2018: The Year of Travel

2018 is over! What an adventure this year was. Looking back at my year, I truly have so much to be lucky for. I touched 27 U.S. states, visited hundreds of cities, and met people I never imagined possible. So, without further ado, here is my 2018 year in review…

My year started with a road trip from my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, to Washington D.C. with my uncle. We drove straight east then straight up, traveling along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. We visited Austin, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Savannah, Charlotte, Williamsburg, and Washington D.C. all in a matter of days. I spent New Year’s on the road.

I moved into my new house in Greenbelt, Maryland, where I lived in snow for the first time. I’ve visited mountains on the west coast and experienced snow plenty of times, but this was the first time where I had to shovel my car out of snow, drive in snow, and have my first “snow day” at work.

Despite my roommate, living in Greenbelt was incredible because I was 15 miles away from our nation’s capital. Riding the metro into downtown was a part of my weekend commute when I visited Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, Chinatown, Arlington Cemetery and countless other places; I went to the National Geographic Festival at their headquarters downtown! I was also in DC during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which was so incredible! I got really used to traveling alone and eating delicious, authentic cuisine.

For the first eight months of the year I interned at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center working on social media and science communications for the Hubble Space Telescope. That internship taught me so much about communicating science to a gigantic audience from all around the world. From writing social media posts, to producing videos, to analyzing statistics, to planning events, to discussing the mechanics of how the telescope works — it was so overwhelming in such a beneficial way. I met astronauts, the NASA head administrator, and some truly amazing scientists and engineers. I made connections at the space center that I hope will last me a lifetime and memories that will stay with me even longer than that.

During my internship, I maintained my status as a full-time student at my university, the University of Arizona. This is something I do not recommend to anyone — being a full-time NASA intern and full-time student was grueling. I worked a full day and came home and completed hours of homework for my online classes. However, my hardwork paid off and I’m going to graduate on time with my Bachelor’s degree in May 2019!

One of my favorite trips every year is visiting my grandparents in Spokane, Washington, which I was able to do this past spring. I love being amongst the giant pine trees, where the air smells so pure and everything is green. We visited downtown Spokane and Cour d’Alene, one of my favorite places. During my visit, my grandpa surprised me with a ziplining adventure in the trees! I had wanted to go ziplining for years and it lived up to all of my expectations! I loved it so much and can’t wait to take my baby brother when he gets older.

My 21st birthday brought me to San Francisco, California, with my two best friends. San Francisco, as always, was beautiful and fun. It’s a city full of potential and delicious cuisine. We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, ate at Chinatown, played vintage games at Fisherman’s Warf, and took a sunset boat ride in the bay.

Summer brought me an experience that I will never forget — the 4th of July at our nation’s capital. I’d always wanted to watch the fireworks live over the Lincoln Memorial and this year I fulfilled my dream. I watched the Independence Day parade (and got so sunburnt), visited the Capital Building, and ventured into the Library of Congress during the day. In the evening, I found a spot right in front of the Washington Monument with a perfect view of the Lincoln Memorial and fireworks show. The fireworks show was spectacular and the entire time I was awash with awe at my circumstances — a young woman from Arizona watching fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial at our nation’s capital. It was amazing.

Some weeks during my internship I worked extra hours so that I could go on longer weekend trips…

I went on my first solo train ride for my first solo trip to New York City. NYC is the city of lights and people. Being an introvert, it isn’t one of my top favorite cities but it’s definitely special in its own way. I appreciate the worldliness and opportunity of NYC, but it is also much louder and dirtier than what I’m used to or prefer. In NYC, I visited Coney Island, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Empire State Building, Staten Island, Central Park, and the New York Times building, among others.

This summer I also made my first solo extended roadtrip to Niagara Falls, New York. I didn’t have my passport so I couldn’t go to Canada, but seeing the falls from the American side was just as incredible. I went on the historic “Maid of the Mist” boat ride along the falls and got drenched by the Horseshoe Falls. It was AMAZING and definitely worth the trip! I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t been already! Niagara Falls was definitely my favorite place that I visited this year.

I also went on a few day trips to other cities around Washington D.C….

One of my favorite day trips was Harper’s Ferry, a national historic park due to its’ history during the Civil War. It was really awesome to see Jefferson’s Rock and hike a little bit of the Appalachian Trail at the national park.

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Jefferson’s Rock at Harper’s Ferry, WV

I remember one time I went into Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium and eat at Hard Rock Cafe, and this particular visit I happened to be there during the Light City Parade. I love parades so it was a happy coincidence!

Annapolis is a beautiful traditional east coast-style town. It’s main attraction is the Naval Academy, but it also has a lovely harbor and downtown shopping area. I went with my Hubble team one time and got some delicious ice cream downtown.

Spending the day at Six Flags America was the first time that I had been to an amusement park alone, but it was a nice experience. The park wasn’t busy and I rode my favorite rides over and over and over again until I felt faint (which never happens to me).

The conclusion of my internship in August meant that I had to go home. My uncle thankfully flew out to D.C. to help drive me home again. This time we took a different roadtrip home than when we drove up to D.C. and we made this drive a little bit more leisurely. We took a detour to New York City, stopping at famous Civil War battle sites along the way, and ate pizza in Manhattan. On a whim, we made a pitstop in Philadelphia to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell; I’m so glad that we stopped because it was really incredible to see where our constitution was signed. We drove through Columbus and Indianapolis, which were interesting cities, and stayed the night in St. Louis. I was able to go inside the Gateway Arch, which was so cool and unlike anything I had visited before! Oklahoma City, another of our stops, was surprisingly much nicer than I expected, and Roswell, New Mexico, was… unique. They’ve really taken the “alien” superstition to heart and even the lampposts in their downtown area have alien heads. Our final stop before arriving home was White Sands National Park, where my uncle and I went “sledding” in the white sand and sweat our butts off. White Sands was also in my top favorite places that I visited this year.

I arrived home in Tucson, Arizona, just days before classes started. This semester was my last fall semester as an undergraduate student and my second-to-last semester before graduation. It was definitely challenging to get back into student-mode after a year away from campus, but I somehow finished this semester.

Last minute in December, my work at the observatory led me to make a short trip to southern California to film videos at the Mt. Wilson Observatory and Cargenie Observatory plate vault. It was an extremely exciting and exhausting trip with some of my coworkers.

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Filming 100+ year old plates at the Carnegie Observatory

The last few months of 2018 I’ve taken life pretty easy. I’ve been appreciating being home with family, especially my baby brother and puppy, and my best friends. I’ve been appreciating my senior year as an undergraduate college student at my amazing university. I’ve been appreciating my desert and cactuses (AP style states “cactuses,” not “cacti”), which I missed a lot more than I expected. I’ve been appreciating my job at Steward Observatory at my university, where I am able to be creative and work on projects that I am passionate about. And most importantly, I’ve been appreciating life —

Working on self-love. Decreasing negativity. Buying plants for my room. Expressing my love and appreciation for everyone who has made an impact in my life. Finding joy and beauty in the simple things in life. I keep thinking that I’m in between adventures while I finish my degree, but I also keep reminding myself that college is an adventure too, just a different kind of adventure.

Who knows where I’ll be this time next year and what 2019 will bring? So, thanks 2018 for my year of adventure, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store!

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Thanks for reading! How was your 2018? Do you want me to write specific posts about any of my adventures from this year that I haven’t written about on my blog yet? Let me know in the comments and like this post!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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