Coming at you live from Chagrin Falls, Ohio! WOOO! There is nothing like my true home; where I was born and raised. And no matter where I travel, a big part of my heart will always be there, amongst the picturesque waterfalls and in the stands of my high school football stadium and with my family. The problem is, everywhere I go and live and meet new friends, a little part of my heart is always left there too. Rocky Top, Hermosa, and now Istres, France. The heart of a traveler I guess, leaving little pieces all over the world. 20140202-155133.jpg

The past nine months of my life spent overseas, away from my support system and home, were some of the most trying times in my life. But I have also come away with some amazing experiences and memories I will never forget. Not only that, but I have new friendships I know will last many years, and a family of sorts in a small little town in Southern France on the sea.   I learned so, so, so much. I don’t even really know where to begin so here are a few big notes:

1.  Packing. I was talking to a friend recently about how liberating it is to pack up into a bag or two, and that is all you have for an extended period of time. But the matter of fact is that, that is all you really need. I have so so much stuff I don’t need.   There’s a freedom to being able to squeeze into a backpack and just go for a week, or a 50 pounder (or two) and go for nine months. But less definitely is more.

2.  Being in a foreign place is so different. I think that being tolerant and flexible is so important to the experience. Every culture does things differently, and you never know when someone may react to something in a way that may not necessarily be what you are used to. On a club team there is almost always a blend of many different nationalities, and everyone handles things differently. Being able to adapt easily and go with the flow, as opposed to being stuck in your own cultural ways makes for a much better experience. It’s also an awesome way to transition into a new culture.

3.  Treasure little things and keep a “childlike wonder” Sometimes getting lost in the city you live in or taking a train somewhere new for a day is all it takes to gain perspective and renew appreciation when you’re feeling down and worn out.

4.  Fight. I had a few moments this year that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it a full season. I am so so glad I stuck it out, I was tested time and time again, and stretched to limits. But I came through all of this with a stronger heart and soul. The only way out is through sometimes. But I am so happy that I can say I made it through such a marathon of a season. And I am very prepared to face whatever is next! 20140214-190658.jpg

And it’s hard to put into words, 9 months of life and experiences. But more than anything I want to use this as an outlet to say thank you (a thousand times :)) 20140409-202630.jpg

To my amazing, supportive roommate Alyssa, who I left this morning. I am so lucky that I got stuck with you for 9 months. We meshed so well, and some how were able to know when we needed to talk, or when we needed to just hole ourselves up in our rooms and have solo TV marathons. I’m so thankful for your drive and competitive edge, that always reminded me of home.

To Dana: You were always such a perfect escape for me. Playing the same position and splitting time we could have easily been rivals. But being able to work together during matches and at practice and bounce things off each other made things so much easier. I will never forget that convo we had on the bikes in Toulouse right before we went home for Christmas. You are like a sister to me.

To all the other girls, and IOPV family: thank you for everything. The laughs, the French lessons, and all your happy smiles around the gym every day. We all had our moments, but I couldn’t have picked a better group of girls. Thank you to the club, for your time and generosity and endless support. Win or lose. Like I said earlier, I know I always have a family in Istres.

I cannot wait to see what my future holds in volleyball and life. But I will never forget my time in Provencal southern France 🙂 “Stillness is what actually kills us…Go, Run, Act, Find, Dare” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHg9XSyd8Fo


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