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Photo Essay: What We Loved in Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

When life gets overwhelming, I tend to look for the good stuff—happy stories, good people, and fun memories. So, it's no surprise that I recently found myself rummaging through my photo archives from our spring trip to Europe.

Today, I'm excited to share what I found in the "Ghent, Belgium" file on my computer. We had a lovely visit that came complete with a stunning Airbnb (the photos on the site don't do it justice—trust me), slow evening walks (perfect for stumbling upon beautiful architecture), and plenty of time to sample as much beer and chocolate as possible. 

As I mentioned, the flat we rented was incredible. I did a terrible job or taking photos of the rental, but I did manage to capture our favorite spots: the living space and the deck.  

Ghent, Belgium // Airbnb
Ghent, Belgium // Airbnb
Ghent, Belgium // Airbnb
Ghent, Belgium // Airbnb

As far as sightseeing goes, we sort of broke our trip into history lessons that also afforded us great views of the city from up above and exploring the city at the street level. We, of course, started with a castle that happens to be located right in the middle of the city.

The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium
The Gravensteen // Ghent, Belgium

Our next stop was the beautiful Belfry of Ghent, which is located just down the road from the castle. You can actually see it in many of the photos above!

Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium
Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium
Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium

The tour of the belfry is full of really fascinating information about how the bells are made and how the mechanisms controlling the chimes actually work. Then, when you make it to the top, you're rewarded with more amazing views of the city.

Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium
Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium
Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium
Belfry of Ghent // Ghent, Belgium

At the street level, Ghent is just as charming as you might imagine. We loved walking around, winding our way through side streets, and ducking into shops and the occasional restaurant or bar. 

Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium

We were also really intrigued to find a few key spots that were perfect for hanging out for a bit. The first was the Stadshal, which is a modern event structure built right in the middle of the historic center of the city. I shared more about it here, if you'd like to get the backstory, but we were definitely excited to see a food and drink festival taking place at the Stadshal while we were in town!

The Stadshal // Ghent, Belgium
The Stadshal // Ghent, Belgium
The Stadshal // Ghent, Belgium

The next spot we decided to spend a little time was something my husband came across in his pre-vacation research: an entire street dedicated to graffiti art! I loved it.

Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium
Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium
Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium
Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium
Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium
Graffitistraatje // Graffiti Street // Ghent, Belgium

One of the things we noticed on this trip was just how much we missed being out in nature. Most of our vacations revolve around hiking, camping, and other outdoor adventures. Truth be told, this trip didn't offer us the peace and quiet we're accustomed to. So, we found this pretty park and spent some time exploring away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  

Citadelpark // Ghent, Belgium
Citadelpark // Ghent, Belgium
Citadelpark // Ghent, Belgium
Citadelpark // Ghent, Belgium

Overall, it was a lovely stop during our European getaway. We'd definitely go back to this charming college town.

Now tell me, friends: have you ever been to Ghent? What was your favorite spot?



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27 Lessons Learned Since Announcing the Big CYOP Road Trip

27 Lessons Learned Since Announcing the Big CYOP Road Trip // creatingyourownpath.com

A year ago this week, I was officially committing to driving across the country for my longest CYOP road trip to date. What an amazing, terrifying, exhilarating, difficult, wondrous, magical, fulfilling 52 weeks it's been, my friends.

Since deciding to make that road trip dream a reality, I've said yes to things that scare the daylights out of me. I've found peace in my own company. I've done my best to show up for those who needed me to show up. I've cried and cried and cried. I've smiled and smiled and smiled. I've met dozens of incredible artists, makers, writers, builders, creators, designers and collaborators who have altered the way I look at the world.

I know. It sounds dramatic, but taking big steps toward the unknown taught me things. Big things. Little things. Things I cannot (will not, should not) unlearn.

In no particular order:

  1. I've learned that it's okay to put work first and that it's equally okay to put work second (or third or fourth).
  2. I've learned that things will not always be as they are right now and that's something to be celebrated.
  3. I've learned that if you genuinely approach people with curiosity and mutual interest, they will almost always be willing to lend a hand. 
  4. I've (re)learned that we all come from different backgrounds and that, even though we might see things differently, we're all working with the same handful of emotions and we often strive for many of the same things in life.
  5. I've (re)learned how to be gracious and forgiving and kind.
  6. I've learned that not everyone is going to give me the same level of graciousness, forgiveness and kindness, but that's their path to walk — not mine.
  7. I've learned that science cannot cure all things (I'm looking at you, cancer), but that love can be given without restraint. It may not heal all things, but it's worth giving nonetheless.
  8. I've learned that mindset is EVERYTHING and that doing hard, scary, big things in life requires a level of fortitude I didn't even realize I possessed.
  9. I've learned that it's okay to push through resistance.
  10. I've also learned that it's okay to press pause, take a break and reassess.
  11. I've learned that it's okay to ask for help.
  12. I've (re)learned that life can change in an instant and that anything worth doing is worth doing now, if possible.
  13. I've learned that we tend to put people on pedestals in this world and that those people are just like you and me. They're no better, no worse — just human.
  14. I've learned to share some things publicly and deal with other things privately.
  15. I've learned that some people will pass judgement when they don't understand or have access to the full story — and that sometimes the full story is none of their business, anyway.
  16. I've (re)learned that everyone is fighting a battle I may not fully understand and I need to be better at reserving my own judgement.
  17. I've learned that if I tell jokes while speaking in front of a crowd it calms my nerves a bit.
  18. I've also learned that I will never NOT be nervous when speaking in front of a crowd.
  19. I've learned that I'm pretty okay with my social awkwardness. Turns out, some people will find it charming (who knew?) while others will be embarrassed on my behalf. As long as I'm cool with it, all is well. 
  20. I've learned that it feels awesome to be the connector in a situation, rather than always being the person doing the thing. We don't always have to be the person doing the thing.
  21. I've learned that, while I live in a great big country, nothing is all that far away if I've got the time and means to get to where I'm going.
  22. I've learned that prioritizing my time and my means is the best way to pursue my dreams.
  23. I've learned that others will question those priorities because they don't understand why my priorities are different from their priorities. I've also learned that those discussions are less about offering justification for my choices and more about offering a different point of view.
  24. I've learned that those who I've met along the way are some of the most resilient and wise people I know.
  25. I've learned that I have preferences in how I work, but that, if I must, I can accomplish big things from anywhere in the world. 
  26. I've learned how much doing the big scary thing can change a person and that it's what I do with all of that new self-knowledge that really matters.
  27. I've learned that I am (and, by extension, you are) not alone.

I've learned a lot over the last year and I have that beast of a road trip to thank for most of it. Obviously, I think it's important to reflect on what we've learned, but I also think it's important to stop thinking and start doing. It's in the doing of the thing where all of the difficult, wondrous, terrifying, amazing magic happens. We just get to hang on, enjoy the wild ride and keep learning the lessons over and over again.

Onward, my friends. I hope you're pondering, doing, thinking and then jumping in and doing some more. When's the last time you did something that felt HUGE and learned something from it? Tell me what you're up to in the comment section! 


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More love.

It feels strange to be moving forward when so much of the world around us seems to be moving backwards. I'll be sharing a new podcast episode on Thursday, but I cannot simply let the events of last week go undiscussed.

Last week was a terrible week here in the U.S. and the unrest continues. It's heartbreaking to live in such a broken world.

I've been taught to keep my political leanings to myself and, even though the mainstream media would like you to think otherwise, I truly believe that this isn't about politics — this is about humanity.

Last Friday, before I took a break from the internet, I sent out an email to my Creative Digest readers. It feels important to share it here as well:


Friends:

I had a Creative Digest drafted and ready to go for you this week. It was full of fun links, a podcast interview discussing the importance of making art accessible and some thoughts on maintaining independence in your career.

As much as I would love for all of that to be important right now, it simply isn't. Not with the amount of unrest and violence we've seen here in the U.S. over the last several days (and years) and throughout the world over the last several months (and years).

You know what is important?

Love. Compassion. Understanding. Empathy. An open heart. Open arms. Ears that are ready to listen. Eyes that are ready to see life through someone else's lens. The realization that the majority of the people on this planet likely want the same things: peace, happiness and the right to find a place in this life.

But right now, we're broken.

I have friends who find themselves explaining to their sons and daughters that (sadly, unbelievably, shockingly) they need to be on alert because of the color of their skin. I have friends and family members in law enforcement who are sickened by recent events and cannot imagine situations unfolding the way they have over the last few days. I have friends who have to continually explain that their religion is not a hotbed for terrorism. I have friends who have to continually explain that their religion is not a hotbed for bigotry. I have friends who work in government because they want to make the world a better place, but don't know where to start. I have friends in the military who are constantly questioning (and reminding themselves) what they're fighting for. I have friends who have told me they'll never travel alone because of their gender. I have friends who are scared for their lives because their gender doesn't define them. I have friends who can't believe they're still publicly shamed and targeted because of who they love.

This is an open letter to those friends and to anyone else who is heartbroken as we all face what's in front of us. This world is a precarious place and I'm standing with you, even though I may not know you personally and even if I'm far away.

We'll all handle things differently as the news of terrible events floods our screens. Some of us will speak out in public forums, some of us will show solidarity by showing up, some of us will have deep, face-to-face conversations that end with agreeing to disagree, and some of us will have similar conversations that end with hugs and tears and realizations. 

However you choose to handle things, I hope you approach it all with love.

Please, I beg of you: more love.


You can view the full email here, if you'd like. 

I sent the newsletter as a way to reach those who need to know that I'm here. I'm with you. We need to find a way through this and the only way I know how is to show love. It may not seem like enough — I get that — but love is what I've got to give. 


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Photo Essay: Amsterdam in the Springtime

Amsterdam in spring

I'm not sure there's really a bad time to visit Amsterdam, but we were sure glad to be there in the spring! The flowers, the patio-sitting, the sometimes-sunny-sometimes-rainy weather, the not-so-terrible museum lines, the flowers — we couldn't have asked for a better place to start our recent European adventure.

Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring

Tulips and Amsterdam go together like, well, you know. We loved seeing them in gardens and planter boxes around the city. Our favorite tulips, however, were found outside of the busy capital city. You can scope out our tulip field adventure here!

Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring
Amsterdam in spring

So tell me friends: Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What time of year did you visit? 



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Photo Essay: Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

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Photo Essay: Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem

When my husband first decided that a spring visit to Europe was a good idea, I knew we had to try and see the tulip fields in the Netherlands. I had no idea if they'd actually be in full bloom while we were there, since the harvest schedule is ultimately up to Mother Nature, but if we were going to be spending a solid amount of time in Amsterdam, my heart was pretty set on seeing at least a few colorful fields.

Mission accomplished, I'd say:  

Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem

We set aside a day for a train-to-bike-to-train trip between Amsterdam and Haarlem — one of the cities known as a starting point for tulip tourism. We started the day by walking from our Amsterdam Airbnb to the Amsterdam Centraal Station. From there, we took a 20-minute train ride to the Haarlem Train Station, walked to the bike rental shop and started our bike tour of the countryside!

Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem

We did see a lot of fields that had already been harvested and others that were just about to bloom, so the plantings must be staggered a bit to maximize the bloom season. With the number of cars and bikes on the road with us, it appears as though this area of the Netherlands has flower tourism pretty much figured out.

Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem
Tulip fields in the Netherlands // Haarlem

We decided not to visit Keukenhof due to the crowds and opted, instead, to take the various bike trails and see where we could stop along the way. The guides at the bike shop offered up maps and tips before we headed out, which came in handy. 

Overall, the touring took a full day, our bums were very sore from riding a bike for dozens of miles and I've never smiled so much in my life. I'm sure of it. I mean, how could you not smile like crazy when you spend a day among these beauties? Add in a tandem bike (which earned us more than a few stares), a picnic, and some silly times with your hilarious partner in crime and you're good to go!

Tell me friends: Have you ever visited the tulip fields in the Netherlands?


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