Florence, Italy

Taylor and I are officially back in China, so that can only mean one thing. Our Italian blog posts are nearing the end! If you missed the first few posts, you can read them all here:

Zurich, Lugano, Lake Como, Venice 

The fifth city we visited was Florence! After we packed our bags up in Venice, we took another train and rode to our next destination. We really enjoyed taking the trains everywhere in Europe. It’s so much easier and cheaper than flying. Florence is located in central Italy, within Tuscany.

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I’d say that Florence is known for architecture and food. It’s here where we ate the best Italian food of our lives.

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The man behind all the travel plans. ūüôā I’d be lost without him…literally. He puts so much effort into planning our adventures together.

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If I’m being honest, Florence wasn’t my favorite city that we visited during our European adventure. We were still coming off a high of visiting Lake Como and Venice, and Florence was just okay in my book. I’m not dying to go back, and I really don’t know if I’d make an effort to return. I’m glad we came, but I wouldn’t spend more than two nights here. Like I said before, the food was INCREDIBLE, but that was the highlight of visiting Florence.

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When visiting Florence, you NEED¬†NEED NEED to eat at ZaZa’s. This place was so incredible that we ate there TWICE. This is unheard of for us. The even crazier thing about this place, is that it’s ranked in the 200’s on Trip Advisor for some reason?? I guess there’s just so many places to eat in Florence that the competition is hard. The lasagna was the best I’ve ever eaten and so was the homemade gnocchi. Seriously. You have to eat here.

We also stumbled across a unique wine shop one night called DiVino. You purchase the bottle size you’d like (or glass) and they’d fill it up with whatever local wine they had available. The first time we went, we purchased a standard 750ml bottle and filled it with cabernet. Our total was 4.50 euro and the wine was delicious! We returned the next day and it was only 3 euro since we already had the bottle! Such a genius idea!

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I felt so uninspired to take photos here. I’m not sure if it was because taking photos of architecture isn’t my thing, or that museums are difficult to photograph, or if everything looked the same. Maybe I’m crazy? If you’ve travelled all over Italy, let me know your thoughts on Florence, because I’m really curious. I don’t want to hate on Florence because we really did have a good time. If art history, architecture, and good food are you’re thing then you’d probably love this city!

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If you do find yourself in Florence, you need to walk through the gardens overlooking the city! The view gives you an incredible lookout for miles!

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The second thing you need to do is go and see the David statue, which was created in 1873! One thing to note is that there’s the real, authentic David, and then there’s a mock David. Please make sure you go see the real one, and not the fake! You can find the beautiful marble statue in the¬†Accademia Gallery. The¬†replica is in the Piazza della Signoria.

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With an abundance of museums in Florence, your time there can get expensive! When we were deciding which museums to purchase tickets for, we both agreed that that¬†Museo Galileo would be the most interesting. Taylor is all about science and navigation, so this was absolutely perfect! ūüôā Tickets were 10 euro each, and it took us about an hour to see everything. We had the best time looking at all the early maps and scientific inventions!

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That’s it for our time in Florence! Next stop, the beach!

Our Second Week – Visiting Shanghai

Hey Y’all!

Before I get into the update about our second week here in China, I wanted to start by saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to Taylor and I this week. I was super nervous about being so raw and vulnerable about our experience in my last post, but there was nothing but kind and gentle encouragement. I was shocked at how many people called and messaged us! We really appreciate the friends and family who encourage us through all seasons of life. These messages and phone calls gave me so much hope, and have been making my transition much easer. If you haven’t read my first post on China, you can click HERE.

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With that being said, another week has come and gone here in Nanjing! This week didn’t feel as dreadful and long as the last, and I’m relieved. If you’ve been praying for peace over us it’s working, so thank you! There were a lot less tears and no anxiety attacks this week!! So that’s a HUGE win in my book! I’ve also gotten my camera out again, so there’s a lot more pictures in this update!

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Right now, I’m holding onto routine, routine, routine. My mom recommended that I try and make my daily life as “normal” as possible. Although things are much different here, her advice has helped tremendously. Moms are always right. ūüôā Taylor and I get up, go to work, come home, go for a walk, then go to bed. This routine gives me something to look forward to and keeps me from being “bored,” which triggers my anxiety.¬†I’ve also been trying to redirect my thoughts. Instead of focusing on all the negatives and the things I’m missing, I’m thinking about all the positives and what I can have! Unlimited travel opportunities, experiences, less distractions, growth, and unlimited time with my husband. We chose to move to China because of all the amazing benefits, so I may as well enjoy them right?

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Our weeks are structured a little differently here because Taylor’s schedule revolves around a baseball team. We always have games on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, so Monday’s and Tuesday’s are our days off. This week, we¬†chose to visit Shanghai during our “weekend.” We chose Shanghai because it’s a lot more western compared to Nanjing!

This was our first time taking the bullet train within Asia and we were super impressed! They were exactly on time, clean, and Taylor didn’t think it was too hard to navigate. I’m directionally challenged, so I just follow him around everywhere. ūüôā We are 5 hours away from Shanghai by car, but only 1.5 hours away by bullet train.

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We booked one night at the Grand Hyatt downtown, and had a very chill weekend. This was exactly what I needed mentally. Shanghai is very diverse, so we didn’t feel completely out of place. We saw so many other non-Chinese people, which made my heart very happy! We ate American food, shopped, and did some exploring! The Grand Hyatt was beautiful and I’d really like to stay here again! It was perfect for a one night stay.

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Traveling to Shanghai for one night really made me happy and gave me some normalcy in my life. The smooth train ride makes me giddy, because I can’t wait to start traveling to a lot more parts of Asia during our days off! It gives me peace, knowing that when things get rough here in Nanjing, I’m one short train ride away from Shanghai. Taylor has continuously gone above and beyond to make me happy and comfortable here in China! I don’t know how I got so lucky. ūüôā

I’d like to start writing about other things in China like, the differences, what we wish we’d packed, working, etc. Please comment what kind of content you’d like me to write about! Thank you!

 

 

 

The City of Reykjavik

Before we headed to the airport for our flight back to the states, we did some last minute exploration around the city of Reykjavik. We were so thankful that we reserved a rental car, because it made sightseeing so much easier and overall better.

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We spent so much time in the countryside of Iceland, that we hardly had time to enjoy the capital!

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When Taylor and I were planning our trip to Iceland, we were excited! It was somewhere we’d always wanted to travel to, plus we knew it would be the perfect winter getaway. Although we were excited,¬†we really didn’t expect to fall in love with the country.

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The city of Reykjavik was straight out of a Christmas Hallmark movie! The streets were decked out with Christmas trees and lights everywhere. They have such an abundance of Christmas trees, that they literally hang them off the buildings, and apartment complexes display them in every window.

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While we were walking around in the morning, we stumbled upon a small watch company. When we went inside, there was a wall of famous performers who purchased watches from this very place. The owner of the company told us that a lot of famous people will travel to Iceland because they can walk around freely and not be bothered.

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Iceland is one of the safest places to travel to and we felt very comfortable during our time there. This is one of those places that I would feel completely comfortable traveling to by myself.

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We were also blown away by how fluent the locals were in english. From the city to the countryside, everyone could understand and speak english with us! We’re used to traveling to other countries and not being able to communicate.

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On our first day in Iceland, we ate at a fantastic hotdog place and loved it! On this day, we ate hotdogs at their competitors!

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This place had more of a selection and a variety of toppings to choose from!

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These hotdogs were soooo yummy! We had a very difficult time deciding which one was better!

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On our way to drop off our rental car, we stopped and took some last minute photos of the city and the ocean.

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Once we returned our rental car and headed inside the airport, we found out that our flight with WOW Air was delayed by two hours.

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There’s nothing worse than trying to get home for the holidays and having a delayed flight. We passed time by checking in our luggage, visiting the duty free store, and ordering coffee and food.

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Honestly, Iceland was an incredible country and it has so much to offer. We’d highly¬†recommend traveling here to anyone. Whether you’re well travelled or not, there’s something for everyone. We chose to visit during the winter season, and we were still able to see so much. We can’t wait to return one day, but hopefully during the summer season!

 

Waterfalls and Glaciers

On our second day in Iceland, we were headed south! We started our day¬†at 9am. You’ll notice in our pictures that it’s still very dark outside, which did nothing to help our jet lag.

Once the snow was dusted off the car, we drove a few blocks down the street to Dunkin’ Donuts. We could’ve easily walked, but it was cold and windy so we opted not to. While on vacation, we try very hard to only eat food that we¬†can’t get at home.¬†However, every once and a while you need something familiar and comforting. Dunkin’¬†was perfect!

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Taylor did all the driving during the trip.¬†From what he’s said, driving¬†in Iceland isn’t as intimidating as it looks. With all the geothermal heating underground, the snow very rarely sticks and freezes to the roads.

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While we were driving to our first destination, we stopped at a small church because we noticed that all of their gravestones were lit up with crosses!

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Every Christmas, family members will visit their loved one’s graves and decorate it with lights or candles. This is their way of showing those that¬†have¬†passed¬†that they’re missed.

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We made it to¬†Seljalandsfoss about an hour later! This is a breathtaking¬†waterfall that¬†is commonly visited by tourists¬†who visit Iceland. Mostly because it’s so close to Reykjavik and you can walk behind it. No matter where you’re standing, it’s an amazing view!

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We suggest wearing waterproof attire, because when you’re¬†behind the falls you’ll feel the mist. You can tell from the photos that it’s very wet.

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This is a great place to start when visiting Iceland! It’s easy to get to and won’t disappoint! Legend has it, that rainbows commonly form over the falls as well. I’m sure that would be incredible to see!

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Afterwards, we drove an hour to the small town of Vik. This small town is known for it’s black sand beaches. We were excited to see the beach, but we were starving and wanted to eat lunch first. Taylor found a small, cozy restaurant in town.

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We could go on and on about how adorable this restaurant was!

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While we were waiting for our food, a mini snow stormed passed through! Throughout our trip, these snowstorms would come randomly, but they would only last about 15 minutes.

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Taylor discovered this restaurant on Trip Advisor and we’re so thankful that he did! The service was wonderful and the food was even better.

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If you ever find yourself here one day, you MUST try the endless tomato soup and homemade bread. It was phenomenal and I really regret not ordering it myself. Taylor and I each got BBQ burgers and Waite ordered the lamb sandwich, both delicious as well.

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Once the stormed passed, we took a short drive to the beach.

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This was a very interesting experience for us.¬†Everything started out fine and dandy, until…

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the wind came. Each time the wind would pick up, it would whip the sand into our faces and it stung SO BAD.

Thankfully, we were able to snap some pictures during the moments when the wind wasn’t throwing sand in our faces.¬†The black volcanic sand¬†makes the coast of Vik one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

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Seriously, the views were amazing!

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We were tired of the wind, so we drove up to the town’s church to get a better view of the beach and the town.

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Vik was so small and¬†unique! You have to check it out if you’re in the area!

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Also within Vik, there is a natural arch on the other side of the mountain that we wanted to see.

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The sun was beginning to set and it made all the surrounding mountains looks beautiful.

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In order to see the arch, we parked the car and hiked up a small hill to the overlook area.

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We were literally on the other side of the mountain we were just on. You’ll notice the same stone stacks off in the distance.

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Once again, everything started out fine, until…

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the wind started up again. This time, we were standing at a higher elevation, so the wind was even stronger than before. Thankfully, there was no sand to be thrown around. However, the wind was so strong that we could hardly walk straight.

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At one point, the sky became very dark and we were all being blown around the cliff. It was almost impossible to stand! Grandma grounded herself with a rope, while Taylor literally¬†tackled me to the ground because the wind kept picking me up. This is a story you don’t tell your mother… sorry mom! ūüôā

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These pictures make us laugh because obviously you can’t see wind, so we just look ridiculous being blown around!

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Once the wind died down, we got to witness the natural arch we came to see!

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We ran back to our car before the wind could pick up again. As soon as we made it inside, a huge blizzard came through. Just to give you a reference at how strong the wind was, the signs outside were ripping out of the ground and our car was shaking with four bodies inside! A very neat experience, but we were thankful to get off that mountain.

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On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped to see a glacier before the sun set.

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There are tons of glaciers all over Iceland, so pick one and go look at it! If you’re looking for more adventure, you can sign up for tours that let you climb and enter the glacier.

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Afterwards, we drove back to the city to get dinner! We found a great restaurant called Vitabar, which we were able to walk to from our apartment. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our camera on us, so we couldn’t take any pictures. It was a very small bar/burger place. The cheeseburgers and fries were delicious. Once we were done eating, we walked back the apartment and prepared for the next day.

First Day in Iceland

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Our journey to Iceland began on December 17 when we started driving from South Carolina to Baltimore. We found reasonably priced airline tickets that were leaving out of the Baltimore International Airpot, so the 6 hour drive was worth it (and way cheaper). After a few pit stops, we made it to the airport around 4pm because our plane was scheduled to depart at 6.

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The Baltimore airport was very calm, so we checked our bags and passed through security with ease. We purchased our tickets with¬†WOW Air. This was our first time flying with this airline and our overall thoughts were average. Our plane tickets were reasonably priced (for a flight to Europe), but we didn’t recieve any amenities. There were no TVS on the plane and they didn’t serve any food or drinks without a charge. We also left about 30 minutes late for no apparent reason. However, it was clean and the staff was very friendly. We sat next to another screaming toddler who never¬†stop crying for the entire 6 hour flight. This was a HUGE bummer because we never slept.

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We¬†arrived in Iceland at 6am local time and it was pouring rain. We de-boarded the plane on the runway and caught¬†a shuttle to the luggage terminal. Before arriving, we assumed that we’d need to stand in a huge customs and border control line in order to enter the country. However, they simply checked our passports and let us walk right in!

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As soon as we collected all of our bags, we picked up our rental car through ProCar. It was a dark, cold, and rainy morning with little to no sleep (thank’s to that screaming child).¬†Once we packed everything into our tiny rental car, we drove 40 minutes to the town of Reykjavik. Not much was open, so we went to a local juice shop to¬†refuel¬†before starting our first day.

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The town of Reykjavik was so cute and quaint! There were so many Christmas lights and decorations for the holidays.

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We didn’t wear all of our layers during our day of travel, so as you can imagine, we were freezing while walking around outside. At 9am we went to a small cafe for breakfast. This place was known for their famous waffles, so of course that’s what we ordered! They did not disappoint!

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I’m fighting to stay awake! At this point, it was 10 in the morning and it was still pitch dark outside. We asked a local what time the sun would rise, and they told us¬†that it typically rises around 11am during the winter.

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Our first stop in the city was the Hallgrimskirkja church. This church was built starting in 1945 and was finished in 1986. They still hold church services here today. In fact, we only had about 15 minutes to take our photos because they had a service scheduled.

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Most buildings within Reykjavic are low to the ground, so you can notice this church almost anywhere.

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This is a massive pipe organ that weighs 25 tons! This specific piece was finalized in 1992.

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Out front, there is a statue of Leif Erickson. They believe that Erickson was the very first European to discover America. There are records that suggest he found America in 1,000 A.D., which is way before Christopher Columbus.

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We stumbled upon an Islandic history museum and walked around.

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Once we were finished, we found the best hotdog stand to eat at for lunch! As you can see by the line, everyone else seems to enjoy their hotdogs as well!

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It’s located downtown across from the harbor and has been open for 80 years!

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We LOVED our hotdogs! They were so yummy, and it was a simple and easy meal to eat while exploring on our very first day.

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Throughout Iceland, you will notice churches scattered throughout. They all have white bodies with red roofs and are practically identical. The only thing that varies is the size of the building.

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We couldn’t check into our airbnb until 5pm. We killed time by driving around the city and walking in and out of shops.

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We ended our extremely long day by eating pizza in the city. Of course we had to fit pizza into our trip at least once! ūüôā None of us had slept for at least 30 hours, so we wanted something simple and comforting.

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The pizza was great and exactly what we needed!

AIRBNB REVIEW: 

We rented an apartment that was located downtown and above some of the shops. While we were searching for a place to stay, airbnb offered the best deals and had exactly what we were looking for. We didn’t want to spend too much money on a hotel that¬†we’d essentially only be sleeping in.

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This apartment was recently renovated and very clean. It had everything that we needed! There were heated floors in the kitchen, amazing views, a heated towel rack in the bathroom, and super cozy beds.

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We wouldn’t have gotten anything as nice as¬†this if we’d opted to stay in a hotel. If you ever find yourself in Iceland, we’d highly recommend staying here. The only downfall, was that we couldn’t check in until 5pm and the owner was very strict about this. Also, there was no parking spot included, but we never had any problems finding a spot along the street right outside.

You can find the link to this apartment by clicking HERE.

Life Update: Moving, Wedding & Football

Hello Everyone!

Taylor and I have been¬†MIA on our blog lately because we’ve been super busy and adjusting to new changes. After three years of having a long distance relationship, we are finally living in the same city!! The closest we’ve ever lived to each other, was 3 hours. It is so surreal being able to date like a “normal” couple. Now, we’re only a 15 minute drive away. We’re very thankful to be where we are today, and wouldn’t be here¬†without the love and support from our friends and family.

We’ve both officially moved from South Carolina to Florida! Taylor accepted a graduate assistantship with the University of Florida, where he will complete his Masters in Athletic Training, which will take him two years to finish. He’s also¬†started doing research in hopes of going on to complete his PHD. Needless to say, he’s been busy!

A lot of people have been asking us about our living arrangements while we’re down here. Before Taylor moved, he wanted to stay somewhere comfortable without spending his entire salary. He did a lot of research and nothing stood out to him. One day, he came up with the idea of living¬†in my parent’s camper at a local campground!! Ha! I was completely against the idea, so I rent an apartment. However, Taylor¬†has spent the past 3 months living in a camper. If you know Taylor, you know that this is right up his alley! If you want to see a post on how he does this, just let us know in the comments.

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As for myself, I moved at the beginning of September. It was difficult leaving the job I loved and my new friends, but I’m happy we’re finally together. I’ve been working with a company located in Jacksonville as an SEO content writer. The position allows me to work remotely, while incorporating my love for writing. I’ve also taken a full-time position with Chick-fil-A! I had several interviews with companies around the area, but after a lot of prayer and direction, Chick-fil-A was the best place for me and my career goals. I look forward to growing professionally and making advancements.

So far, transitioning to Florida has been smooth. As most of you know, Taylor and I are huge Clemson football fans! We moved from the ACC to the SEC and we’re trying to love the Florida Gators as much as we love the Clemson Tigers. It’s tough, but we’re working on it. ūüôā

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The two teams keep our weekends filled with A LOT of football. When we’re not in Gainesville, we’re traveling to¬†Clemson games. So far, we’ve¬†traveled¬†to see Clemson play Auburn and Georgia Tech.

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As for¬†the wedding, the big day¬†is quickly approaching! Our time as an engaged couple is flying, but with all the holiday’s drawing near, the time is only going to pass quicker. So far, we’ve locked down a date, venue, florist, theme, guest list, dress, and¬†photographer. For those of you who don’t know, the wedding will be held in South Carolina during May 2017. You can read about our engagement here.

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Every time I think we’ve got everything under control, I realize there’s¬†50 other things to do! Currently, we’re working on save the dates, our registry, and our honeymoon destination! We’ll be honest, we had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to pick a honeymoon location. We’ve been scouring the internet looking for the best hotels, flights, and accommodations. There are a few destinations we’ve been eyeing, but nothing has really stood out to us yet. We’re ready to find that “wow” place! We’re always welcome for suggestions!

Thank’s for reading! ūüôā