DreamStone Diaries: Episode 1 – We bought a house!?

Okay guys… we’re off to a crazy start here in Florida. We’ve only been here two weeks, and it feels like months. Our days are jam packed with meetings and research and house hunting and evaluations and networking… not to mention trying to record it all and edit it down into a vlog so you guys can come along for the ride and learn from our mistakes experience. Our heads are spinning… but in the best way possible 🙂

Grab a comfy chair and enjoy our first vlog, DreamStone Diaries – Episode 1:

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By the time you read this, there will be even more updates and news to share. It’s a real life drama that’s unfolding every hour. Honestly, we’re just along for the ride on this rollercoaster and trying to keep our sanity. At least I have someone to hang onto this time around! Lucas has been amazing throughout this business-launching stage, and I really couldn’t pull this off without him (spreadsheets and I don’t get along). I’ll have to step up and put my strengths into play as soon as we get the keys to this first house, which is scheduled to be the day after Valentine’s. Eek! So much to plan, so little time.

This is the part where I need your help—with so much flying around right now, what do you want to learn about or see more of? What topics can we address in the next episode that you want answered from a real, honest perspective? We’re just getting started and we certainly don’t know it all, but we’ve learned an incredible amount compared to just a few months ago and want to help you guys too!

Drop me a note in the comments below, or find me on Facebook, instagram or email at jenna@jennasuedesign.com. More excitement, coming right up!

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The DreamStone Homes Vlog

As promised after my recent announcement about our new company, today is the debut of our very first vlog! Click to watch:

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This past week has been a complete whirlwind (how has it only been 7 days since we landed in Florida?!) and it’s just the beginning.

On top of unpacking, getting situated, 16 hour days filled with calls and meetings and paperwork—we’re attempting to document the entire crazy process to share with the world. We hope that this will help others on the same path or who are simply interested in learning about real estate investing, starting a business from the ground up or the rehab & design aspect. Also, it will be fun to look back in 10 or 20 years and see where we started 😉

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Now we want to hear from you—what do you want to see and learn about? We’re basically guinea pigs here, trying to figure it all out from scratch. We’ve made a lot of progress since last year, but we’re committed to dedicating our lives to becoming experts on the whole spectrum of real estate investing (including rehab & design, of course!). I don’t see this discussed much in the blogosphere, so we’re hoping to fill that niche as best as we can.

Reach out to me on instagram, facebook, or leave a comment below with any questions or topics you’d like us to address. Nothing is off limits, and we’ll be doing ongoing video Q&A’s with our answers.

Is it weird that I’m more excited about this than the day we left to travel the world for 8 months? Maybe that just means this is really what I’m meant to do. Big things are coming… I can feel it!

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My Top 10 Design Trends for 2018

There’s nothing like being taken out of your natural habitat and exposed to incredible design from all over the world to re-energize your batteries. After spending most of last year immersed in cultures I’d only dreamed about—from ancient Greek civilizations to the Renaissance masters to iconic Asian temples, you can bet I took a ton of notes and inspiration back with me.

Of course, I also kept an eye on what was happening back home (thank you Instagram & Pinterest) and the result has birthed a new design style—an extensive catalog of images that have caught my eye fused with mental snapshots from around the globe.

Truly, I’ve never been more pumped about interior design in my life (absence makes the heart grow fonder?) and I am chomping at the bit to get started on a new project.

I needed a place to collect my thoughts and inspiration, so I created a 2018 Design Pinterest board and today I want to share the top 10 design ideas & trends I’m most excited about for the new year!

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1. Mosaic & Patterned Tile

If there’s one thing that consistently stood out throughout every single country we stepped foot in, tile was it. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the most universal design element. Even in the most lackluster places, you can find hidden gems in tile with unexpected colors, patterns and placement.

The moment that sparked it all for me was walking into Pompeii in Italy, the archaeological site that was essentially frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. We’re looking at mosaic tile that was laid in the 6th century BC, folks. I was completely captivated.

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Tiny bits of stone carefully placed to create these intricate designs that tell ancient stories—how could you not be inspired from the civilization that started this trend? I spent hours on the hunt for these masterpieces, running around snapping photos of every tile floor I could find. You bet I’ll be replicating some of these in my future work. Even outside the village in the city of Pompei, you’ll find mosaic on the sidewalks:

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The pattern possibilities are endless!

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One trend that has particularly caught my eye are words/numbers, specifically in an entrance:

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So fun, right? Unique touches like these are really what make a place special and memorable. Even without taking that extra step to spell something out, I’m loving the idea of “tile carpets” or sections of floor with a tile inlay, particularly in entrances or bathrooms (bonus points if it’s mixed with wood!)

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Beyond that, I’m always on the hunt for show-stopping tile like this:

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Except that I have yet to find anything like this that isn’t outrageously expensive… if you have a source, please let me know!

2. Molding/trim details

I’ve always been vocal about wall/ceiling trim and molding being the holy grail in the bang-for-your-buck category, and my conviction in that has only been strengthened after traveling. Now I want to take it a step further, past the shiplap, beadboard and traditional moldings. It’ll be an uphill battle to achieve the look I want on a limited budget, but it’s a fight I’m willing to stay in ’til the end.

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I blame Morocco and India for these new high standards. You can’t walk a block without passing beautifully carved wood and plaster accents covering every building. Square edges just don’t cut it for me anymore.

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With that said, I don’t see myself figuring out a way to recreate an entire Moroccan riad on the cheap anytime soon, so I’ll have to start small and work my way up. Even something as simple as adding a wood appliqué to a small section of wall or furniture makes a world of difference (spoiler alert, I already have a project in mind!)

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Ceiling medallions are an easy and fairly inexpensive way to add architectural interest (tip, you can apply them to more than just ceilings):

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I just love how creative you can be with this! Just think of all the flat and plain surfaces that can be transformed. Ahh, the smell of possibility…

3. Non-traditional cased openings/doorways

You know you’ve seen too much when the sight of a plain doorway wrapped in drywall and paint makes you die a little inside. I don’t wanna live that kind of life anymore. It’s time to step up our game in 2018, folks.

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I know, this is one of those things that your house was either blessed to be built with or not. I plan to seek out homes that specifically have these unique details, but I understand they’ll be few and far between. I haven’t priced out what it would cost for a contractor to do that sort of custom work, but there are other ways to add interest to those plain openings. Like a transom window hung horizontally and/or vertically, for instance:

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And the ever popular reclaimed wood:

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I’m a huge fan of this casing that incorporates carved corbels, rosettes and an aged paint technique. I can see this being a fun and relatively easy DIY!

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Even something as simple as a rounded or arched doorway—if you can swing the cost, it will elevate the look and feel your room tremendously.

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4. Non-traditional doors

Sticking with this architectural interest theme, I’d be crazy to leave out doors. Transforming boring doors has been my mission for years (remember my DIY door tutorials here, here, here, here, here, here and here?) and now the bar is set even higher.

You know how I said that tile was what most consistently stood out in every country we visited? Well, I just changed my mind. Doors win that title, hands down. I love you America, but the rest of the world is killing it with their doors.

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These aren’t just the doors of fancy churches or palaces either—they’re typical homes and abandoned buildings and everything in between. Every door is unique and has history and character. That’s what we should aim to bring into our homes.

I’m particularly drawn to arched doors, but of course those are exponentially more expensive (both materials & labor) so I may have to curb my expectations on that for a while.

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Not just exterior doors, but in unexpected places like a cabinet pantry:

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Places like salvage yards and flea markets are the perfect hunting grounds for these pieces, but they often don’t come cheap and I’d imagine the labor costs involved will be even more. Anyone have experience with something like this? I’d love your feedback on the costs!

5. Special sinks

I’m pretty sure every sink I’ve ever purchased has been a classic white vessel or farmhouse, but in 2018 I’m looking to break out of that pattern. Leave it to Greece, perhaps my favorite country in all the land, to make me change my ways. Rustic and stone is all I dream about now…

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There are so many amazing possibilities once you leave the world of white ceramic. Concrete is something I’ve been considering for a while…

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This mediterranean style beauty has me wishing I was back in Portugal…

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Or how about something completely outside the box, like an outdoor garden basin?

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I could sink shop all day long. The trickier part will be striking that balance between price, form and function. I’ll be designing real life houses, on a real budget for real people, so something’s gotta give. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out!

6. Built-in ranges & hoods

Have you noticed the trend of large wall surrounds being built around stoves? I can’t get enough of it.

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Maybe it’s not a new thing and I’ve only just caught on, but I’m obsessed. Talk about a focal point in the kitchen.

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There’s so many different ways you can play around with this arrangement and style—including hidden storage on the inside, rustic or fancy molding or shelving on the outside, or a simple and clean smooth finish. I can not wait to implement this.

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7. Integrated/custom appliances

I’ll just lay it out there: I’m over stainless steel. I’ve never really been much of a silver girl, but the general US population has demanded stainless for the past decade so that is what we do without thinking twice. But you know what SS? It’s 2018 and your time is up!

Ok, I wish it were that easy. It’ll take a lot more than one person to change the minds of a collective nation, so in the meantime I’ll look for ways around it. Unfortunately, the ways around it = big bucks, so I’ll have to ride out this stainless steel wave until manufacturers start providing affordable options, or I win the lottery and can afford $7,000 stoves.

But in the meantime, a girl can dream…

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Lacanche, help a sister out!

Colored ranges are my jam. How are we able to choose every color and style of flooring, cabinets, counters and tile under the sun—but we’re stuck with giant boxes of reflective metal that don’t match anything? This is an epidemic, people.

Beautiful ranges are one thing, but then we still have refrigerators and dishwashers to worry about. In a perfect world, those would all be integrated (faced with panels that match your cabinets):

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Of course, this is also quite expensive and I have yet to find an affordable alternative. Hopefully this post will start a movement, or at least a call to action for the manufacturers to provide options to those of us on a budget. If nothing else, I’m putting this energy out into the universe and maybe it will manifest… 😉

8. Antique glass mirrors

Those mercury glass style mirrors have always stopped me in my tracks, and I was able to try it out for myself with a DIY project at the Cottage House Flip:

It turned out to be my favorite mirror of all time and I was completely sold on this antique finish look. There’s plenty of DIY tutorials out there, and the greatest part is that you can even turn any window into an antique mirror! If these photos aren’t enough to make you run to your nearest hardware store to grab the supplies, I don’t know what is.

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I like them in unexpected places, like built into a bar area:

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Or behind a night stand:

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And how insanely good is this copper beauty?

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You’re only limited to your imagination!

9. White walls + Gray trim

Ok, so I might have stolen this one from Mrs. Joanna Gaines… or maybe I did this in the Cottage House Flip last year before she did? Classic chicken and egg situation 🙂

But watching it appear time and time again on latest season of Fixer Upper has me sold. Gray walls & white trim have been the default for the past several years—why not switch it around? In the words of the wise Sheryl Crowl, I think a change will do you good.

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Isn’t it a breath of fresh air?

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The gray accent doesn’t have to be limited to the trim—it can carry over to doors, shelving and other accents. It doesn’t have to even be limited to gray either, but I’d caution choosing a non-neutral color because painting over trim if you change your mind later is a huge time commitment.

10. Brick + Stone

If you followed the Cottage House Flip, you may remember what a big impact those brick pavers made:

I used them in a bathroom, laundry room and even the kitchen… and I could have kept going! The pavers are great because they’re thin and you can lay them anywhere, just like tile. They work well in any room too, both indoor and outdoor. You’ll see a lot more of these in my future.

Another material I’ve dabbled a bit with in the past is stone, in the form of pebble tiles in my old bathroom:

I can’t get enough of that earthy look so those will also be making a comeback at some point.

For future designs, I want to experiment with new materials, like the rough stone walls I fell in love with in the south of France:

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I’m all about chunky, textured, imperfect surfaces. These work beautifully in small doses or as accent walls, in any room:

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Budget will likely be a big factor in how well I can execute my vision, but if the option is there, I’m taking full advantage!

It was hard to narrow this list down to 10—I could go on all day about everything I’m obsessing over! A few more things I’m loving right now are brass, mixed metals, natural wood tones, black and white, vintage oriental rugs, antique furniture, carved wood anything, wallpaper, and minimalist fireplace mantels.

And just for fun, here are a few colors that are high on my list for 2018…

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Woodlawn Colonial Gray is the accent color I used all throughout the Cottage House Flip. It took a lot of trial and error to find that perfect shade of pale gray, so I’m sticking with what works! I also used Dark Kettle Black on all of the doors, and it was the richest black I could find. I loved the results!

Tender Shell is an interesting one—a photo of a subtle pinkish-taupe door caught my eye the other day, and I can’t get it out of my head. This color would be fun on a piece of furniture or an accent somewhere.

I’m all about the sage greens this year, both dark and light. I haven’t tried these two colors out in person yet, but will be experimenting with that soon!

I’ve also been on the hunt for a pale mushroom gray, just like the cabinets from DeVol kitchens I posted under #6 above, and Brown Buzz looks like it could be a worthy candidate. I want to try these on kitchen cabinets myself, or any piece of furniture, perhaps even walls.

If you’ve used any colors that are a close match to any of the ones listed above, please let me know! It’s always helpful to see results from others first.

Whew… how’s that novel for my first design related post in forever? I’m finally able to let out some of that pent up inspiration over the past 10 months! This is just the beginning, my friends.

Coming up next, the debut of our new vlog! We’ve kept the camera rolling these past few weeks as we packed up & moved from California to Florida, and officially launched our real estate business here in Tampa. There’s so much to talk about! In the meantime, you can catch me over on instagram & facebook and stay in the loop about everything. Make sure you’re following my 2018 Pinterest board for more design inspiration, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll be the first to know when our vlog goes live later this week! <3

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Day 1 Of Our New Lives!

Hello from Tampa, Florida! The three of us (including our kitty, Susie) survived yesterday’s long travel day and are settling in to our new temporary home. Our car and belongings are still en route so we’ll be living out of backpacks and on an air mattress for a little while—but of course we’re used to that 🙂

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Earlier this year I mentioned our big plans to travel and then move to Florida to start a real estate investment company, but I wanted to share more details around that decision.

Most of you know I’ve been doing this home renovation thing for a while, and it’s always been a goal of mine to become a full time investor, which is why I finally made the leap last year with the Cottage House Flip.

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Lucas had a career in technology sales, but after he took a break and spent some time traveling on his own, he realized his work was no longer fulfilling. Investing in real estate was always an idea in the back of his mind, and with my experience and background, joining forces and starting our own company together just felt right.

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Introducing the next chapter in our lives, DreamStone Homes. We’ll be buying and rehabbing properties in the Tampa Bay/St. Pete area, both as flips and buy & holds.

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Why Florida? Well, largely due to the investor-friendly real estate market. As much as we love California, the availability of deals are slim to none, and the cost of entry is outrageous. We considered other markets like Austin and Chicago, but in the end decided we’d rather live in Florida. Lucas went to college there (UT) and some of you may remember that I lived in Jacksonville for a few years (my sister still lives there).

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We love the weather, the beaches, the city amenities and low cost of living. I don’t think we’ll end up staying here forever—mostly because I crave change too much—but we believe it’s the perfect place to jumpstart our business. We haven’t purchased any properties just yet, so we’ll be living in an apartment until we find a place that makes sense to move into.

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As always, I’ll be taking you guys with me on this journey, which now involves much more than renovating/decorating and traveling. Starting and operating any successful company from the ground up is quite the task, especially when there’s no Plan B. Failure is not an option for us!

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Just like I DIY’ed my way through rehabbing 4 houses, we’ll both be doing the same while trying to learn the ins and outs of RE investing. We’ve spent months researching and putting our plan together, and now it’s time to execute. Through this blog (and our new vlog, coming next week!) we hope to help others on this same journey, or who are simply curious about how this all works, by sharing our experience and lessons learned.

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It’s such an exciting time in our lives, and we hope to be able to look back one day to relive our humble beginnings and remember where we started. We really hope you’ll join us on this new adventure, and please reach out to say hello and let us know you’re there with us!

In the next post I’ll be sharing my design plans and obsessions for 2018. I’ve got a ton of pent up inspiration from our travels and can’t wait to show you what’s on my radar for the coming months!

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If you have any questions so far, please comment below or reach me on Instagram or Facebook. We’ll also be doing some Q&A in the vlog so we may just answer your question there!

I hope your 2018 is off to a great start! The sun is shining here in Tampa and the future looks bright 😎

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2017: This is Our Year

As we ring in the new year, I can’t let 2017 go without pausing to reflect on the incredible journey it was for us. I spent endless hours documenting our experiences—through words, photos and video, and over the last month I’ve sorted through it all to create the highlight reel. Here is Our Year:

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In 2017, we left our lives behind in California to see the world. Over the course of 8 months, we traveled across 5 continents through 20 countries with just our backpacks.

There were moments of awe and sadness, times of fear and illness, and days of pure bliss. There were challenges to overcome, lessons to learn, and a lifetime of memories made.

We returned with a bond stronger than ever, a deep sense of gratitude for life and pure excitement to begin a new chapter together as a family.

2017 was truly the best year of our lives. We will hold onto this renewed sense of adventure and wonder, and take it with us through 2018 and beyond. Through the words, photos and video captured on this life changing trip, we will never forget how we felt in these moments.

You can catch all of the details, plus journal entries & photos from the entire trip by using the Search tool on this blog. And if you missed any of the travel videos, you can find them all on my Youtube channel.

Thank you for joining us on this amazing journey. It’s not over yet… 2018 will be the year of our new vlog! Come along for the ride as we move to Florida and start very different kind of adventure—investing in real estate 🙂

Cheers to a new year of endless possibilities… let’s make it our best one yet!

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My Parents Bathroom Renovation

Since finishing up the Cottage House Flip this past February, I haven’t been able to work on a single house project in nine months—the longest break from DIY/rehabbing since I bought my first home in 2008!

Fortunately, my parents took on a project of their own during this time and I think it turned out pretty amazing—so amazing that I just had to share it with you guys. Their bathroom needed a makeover in a major way, and after two months of work, the final result was unrecognizable.

I wish I could take credit for this one, but the extent of my help was limited to opinions on tile and placing a few orders. Even though our styles aren’t exactly the same, I can always appreciate design with unique and personal touches, and that’s what this bathroom has.

They lived with the Before like this for quite some time…

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Then came demo day, and putting it back together…

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And here’s what it looks like today:

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To help with their small space problem, my dad built a sliding barn door from tongue & groove boards he purchased from Lowe’s (then stained and distressed).

More white tongue & groove boards cover the walls and ceiling, helping the space to feel bright and open.

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Dark gray tile set in a herringbone pattern continue the rustic theme, while radiant heat flooring underneath keep bare feet warm on those cold winter days.

A window surround built by my dad from barn wood replaces standard white trim, and ties in with the vanity and flooring.

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Sweet farmhouse touches like metal sheep heads and vintage photos show off their mountain-country style.

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My mom purchased a vanity online complete with a marble top, and spray painted the handles to match the champagne bronze faucet. The mirror was a $20 thrift store find she painted gold.

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The old bathroom had no storage space at all, so they relocated a water heater to the garage and freed up space for custom open shelving.

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A furnace still lives to the right of the shelving, and my dad built a custom sliding barn door to keep it hidden yet still easily accessible.

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My mom loves color, so she had fun picking out tile for the shower. Classic subway tile set in a celadon green play nicely with flat river rock in varying shades of green, gray and brown.

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The old, cramped tub was ditched in favor of a large shower with a wide seat.

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Champagne bronze hardware keep the color palette warm and tie into the metals on the sink. Tempered glass doors allow for privacy while still allowing the room to feel open.

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I’m such a fan of the way it turned out—how about you?

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Thanks Mom & Dad for letting me take over your bathroom for an afternoon!

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They’ve even offered to share all of their sources and costs (okay so I convinced them to… I do it all for you guys! <3)

Paint: Valspar Bistro White

All tile from a local store, not found online unfortunately 🙁

Vanity: Jude 42″ French Vanity in Gray (it is more gray in person than these photos show!)

Sink faucet: Delta Linden in Champagne Bronze

Vanity light: Spray painted existing fixture

Barn door track hardware

Delta Linden Faucet & shower head

Delta hand shower system

Kohler shower grab bars

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And now for the costs!

Tile: $1850

Toilet: $200

Shower doors: $1300

Radiant heat flooring: $820

Building materials: $2660

Vanity: $1100

Hardware/fixtures: $1500

Labor: $14,700

Total: $24,130

I won’t lie, I was pretty shocked running through the numbers… those labor costs are killer! Apparently they ran into dry rot/framing issues that had to be completely redone, along with all new plumbing which ate up a lot of time and money.  Even still, I’ve averaged around $5k in most of my bathroom remodels and am hoping to spend less than this on kitchens in future rehabs! How does it compare to your experience and prices in your area?

I hope you enjoyed this post—it feels great to be back on the Home Blogging scene, and it’s just a taste of what’s to come in 2018! Lucas and I have some big plans and exciting updates to share in the new year, which is coming up fast. On January 9th we’ll land in Tampa to start our new lives together, and we’ll be documenting the process of moving across the country & settling in over on Instagram & Facebook if you want to follow along!

But for now, we’re enjoying the final days with our friends and family here in California before we say goodbye. I hope you have a wonderful and gratitude-filled holiday season with your loved ones this year. Happy holidays and we’ll see you back here next year!

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India: A Vlog & Tribute

After documenting our travels on this blog since April, it’s time for the final trip post! If you missed last weeks’ big recap (including best/worst places and a total cost breakdown), make sure to get caught up here.

I’ve made videos/vlogs for most of the countries we visited both as a creative outlet, and a way to preserve richer memories—beyond words and still photos. I’ve done my best to capture the spirit of each place and what they meant to us, and India was no exception.

India was loud, congested, vibrant, and chaotic. We were walking the line between a dream and a nightmare, where simple words and images fail to do it any justice. If you read the blog posts and cringed, prepare to be taken to the next level with this video. If you don’t ever plan to visit, consider this your virtual ticket (click to watch):

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With so much to cover, this video clocks in longer than usual at 16 minutes—so grab a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of wine (I won’t judge if it’s 11am), get comfortable and enjoy! Make sure to watch until the end for my favorite part—a cinematic tribute 🙂 Disclaimer: Sorry for the poor audio in the vlog—we now have a mic for next time!

Going through all of the old footage makes us so relieved and grateful to be home. There’s nothing like a comfortable bed, clean air and moments of silence. Don’t ever take the small things for granted!

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season with your friends & family. If you have a moment, leave a comment below or find me on instagram or facebook and let me know what you thought of the vlog, it would mean the world <3

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THE BIG TRIP RECAP: Best, Worst, and Cost Breakdown

Now that we’ve been home for a couple weeks and have had a chance to settle back in to a a new “normal”, it’s time to recap our 240-day trip around the world.

We’re covering the highs, the lows, and even revealing exactly how much everything cost! Without further ado, here’s what we came up with…

Top 3 Places


This question is almost impossible to answer because each place is so different. How can you compare an exotic beach to a snow covered mountain, or gauge how much your personal experience somewhere influenced your objective opinion about it? You can’t—but we’ve done our best to narrow it down to the places that really blew us away.

1. Machu Picchu

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The more of the world I saw, the more I realized just how special Machu Picchu is. It’s beyond the stunning view you see in photos—the surrounding landscape is equally as breathtaking in person.

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Towering peaks shrouded in layers of cloud and fog transport you to back in time to a prehistoric world. It’s a feeling that can’t quite be put into words—you really must experience it in person (I urge you to do so!)

2. The Italian & Swiss Alps

This famous mountain range cuts through multiple countries and when we first visited them in Italy, I was left speechless.

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Every winding turn during our road trip through the Dolomites in northern Italy had me gasping in awe. I think it is truly the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been to.

The Switzerland side is equally as stunning, with its storybook scenery of hilltop chalets and bell-wearing cows—if only it wasn’t so expensive!

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3. Greece

It’s no secret that Greece is my heaven on earth.

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From the food to the blue and white houses to the culture and crystal clear waters, I relished every moment of our 17 days there.

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I’ll never forget the memories and feeling of pure bliss on those islands. It’s my happy place, always and forever. And our Greece video was easily my favorite to make.

Honorable mentions: Southern France; Matera, Italy; Huacachina, Peru; Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Top 3 Experiences


1. Our Engagement

Of course, this was perhaps the best moment of my entire life, let alone this trip!

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It came as a complete surprise and changed the dynamic of the eight months to follow. Read our engagement story here, and watch our Brazil movie to see it on video.

2. Lucas’ Birthday in Carcasonne, France

For Lucas’ 30th Birthday we planned to be in the medieval castle town of Carcasonne, in the South of France. His birthday falls on Bastille Day, which is the French Independence Day, and Carcasonne puts on the country’s second best fireworks show (behind Paris).

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It was the first week of our road trip in Europe, and we were both on cloud nine. We frolicked through the castle walls and ate copious amounts of cheese and baguettes, sipped on French wine while picnicking in a vineyard and stared up at the fireworks while daydreaming about our future. It was pure magic, and honestly the best week of my life. Check out our France video if you haven’t watched it yet!

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3. Boat trip in Rincon Del Mar, Colombia

This was one of those surreal experiences we won’t soon forget. We were staying in a tiny fishing village on Colombia’s northern coast, and hired a small boat to take us swimming with bioluminescent plankton at night. On the way out, a massive lightning storm followed us across the open ocean. We eventually made it safely, dragging the boat through a hidden passageway to a secret lagoon.

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There we snorkeled amongst sparkling blue algae like a scene out of Avatar, as the night sky was lit up by the most dramatic spiderwebs of lighting we’d ever seen. I wish it was something we could capture on photo or video, but that night will live on in our memories forever.

Honorable Mentions: Dune buggying in Huacachina, Peru; all night street party in Porto, Portugal; sunset swimming in the Amazon, Ecuador; sleeping in our car in the Italian alps; local fire festival in Milos, Greece; reunion with friends at Oktoberfest; waking up to the Matterhorn in Switzerland; double rainbow storm in Ella, Sri Lanka; Bride & Groom competition in Pushkar, India

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Least Favorite Places


It’s easy to gush about your favorites, but what about the ones that fell short? Here are the spots we wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

1. Jaipur, India

We arrived in Jaipur after a rough experience in Pushkar left me feeling under the weather and jaded towards India. Jaipur was known as the mecca for shopping—filled with a plethora of handcrafted items, pink buildings and palaces. Imagine our disappointment when we saw this:

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Polluted, filthy, crowded, noisy and no decent shopping in sight. We did manage to have a beautiful wedding band custom made for Lucas, and the Monkey Temple was a lot of fun but those were the only two highlights. This was a lesson to always keep your expectations extremely low to avoid disappointment.

2. Salvador, Brazil

This was a similar situation for us—I became ill with the flu just as we arrived in Salvador, after raving reviews convinced us to fly there.

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The city itself wasn’t horrible, but we couldn’t explore most of it as we were told to stay near our hostel because of how dangerous it was. Armed police lined the streets all day and night, and multiple people from our hostel had been robbed. It was the most dangerous place we visited and just not worth the risk to go there.

3. Tangier, Morocco

Chalk this one up to too-high of expectations, once again. When you think of Morocco, you immediately visualize pristine palaces covered in colorful patterned tile and intricate wood carvings, right? Think again.

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Those instagram-worthy places do exist, but they’re usually hidden behind the closed doors of hotels or mosques, many of which you aren’t allowed in, or have to pay to enter. From the outside, Morocco looks like any other developing country, complete with the array of less-than-pleasing smells and sights that come with it. Once we accepted this and adjusted our expectations accordingly, we came to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of Morocco… but I still wouldn’t recommend Tangier as a place to visit.

Top 5 Favorite Photos


Almost an impossible task to pair down eight months into just five photos, but here they are—chosen both from personal preference and your favorites on Instagram:

1. St. Magdalena, Italy

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2. Machu Picchu, Peru

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3. Pushkar, India

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4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

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5. Lago di Braies, Italy

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How much did it all cost?


That’s the million dollar question! We sat down the other night and combed through every single bank and credit card statement over the past eight months. Before traveling, we knew we had enough money saved up to cover our expenses—and don’t forget, I still have an online shop I run remotely—so it wasn’t necessary to determine a specific budget beforehand.

With that said, we’re always budget minded with everything we do in life, and will travel as inexpensively as possible (without completely sacrificing comfort). And while we did spend over 3 months in Europe, more than half the trip was traveling within more affordable countries. PSA: America is one of the more expensive countries in the world, comparably.

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Unfortunately, many places aren’t up to date on technology and don’t accept credit cards, so all of our cash purchases (nearly half of our expenses) are unaccounted for. So while we do know how much we spent overall, we don’t have an accurate breakdown by category. Instead, we’ve tried to break it down by country—which still isn’t entirely accurate as some of the cash spent was brought with us from home, or converted currencies along the way. Basically, use this information as a general idea and not a guidebook 🙂

The breakdown below includes everything—flights, visas, trip insurance, accommodations, food, travel, shopping (not including our wedding rings), etc.  Important note: Last year, we both opened Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card accounts and received 100,000 bonus points each. We used the card almost exclusively and by the time our trip ended, we were able to redeem 512,000 points on air travel which equaled $7,700 in flights. We ended up paying another $1,670 out of pocket for airfare. That was a huge savings!

3 Weeks in Brazil: $3400

3 Weeks in Peru: $2425

8 Days in Ecuador: $900

3 Weeks in Colombia: $1187

2 Weeks in Portugal: $2716

10 Days in Spain: $2704

10 Days in France: $1869

4 Weeks in Italy: $6855

4 Days in Malta: $990

17 Days in Greece: $3026

17 Days in Croatia: $2918

4 Days in Munich: $974

1 Week in Switzerland: $1308

14 Days in Morocco: $1726

1 Week in Sri Lanka: $924

3 Weeks in India: $2636

4 Hours in Tokyo: $145

Grand Total: $37,937

When you break that down by day, we averaged $158/day for both of us, or $79/person per day. Not bad, considering rent alone in San Francisco cost $110/day for our room in a shared apartment. When you add in all of the normal living expenses, we definitely spent less while traveling the world.

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We certainly could have scaled back and sacrificed things like renting cars for road trips, the occasional splurge for dinner or a nicer AirBnb, or extras like boat trips and excursions—but those became some of our favorite moments and what made the trip special.

Alternatively, we could have easily spent 2-3x as much by staying in comfortable hotels, dining out for every meal and filling our day with activities. This is what you normally do on vacation, which is why it’s difficult for people to understand how they could afford an extended international trip. But you see—this wasn’t a vacation. It was replacing our existing lifestyle with one of a nomads—trading in our apartment for a temporary bed in a new city every few days. By committing to this lifestyle change, we were able to replace most of our monthly expenses rather than add to them.

And there you have it… almost eight months of travel boiled down into one single post. I hope this was helpful to those wanting to know how we made it work, and that our trip has given others inspiration to get out there and see the world! And make sure you read about how we pack minimally in case you missed it.

Can I ask which country was your favorite to follow along with? Did any particular photos/stories convince you to make travel plans? Connect with me in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram 🙂

Just in case you missed it, here’s the full lineup of the travel videos we made. These were so much fun to create, and a much needed creative outlet for me personally while I was away. Do you have a favorite?

3 Weeks in Brazil (& He Proposed!)

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17 Days in Peru: Cusco to Lima

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Eight Days in Ecuador

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3 Weeks in Colombia: Our Backpacking Adventure!

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2 Weeks in Portugal: New 4k Drone Footage!

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A Road Trip Through France: The best week ever!

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Malta in 4k

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One Month in Italy: A cinematic travel film

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Greece: A Blue Ocean Paradise

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Switzerland in September: A 4k aerial film

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Morocco: A Vlog Story

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1 Week in Sri Lanka: The Vlog

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Thank you all again for following along—I hope you enjoyed the ride! As always, if you have any questions about anything related to this trip, feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to answer and share my experience with you!

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season…

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India: Part 2

Day 225-228: Jaipur

The sky in northern India is a deep shade of ivory.

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At 5pm, a red sun is extinguished by the thick layer of pollution far above the horizon, signaling the days end.

No one seems to notice, and time never slows down for the billions living in India, in a perpetual frenzy to get wherever they’re going.

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We left Pushkar by public bus—a bumpy four hour ride where I couldn’t escape the unapologetic stares from local men.

I’d just become ill with the flu, and was praying for a comfortable bed and shower at our hostel in Jaipur.

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Jaipur is best known for handmade wares, jewelry and shopping. It’s also home to several palaces and forts, and it’s one corner of the “Golden Triangle” tourist route, along with Delhi and Agra.

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The city itself was the most congested we’d seen, with enough filth and trash to cover a landfill. The constant barrage of horns and yelling could be heard from every corner, including under the blanket from our bed. And this is supposed to be one of the nicer cities.

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 As much as I wanted to hide under the covers and sleep for three days, we had come here on a mission: to buy Lucas’ wedding band!

Back in April, we had my ring custom made in Brazil, and thought it would be neat to have his made on this trip as well. We settled on Jaipur with its reputation for the best jewelers.

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We found a trusted shop, the process was simple and painless, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out! We love that the stories and memories from this trip will always be wrapped around our finger.

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While the ring was a success, the rest of Jaipur was a disappointment when it came to shopping. We’d planned to finish all of our holiday gifts and souvenirs here, but we struggled to find anything worth taking home. They do have great fabrics and tailors, and I picked up a couple more items, but I’d never make a special trip to Jaipur for anything else.

There was one place we couldn’t get enough of however—the Monkey Temple!

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After climbing a winding mountain road past cows, goats, litters of pigs and wild gypsy children, you descend into a canyon  towards a hidden temple.

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Meticulously built as if it were a grand and significant place of worship in its day, now it looks more like something out of Jumanji.

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Tribes of monkeys run wild, scaling the walls and rooftops, chasing each other through empty corridors and jumping on tourists heads. They’re precious and friendly monkeys though, and we could have stayed there and fed them peanuts all day. And showed them the latest iPhone apps.

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Apart from the ring, those monkeys were the highlight of our three days in Jaipur, and that afternoon we were on a train to Agra.

Day 229-230: Agra

Agra is famous as home to the Taj Mahal, and infamous as the city everyone loves to hate. Even locals say not to stay there longer than a day. When our train pulled in that night, we noticed how foggy it was, and then quickly realized it wasn’t fog—it was pollution.

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The thick air had a very specific stench that soaked into your skin and clothing. We stayed indoors as much as possible. From what we did see of the city though, I thought it was much nicer than Jaipur.

We were up at 5am in hopes of beating the crowds at the Taj Mahal. What we didn’t realize was that the gates didn’t even open until after 7am, so our hopes of a sunrise there were dashed.

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Still, the crowds were pretty light and there were plenty of nice photo ops.

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You can’t see the sky in Agra, but the pollution actually gives a beautiful, ethereal quality. Always find the silver lining 🙂

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 For sunset, we found a viewpoint across the river to see the Taj from a different angle. It was quite a peaceful and serene setting. I’m not sure why everyone hates Agra so much…

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The next day we had an appointment to visit rescued elephants at the Wildlife SOS, just north of Agra. I’d been researching ethical sanctuaries in India, and this was the only one confirmed.

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Two years ago in Thailand, I first learned about the shocking and cruel treatment to captive elephants, and fell in love with the sweet creatures during a visit to a sanctuary.

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Unfortunately there are still hundreds of privately owned elephants in India today, used for everything from rides for tourists to religious/temple celebrations to begging on the street. The torture they put them through behind the scenes to domesticate and “break their spirit” is heartbreaking.

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Many of the elephants were injured and blind, but they were so sweet and gentle. We learned their story, walked with them and fed them, and I didn’t want to leave.

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Wildlife SOS operates on volunteers and donations, is actively in the process of trying to rescue more animals, and we were happy to contribute to such an important cause.

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By that evening, we were on an overnight train to Khajuraho.

Day 231-234: Khajuraho

The sleeper train situation looks pretty awful, but it’s actually nicer than many of the hostels in India. Even with screaming babies, snoring men two feet away from your face and squatty potties with no toilet paper. I feel like we should earn some sort of certificate for “Professional Traveler” after successfully completing four overnight trains in India.

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We arrived in Khajuraho, and it was like a breath of fresh (well, only halfway polluted) air.

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It’s a small town out in the rural countryside, dotted with temples and very few cars.

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We found a yoga/meditation center and decided to stay for four days, giving ourselves a mini retreat from the chaos between cities.

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It was just the break we needed. We did yoga every morning, rode bicycles around the temples, I was treated by a holistic doctor and finally began to feel better by the time we left.

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On our last night, we drove out to a house on the river in a forest of monkeys, with the owner of the hostel and a group of travelers from around the world. We watched the sunset and shared stories over a bonfire and homemade Indian food. That night we saw the stars for the first time in India, and I realized that despite what we’ve experienced here, our time is so precious, and there’s nowhere else I want to be right now than in this moment. Soon, we’re going to miss this.

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Day 235-236: Varanasi

The next day, we woke up on a 14 hour train to Varanasi. Considered to be the holiest city in India, Varanasi sits along the Ganges River where worshippers come to bathe, participate in religious ceremonies and cremate the dead.

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We knew going in that this would be the most intense place to experience Indian culture, and it sure lived up to its reputation.

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We arrived in the afternoon and immediately wandered along the riverfront, observing the activities at each ghat (wide staircases leading down to the river). After a few minutes we came across a crowded area with burn piles. It was one of the two “burning ghats”, which is where the cremations happen.

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In the Hindu religion, Varanasi is the most sought after final resting place, allowing your soul to enter directly into heaven after the sacred ritual. Worshippers travel here from all over India to secure the highest afterlife for their deceased loved ones. Children, holy men, pregnant women and those killed by a Cobra bite are exempt from cremation, and simply pushed out into the river.

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We sat on the steps for some time and watched the rituals—bodies carried through the streets by chanting men then dipped into the river; a man shaving his head before performing ceremonies with mourning families; logs stacked on bodies wrapped in blood soaked sheets and set on fire. Captivated, we tried to make sense of our surroundings as goats in t-shirts frolicked around us and old bearded men tried to take our money.

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The Ganges river is filled with pollution, trash, ashes and corpses—yet because it’s a ‘holy’ river, they believe it’s clean. Twenty four hours a day they come to bathe, wash their laundry, even brush their teeth in the murky water.

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When you realize that this river, filled with matter in all stages of decomposition is actually the cleanest place to be in Varanasi—then you begin to understand just how filthy this place is.

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The streets are like a war zone, where every step is a careful maneuver around cow dung, tobacco-filled spit, rotting food, bits of ceremonial waste and oncoming traffic. You learn real quick to only breathe through your mouth.

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We set our alarms for 5am to watch the sunrise over the Ganges by boat. This is without a doubt the best way to see Varanasi.

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The smoke from the constant cremations forms a thick layer above the river, creating a dreamy setting to witness this holy final resting place change color as the sun rises.

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That morning, we withstood the chaos on the streets for as long as we could stand it, then retreated back to our hostel to wait for our night train. One day was more than enough time to spend in Varanasi.

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Day 237-240: New Delhi

After sixteen hours in a delayed train, we had arrived to our last and final stop. It was a bittersweet realization, but one we had both been looking forward to.

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New Delhi is India’s capital city, with 26 million inhabitants in the metro area. At this point in our trip, we were thrilled to see taller buildings and neon signs which signaled a more developed civilization.

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The neighborhood we stayed in had a main bazaar road, and reminded us a bit of Bangkok (without all the backpackers). We were pleased to find great shopping here, and stocked up on souvenirs and Christmas gifts.

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One thing we’d been wanting to try during this trip was a cooking class, and with Indian food being one of our favorite cuisines, Delhi was the perfect place to make it happen.

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We found a lady offering private classes in her home, and took the metro across town to meet her one evening.

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The class took several hours (Indian food is complicated!) and we made four dishes, which were easily the most delicious we’d had in all of India (and a contender for best on this entire trip!). She sent us home with boxes of spices, and we’re looking forward to recreating them for our friends and family at home.

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As we were approaching our last day, the idea of getting tattoos came up. At first it was a joke, but then it somehow morphed into a good idea, and the next day we were in a tattoo shop.

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I’ve always said I’d never get a tattoo, but in this moment, something inside me changed. After such a momentous year for us, we felt the need to memorialize this trip in a permanent way—and a tattoo seemed like the best way to do that.

I decided on the word ‘Gratitude’ written in Arabic.

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Gratitude is the one thing I’ve gained most from this trip. Experiencing cultures from all corners of the world and walking in their shoes is incredibly humbling, and puts life into perspective. You can’t help but shift into a more grateful state of mind, and with gratitude there is no fear, no hate, no negativity. It’s essential for living a good life, and this small reminder will now always be with me. I think Arabic is the most beautiful written language on earth, and am in love with the way it turned out.

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Lucas came up with the idea of two camels being led by a shepherd. The camels represent both of us, and the shepherd represents our purpose that is guiding us—our what or why in life. Our purpose may change through the different seasons of life, but it’s a reminder to follow what’s true and not stray from it.

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You’ll have to excuse the swollen and scabbed appearance in these photos—they’re still healing and will look quite different in a couple weeks. The ink is actually a medium brown which will look more like a henna once it’s healed. We absolutely love them and what they represent. Oh, and here’s how my infamous travel sandals look after 8 months and approximately 970 miles across 5 continents later… I need to preserve these things forever 😉

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What have I learned from the past eight months?

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That there is an incredible amount of beauty in the world, and so much more good than there is bad. It may not seem that way right now, because those who are negative are the loudest. Negativity is a cancer that can spread like wildfire when left unchecked, and only positivity and love can stop it. The majority of us are fighting the good fight and we can’t forget to speak up.

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Never forget how fortunate you are to have your freedom. Use that freedom to choose happiness, to travel the world and see the beauty that exists. It’s all around us, you just have be looking for it.

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Time isn’t measured by minutes, but rather in the richness of moments. Fill those moments with gratitude and you’ll live wealthier than you could ever imagine.

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Thank you for following us on this journey around the globe. Now we turn the page to end this chapter as we prepare to begin our longest, and hopefully most rewarding one yet.

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Stay tuned for the final piece of our travels—the India vlog!

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Sri Lanka: The Vlog

As I press publish on this post, we’re on a plane back home to the states—for good! Our trip has finally come to an end (I’ll talk more about my feelings on this later) but I still have a few more posts coming your way to recap the final days.

Now that it’s all over, our visit to Sri Lanka feels like ages ago. We spent a week there in late October, just before arriving to India. One week is entirely too short to spend in this country and we didn’t get to see everything we’d hoped to, but we still got the “Sri Lanka experience” with a few surprises along the way.

Click below to watch what happened, our favorite and not-so-favorite memories, and also how we handle all of those long travel days (trust me, it’s not glamorous!):

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. It feels great to come home.

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