life?)

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My mindset didn’t start to change until I got over those fears, took the risk, and actually experienced traveling for myself. I eventually learned that the world is not out to get me. It isn’t scary, it isn’t unsafe, and the experiences I’ve had while traveling have always been worth the risk of something bad possibly happening.image5 (1)image7image5 (2)

Bad things happen everywhere, to random people. Whether you git hit by a drunk driver on your way home from work, experience a mentally unstable man shooting a gun at a concert in Vegas, get kidnapped in Europe and traded into sex trafficking, or get poisoned at a resort in the Dominican Republic, bad things happen.

But just because these bad things happen, doesn’t make this world a bad place. I believe, and I personally have seen, that there is so much more good than bad in this world. For every uncomfortable or scary situation I’ve experienced, I’ve experienced hundreds (hell maybe even thousands) of good ones. And if I am being completely honest, a lot of those thoughtful, genuine experiences have been while I am traveling.image4 (1)

For example, in the Dominican Republic, we lived around people who had close to nothing. Their homes were built through charities, their few outfits that they owned were donated, and their food was mostly scraps or leftovers (sometimes even from our group). But they were the most unselfish, giving people I have ever met. One week, they shut down all of the neighborhood shops and streets for a couple days to mourn the death of a neighbor and provide food, love and support to the grieving family. They would go out of their way to make sure their neighbors and community were taken care of, no matter how big or small the situation was. And they didn’t stop at their loved ones, because they did the same to us. We were complete strangers from a foreign country who didn’t even understand their language, and I have never felt more love (OR SAFETY) from a community.

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And this kindness doesn’t just exist in that ghetto community of the Dominican Republic. In fact, I can think of a experience with a thoughtful gesture from a stranger in each country we have visited.  From my experiences of living abroad, I have learned that overall this world is a good and safe place. Kindness and love exists everywhere, even though the news and media doesn’t always show it.image1 (7)So with that, here is a little reminder. You can live your life being cautious and paranoid that bad things will happen to you, or you can take the risk and do the things you want to do, even if they seem insane, or unsafe to other people. The choice is your’s, just make sure you aren’t putting your dreams on hold, or not visiting certain places because of that one time you heard about something bad in the news.

Because I promise you, no matter where you go, you will find love, kindness and safety.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

Shara and Axel’s Woodland Baby Bash

image3 (3)I’ve kicked off my holiday season with so much celebrating, and I am not an ounce upset about it. Two weeks ago, we celebrated baby bird at Ryan and Amber’s shower along with our Halloween party.  (see previous post) image0 (3)Last weekend we celebrated our nephew at Shara and Axel’s baby shower, and also attended Nicole and Andrew’s wedding. And Monday night, we are celebrating my wonderful grandma turning 80. My life has been a constant party filled with loved ones, and there is nothing I enjoy more.

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image4 (1)Since I hosted Shara and Axel’s baby bash with Michele and Heather, I wanted to post about it. It was such a perfect celebration, I got so many wonderful pictures, and it was another event that I decorated that I was pretty proud of.image1 (9)image3 (6)image0 (5)image5 (4)image2 (7)

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image7We went with a woodland theme for decorations and food, complete with “mama and papa bear” sashes. Much to our surprise little boy got so many cute outfits and gifts that also went along with this theme. I have a feeling he is going to love campfires, trees, and the mountains. 😉image2 (5)

image4 (2)image3 (4)image1 (10)Shara and Axel wanted a more intimate party with family and close friends, so we kept the guest list small.  Aunt Debbie and cousin Shawnee even made it from out of town, making it that more special for the parents to be. Shawnee is also pregnant with a little girl who is arriving in March, so of course we had to get a photo with our THREE baby bumps. image2 (6)image0 (4)We played a couple baby shower games, enjoyed each other’s company, indulged in way too much food, and sat in awe of all of the cute baby things that little dude got spoiled with.

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I love this nephew of mine so much already, I can’t wait to hold him and give him all the loves in just two short months!

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Also, since so many talented people helped this cute little party come together, here is some credit! 🙂

Food: Heather, Michele, Shawnee, 
Label signs and HOMEMADE cookies: Shara
Wood cookie stand and sign holders: Axel
Diaper Cake: Heather 
Theme, Decor, & Photo back drop: your’s truly 

Onto the next adventure, Wren