2018: A Big Year in My Life

This past year was a big one for me, and not in the way 2016 was where I got engaged and married and promoted, etc.  This year was a huge year of personal growth; a year of expansion and drive.  This year was internally immense for me because I proved to myself that I am capable of more than I fathomed.  I’ve always had confidence in myself along with a wide range of crazy ideas.  However, in years past, I lacked the course of action – and taking action is everything.

In 2018, I acted towards actualizing my dreams: writing and creating my own website + creating travel content for myself and clients.   I acted towards creating a group for local women adventurers – encouraging and organizing explorative excursions.  I acted on achieving goals, both large and small.  For instance: I  took multiple trips and long hikes where I got to spend quality time in nature (which was a goal of mine for 2018 – to reconnect with the natural world).  I spent more time with family: taking vacations and attending weddings and showers, + more.  Watched my heart grow tenfold as I held my baby nephew for the first time.  I acted on personal growth goals such as: wiping away jealous thoughts and envy, practicing patience and being more understanding towards others with varying ideals, reaching out to help others more and MORE and even working towards being way less ungrateful (like whining and moping when things DON’T go my way).

Even though I was tested countless times with letdowns + obstacles, I overcame them with a huge smile on my face and an even greater determination to continue down this path I’ve forged.  As much as I hate saying goodbye to my 20s (I’ll be 30 in January), I can’t help but drop my jaw in utter awe at my own growth over the past decade.  If you’ve known me for that long, then you know how far I’ve come.  I was a rebel without a cause turned (still) rebel with many causes.  I was always known as the “idea” girl but merely that.  The past year, more than ever, I’ve begun to “walk my talk” and DAMN, does it feel divine!

Following this introduction, I will begin with mentioning a few of the “bad” occurrences that happened this year.  Once getting the negativity out of the way,  I will review my year – month to month – in photos and little recaps.  Hope you enjoy this personal piece and can get to know me a tiny bit more…

I think it’s healthy to look back and review each year, that way you can remind yourself of your blessings and learn/grow from your mistakes.  Plus, take pride in any and all accomplishments.  It helps to prepare you for the new year to come.

 


 

Now, with all the above being said, no year goes by without some “downs” (at least not that I’ve ever seen).  Thus, let’s begin with the obstacles throughout my past year.  Nonetheless, I will not dwell on the negatives in this post because, just like in my life, I do not dwell in negativity.  Rather, I learn from it and I move beyond it.

The BAD of my 2018 year:

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✖ Looking back, one of my biggest hurdles was when I landed myself in the E.R. this past April.  Long story short, I legitimately thought I was having a heart attack.  I was experiencing these weird and unfamiliar fluttering/ palpitating sensations in my chest (heart area) and, ultimately, that led me to freak out: cue my anxiety.  The panic further exaggerated the feeling and, low and behold, my husband and I bolted out of a film gig rushing to the emergency room.  After multiple blood tests, x-rays and ECG’s, the doctors concluded that … wait for it… there was nothing wrong with me.  *eye roll*  I was beside myself.  They did inform me that I have PVC but mentioned that it is very common in active people.  Therefore, it wasn’t of any concern to them.

Throughout the months post-ER, I experienced the same “fluttering” sensations but began to realize a pattern.  Every time my back/ribs were out of place – the flutters would resume.  After more and more research, I’ve realized the real culprit: my back and ribs.  When it slides out of place (directly underneath my breast plate where my heart resides), it creates such sensations of “cracking” or “shifting” or..”fluttering”.   All in all, my anxiety and panic is what led me to the hospital.  I’ve learned, this year more than any other year, the significance of calming myself – I’ve learned the amount of deceit and damage my brain, alone, can cause.  It’s still a struggle I battle with often, but it’s one that I’ve come to terms with – one that I’ve looked in the eye and vowed to overcome at all costs.  Anxiety: let’s fight! 😉

✖ Another downfall this year: I lost work with a specific company due to various and unfortunate circumstances.  In short, we had a fallout.  Even though this company provided me with plenty of film work (camera operating and more), they were not a good fit for myself.  They were unorganized, selfish and ..even sexist.  I felt disrespected and under-appreciated more often than not.  So, as much as it sucked losing the work, it was a good thing in the end – good riddance.   AND, look where I’ve landed… not in a bad spot, whatsoever. 🙂  In fact, I’m better off.  The only bad thing that came from it was the initial loss of security, the unraveling of my security blanket.  But I don’t need that blank-y anyhow.  See ya never!  Plus, Doug’s career was flourishing more than ever and my blog began to take flight (I also landed better film gigs later in the summer and fall).

✖ Thirdly, though this was more of a letdown/obstacle for my husband – it affected me, nonetheless.  He was hired to work as a producer/shooter for National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna” at the end of July where he’d be stationed in New England for a couple months.  I was to move there with him and BOY, was I ecstatic for the change in pace.  I had psyched myself up so much that I was dreaming, endlessly, of quaint fishing villages, morning sunrises along the rocky coasts with coffee in hand, explorations among the witchy grounds of Salem, weekend trips to the mountains and ALL THAT JAZZ.  I built a picture in my head that I was MORE than excited for – I was bursting with anticipation.  When I got the message that he went out to sea (to film) with his fishing crew during a decently sized storm, I was immediately worried.  The next evening, I was informed that the storm had hit and caused Doug to become violently seasick.  Seasick to the point of needing emergency evacuated – an ambulance awaiting on shore upon his arrival.  After this, the film crew and Doug mutually agreed that he was not meant for the sea (at least not in those extreme conditions) and he parted ways with the gig BEFORE I even set off to join him.

Not only was I heartbroken for my shattered “dream” I had conjured for those upcoming months, but I was heartbroken for Doug as well.  I knew he had been looking forward to working (especially producing) an outdoor adventure show such as this.  However, it ended amicably and understandably.  He ended up finding SO MUCH more work when he returned – it didn’t affect him in the least.  Nor did it affect me.  Both of us were more upset about the picture /expectations we had built in our minds being ripped to shreds.  But, from this, I learned how to manage my expectations (pretty much: don’t have them).  I’ve learned how to deal with getting my “hopes up” in a much healthier way.  I’ve always become somewhat of a juvenile when things didn’t go “my way” in the past.  Not in the way that I sulk for months, but in the way that I would pout and begin thinking “woe is me”.  However, this incident pushed me one step further in the direction of maturity.  Plus, I’ve seen how one thing not working out can lead to better things in the end.  Everything happens for a reason (so I believe).

✖ Oh, and there’s the fact that I was very letdown by a possible BIG client this year – can’t forget about that!  Last spring,  I was talking with and beginning to collaborate with a rather large Travel / Touring Agency. They offered me two FREE international trips per year in which I would be blogging and vlogging for them. HOW FREAKING AWESOME, right??! Well, after months of communication and planning – they totally ghosted me (guess they changed their minds? OR they began to struggle as a business?  Who knows the real reason!)  Regardless, I was pretty darn bummed about this but kept a positive attitude and kept doing what I love to do – traveling, writing and filming. Why? Because I refuse to quit and am determined to will my goals, hopes and dreams into existence. Now, they’re not fully fruited quite yet – but my oh my, how the universe seems to be on my side in getting me there and I will ceaselessly work my tail off towards achieving them.


 

ENOUGH of the “BAD”.  Here are the multi-faceted ways and instances in which 2018 was a year for the books – a year which I am positively proud of.

 

January 2018:

 

January began with a bang as Doug and I took a couple trips together.  Firstly, over his birthday, we rented a cabin in the West Virginia mountains and played, hiked and enjoyed one another’s uninterrupted company amid a winter wonderland.

To see more, check out my post: Winter Weekend in West Virginia.

 

Secondly, over my birthday and for 9-10 days, Doug and I took a whirlwind road trip throughout Southern Florida to escape the frigid temperatures we live in.  We camped in Everglades National Park where we spotted an abundance of wildlife, including: manatee, alligators, a crocodile (yes, you saw that right.. a CROC), egrets + herring and birdlife galore, turtle families, a venomous snake etc.  Furthermore, to celebrate my birthday on Jan. 22, we began the day with the most incredible, private airboat tour through the glades where we covered so much beautiful ground and learned so much fascinating information – all while enjoying a thrilling ride, zipping and zagging at high speeds.

After a few days in the Everglades, we drove even further south and spent some time in the Florida Keys.  We stayed in one of the neatest Air BnB’s I’ve stayed in to-date: a fishing boat with a sleeping cabin, a kitchen, a bathroom and a deck to relax on (photo’d above).  We also spent a wild night on Duval Street in Key West.  That place is crazy – like a smaller NOLA.  I mean that in the best way.  Bars of all variety number this street and stay open until 4am.  Even on a weekday, this street is booming.  We even happened to wander into a nude, rooftop bar called the “Garden of Eden“.  The first thing my eyes witnessed upon entry: two old, fully NAKED men sitting on bar stools drinking their cocktails.  Of course, we had to experience this place further per my favorite saying “when in Rome” –  plus, it was too strange not to.  We had a hoot there.   Overall, I don’t fancy myself much of a “Florida” person – but I will say, the turquoise waters of the keys are pristine and dazzling.

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Finally, after leaving the southern-most part of the continental U.S., we made our way back up north where we spent a fun-filled, child-like day being giddy kids in Universal’s Harry Potter World.  Being the HP nerd that I am, I was totally geeking out.  Definitely my favorite amusement park experience.  I even indulged in multiple mugs of Butterbeer and bought pumpkin juice and chocolate frogs from Honeydukes.  Ah, my childhood fantasy come to life. *sigh*

January ended with a special night at the Benedum Theater, in Pittsburgh, where I treated my mom and grandma to dinner and  a showing of the musical “Wicked”.  It was a heart-warming and truly memorable evening that I am so grateful to have spent with two of my favorite ladies. ❤

Check out our Southern Florida adventure via my travel vlog here:

Southern Florida (VLOG)


 

February 2018:

On trend with past February’s in my life, February 2018 was pretty low-key and uneventful.  I worked a lot on various film gigs here and there and, though I traveled around nearby states for work, nothing major occurred.  Except…

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Photo by: 84 Photography

My little brother’s wedding! It was a complete blast celebrating the love between my brother, Bret, and his wife, Deborah, alongside close friends and wonderful family.  Even more, I was honored to stand beside them as a bridesmaid.  We laughed, we cried (happy tears), we drank and feasted and..most of all…by God, we danced!  Danced and danced and danced.  It warmed my heart exponentially to see such joy emanating from my little brother’s face – I was a proud sister, without doubt!

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Photo by: Doug Michaels

Another cool memory from February 2018 was exploring Great Falls Park (US National Park Service) right outside of Washington D.C.  I had been to D.C. many times, both for work and play, prior to this trip.  However, I NEVER knew this gem existed!  Its rapid waters, rushing waterfalls, steep rock cliffs and massive boulders make it a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the nearby cities and towns.  Furthermore, there is no shortage of fun hiking trails all throughout.


 

Here’s where my ambition goes into full force over-drive.

March 2018:

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This is the month I founded We Are Wild Women: a group for ladies who love to explore the outdoors and go on adventures / excursions with one another. The goal: to get to know more local adventurers and build a little explorer community of outdoor women; to encourage women in the area to get outside in nature; to help inspire each other to seek adventure and to empower one another to be bold, free and WILD.

It’s also when I began planning the We Are Wild Women inaugural hike and picnic at McConnells Mill State Park.  I was pleasantly surprised by the initial response and enthusiasm the group received and I grew eager to further its limits.  To this day, I’m beyond proud of all it has become and, above all, of all the incredible bonds formed between the ladies in the group.  I’ve truly met some phenomenal and inspiring women and have had many outstanding outings with them.  I can’t wait to see all the future has in store for us!

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My logo was born this month as I continued to take my website and blog to new heights.  I relentlessly worked on producing quality content for my site, day in and day out, publishing works on a weekly basis.  I began to further rediscover my voice as a writer and Mindy on the Move truly began to blossom during March 2018.

 

Hmm..what else?

Only this biggie:

Found out that my baby brother and sister-in-law were pregnant, expecting their first child come October 2018.  I FOUND OUT I’M GOING TO BE AN AUNT.  I was overjoyed at the heavenly news.


 

April 2018:

April was filled with lots of work sprinkled in with some scary moments (i.e. my ER visit above) and a multitude of little outdoor adventures as spring time commenced.

 

My various works around Eastern PA (filming an array of sporting events and producing a home renovation show) led me to explore new places in my home state such as the White Cliffs of Conoy (photo’d above).  Who knew this alien-esque, other-worldly site existed in Pennsylvania?!  I sure didn’t.  That was until a rad chick I connected with (thanks to We Are Wild Women) introduced me to it via her instagram (thanks @morgan.hilliard).

Furthermore, I rekindled my love for playing softball by joining in on some beer league softball games.   I was surprised by how naturally the game came back to me – a game I grew up playing my entire childhood and teenage years.   A game in which my whole family loves and plays – a game that helped shape me.  It felt so good to play again!

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Along with exploring new places and rekindling old love (of sports), I spent my free days roaming the streets of my home city: Pittsburgh.  I discovered countless, beautiful works of street art, new cafes, new restaurants and new photogenic, scenic vistas – it was quite nice to get to know my home a little bit more.  Pittsburgh is a special place.

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Photo by: Doug Michaels

 

To see more of the street art I uncovered throughout my spring jaunts, refer to my post:  Southside Street Art: A Local Treasure Hunt.

 

Let’s wrap up April 2018 with one of my most prideful/fond memories: hiking the entire Slippery Rock Gorge Trail in McConnells Mill State Park with one of my best girls, Jocelyn.   This hike is notable because I completed it the very next day after my ER visit.  I had planned to hike this trail with Jocelyn before the ER stint hit.  Once I was discharged from the ER late that night, I decided this hike was EXACTLY what my anxious spirit needed the following day.  Thus, I made it my mission to do it regardless of my still occurring + weird “heart thing”.  After all, the doctors told me I was healthy AND I knew myself well enough to know… nature always heals me.  Whenever I’m consumed by anxiety, confusion, frustration or overwhelmed by the societal world: I run to her.   Nature is my BEST therapy.  And guess what?  It worked!  I proved to myself that I can overcome my mind battles with a little peace and clarity.  I felt profoundly grateful and connected to this trail and to my girl for being there for me in a time of need.  Not to mention, we had the most gorgeous spring weather and utmost fun the entire time.  We unearthed caves, soaked and waded in a plethora of waterfalls, admired the clear waters of Slippery Rock Creek and even helped clean up the trail, picking up trash the entire way.

 


 

May 2018:

Starting with the great nature escape that my soul terribly yearned for, Doug and I set out to rove the wonders of Utah to kick off May the right way.  We visited several old treasures we greatly adore and rambled new destinations we grew to dearly love.

 

We flew into Salt Lake City where we met up with Doug’s brother, my brother-in-law, and the three of us set off to explore the southern, red-rock desert region of Utah (along with a piece of Colorado).  Our itinerary looked like this: Mesa Verde National Park, the Needles at Canyonlands National Park, Moab and Upper Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dixie National Forest and ending with a soak in Mystic Hot Springs.  Since we’ve previously explored Zion, Arches and the other parks part of  Utah’s Big 5, those weren’t on our radar for this specific journey.

Since you can extensively read about this incredible time thanks to my travel guide: Unearthly Utah: The Ultimate Road-trip Guide, Pt. 1 – I won’t bore you with repetitiveness.

Though, I will tell you:

One of my favorite adventures of the entire year was had during this road-trip among the Needles at Canyonlands National Park when we backcountry hiked and overnight camped in the vast + jaw-dropping park.

 

Doug, Cody and I actually lost the trail we intended to hike on our way in at one point – but thanks to our map, we were never lost ourselves.  We always saw our way out and always saw the end goal, we just had to reroute ourselves.  This is reason to always bring extra water – we were thankful we did due to the added miles.  Always an adventure! 🙂

Despite the heat and increased distance, our trek throughout the Needles in Canyonlands National Park and backcountry was unbelievably PHENOMENAL!  We experienced a beautiful sunset at camp during dinner, admired the stars from our uncovered tent at night, heard coyotes roaming nearby, woke up before dawn to hike out, witnessed a staggering sunrise at an extraordinary overlook, climbed and wiggled through slot canyons, came across a herd of grazing mule deer and a few writhing snakes – overall, it was a blast and a total highlight.

To top it off: we were so far removed from society, the world stood still and nothing mattered but the present moment and the beauty before us – completely submersed in our natural surroundings and spiritually connected to the journey.  There’s something so wild to me about carrying everything you need on your back and letting your two feet carry you throughout wildness.  A formidable bond forms between you and the land + the creatures that greet you.  To me, it’s of the utmost soul fulfillment.

 

Following our time in the southern portion of Utah, we returned north to Salt Lake City where we did even more exploring, hiking uncharted territories (for us).  I could NOT believe the impressive size of the mountains that surrounded us (I didn’t expect such sights in northern Utah) and the wild beauty of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.  Furthermore, I was totally awe-d by the look and vibes of Antelope Island, along with her flourishing wildlife (including bison, antelope, coyotes and more).   Gee whiz, Utah never ceases to shock and wow me.

One of my favorite hikes was the climb up Broads Fork Twin Peak Trail.  The trail follows a raging creek and sports a pretty waterfall where you cross over the creek via a small, wooden bridge.  Wandering through aspen groves and budding meadows, you can’t help but pick your jaw up off the ground around every corner.   Another perk of this awesome trail – she’s less trafficked than the more popular hikes of Big Cottonwood Canyon, such as Lake Blanche etc.  Thus, you’re not inundated with human noises and crowds pushing past you.   You’re able to enjoy nature without human disturbances – it’s peaceful and rejuvenating.

Finally, I credit my newfound love of BEER to my time spent in Salt Lake City and to my beer guru, Cody (my brother-in-law).   There’s a sizable amount of delicious breweries to try out in this city, alone.

For more on this portion of the trip, see: Unearthly Utah, Pt. 2: The Mountains.

 

WELL, now that it’s mid-May and I’ve already immensely enjoyed my desert and mountain explorations, what could possibly be next?

Completion of THE TRIFECTA.

That’s right, shortly after this big escape, I visited my brother and sister-in-law for the first time at their new home along coastal Virginia.  During this visit, I got to “see” my nephew for the first time and the glow of the soon-to-be parents.  I also met the newest addition to the family, their second pup: Little Theo (who is certainly no longer little).  He’s a gorgeous Bernese / Pyrenees Mountain Dog mix.

My family and I spent quality time soaking in the bright + warm sun, swimming in the ocean, taking long walks along various beaches and nature perseveres and more.

 

All the nature time I was blessed to experience during May of 2018 made me one hell of a happy girl – already surpassing my 2018 resolution to spend more quality time in nature vs 2017.  It was a magical month, to say the very least.


 

Seriously pondering how my summer could get any better than the previous month of May, but here enters …

June 2018:

Chock-full of MORE outdoor adventures, mostly within Pennsylvania, but my! How I enjoyed getting to explore her expansive forests, rivers and wildlife deeper.

Now, I don’t want to bore you by going in-depth with each and every adventure.  However, I will at least pay mention to them – they deserve that.

Why do they deserve that?  Because I believe in the quote:

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

ALSO, because it may provide some insight on rad places to explore in the state!  Or at least provide some adventure destination options – some of my favorites.  Think of it as a mini-PA guide (plus more to follow throughout upcoming months).

 

To begin with, a significant event unfolded: the inaugural We Are Wild Women hike and picnic at McConnells Mill State Park.  I was floored by the turnout and thrilled to meet all these ladies in person (after a couple months of organizing and getting the group together).  We ate a delicious picnic brunch, meditated in a giant circle, yoga’d in the wild (thanks to our instructor, Tami, from Body in Balance HC), saw four waterfalls (if not more), howled at passerby’s (very entertaining) and made the howl our official call, slipped and slid in the mud, climbed all over rocks AND even got caught in a torrential downpour + lightening storm amidst the last two miles of our journey – hiking on a totally flooded (ankle-deep) trail the remainder of the way.  It was quite the exquisite adventure that I’ll always hold near and dear to my heart.  Looking around at all the incredible women brought together for the sake of community, camaraderie and outdoor enjoyment, my heart was full of nothing but love, joy and pride.  I was utterly proud that I took the initiative to make this happen after talking about it for years.  Radiant vibes exuded from this group as we enjoyed each step along our hike and I knew we had formed a special bunch.  Greater my excitement grew for all the upcoming possibilities and newfound friendships.

To join along with our events, see our Facebook group: We Are Wild Women.

 

Next…

 

The following day, I joined my parents in an exceptional visit to our ancestors’ graves and planted flowers.  Afterwards, we headed to spot Elk all over Elk County, PA.  I highly recommend making your way to this Pennsylvania area if you’re a wildlife lover like me!  The Elk are abundant and so magnificent to study in their natural habitat.  We had a great time!

 

Shortly after our day in Elk County, I headed out on a solo adventure in Moraine State Park.  I rented a kayak for two hours from Crescent Bay Marine, LLC and had a grand ol’ time paddling wherever my heart desired; docking my kayak at miscellaneous islands and wandering through their untouched grounds.  Finally tuckered out from swiftly voyaging to far-off corners of Lake Arthur, I hung my hammock between two trees along the beach and read some of my novel.  It was very relaxing and much needed “me time”.

 

The week after all that excitement… even more excitement pursued.   Two of my gal pals and I took a road-trip to Eastern PA where we camped in a quaint, bare-minimum log cabin (at their local KOA) and hiked all around French Creek State Park.  I was charmed by the historical sites we came across during our hike – they were informative and an added treat to the already sweet hike.  We ended our day with some beers at Victory Brewery where I fell in love with their Golden + Sour Monkey brews.  It was a marvelous girl’s trip where I got closer to my dear friend, Jocelyn, and got to know a new friend, Courtney.

 

In between some film gigs here and there, Doug and I spent some quality time with his side of the family at Cook Forest State Park.  There’s a wide variety of outdoor, summer activities to be enjoyed in this park – for that reason, along with it being super pretty, it’s one of my top state parks in PA.  We opted to tube and kayak down the Clarion River alongside our family paddling in their canoes.  We hiked along wooded trails, conversed around campfires, bounced on rope bridges, star-gazed the night sky and perused home-made markets.  We had one heck of a swell time!  Oh!  And we celebrated his grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary up there as well. ♡

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In search of the elusive “Blue Hole” in Perryopolis, PA, my best friend (Nate) and I made some dangerous decisions to hike beside (what appeared to be) an abandoned railroad (per our findings on the interwebs). Arriving to our hidden destination, a violent storm arose placing us smack dab in the center of more danger; we were forced to run back the way we came  – along the tracks – while lightening struck WAY TOO closely.  We heard nearby trees breaking under the power of the bolts.  It was slightly…terrifying.  Yet again, an adventure it was.  I will say, I had the movie Stand By Me on repeat in my mind during this scare.  Nothing like some fear to breathe full life into your soul and light a fire under your butt. ☹

On a childish streak, the very next night, Nate and I decided we wanted to go for a swim … at 11:00pm.   I won’t go into much detail, but we found a pool suitable for the job of slightly breaking an entry. (I don’t condone such behavior, but sometimes it’s merely harmless fun *shrug*).   We laughed until it hurt as we army crawled across the field, climbed the fence and ripped our clothing (Nathan ripping skin as well) and took a nice, warm dip before speeding out of there – uncaught I may add.  No harm, no foul.  It was a hoot!

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June ended with my first visit to Detroit.  I was ecstatic that she opened her arms to me, providing an unmatchable fireworks display in lieu of the 4th of July festivities.  Doug knew the right spot to catch the show – on top of this well-situated parking garage.  I enjoyed my visit with Doug in this new city before leaving him to head home as he stayed to work on a CW tv show.


 

Are you ready for….

July 2018:

 

 

A week at my home away from home, Canadohta Lake, was nothing short of serenity, bliss and nostalgia.  I unearthed a love for fishing and caught my first Northern Pike (photo’d above – my dad holding it because, well, it has scary teeth haha!) and a large mouth bass.  I’ll be back for that Muskie!  I floated, swam, kayaked, SUP-d, bicycled and played games with family and good friends.  I even lost, miserably, at mini golf at the world’s HARDEST putt-putt course – it’s so hard, it’s hilarious – and enjoyed consecutive campfires at night with people I haven’t seen in ages.  Such an uplifting and cherished week. ☆

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It was difficult to say good-bye to the lake, knowing it’d be another year (at least) until I saw her again.  However, it was much easier knowing that Doug and I were headed to Ohiopyle State Park for a spur of the moment camping and whitewater rafting escapade.   Shocked to find out that we were going to be rafting the Youghiogheny River sans guide, the four of us, being the banshees we are, pirated and plunged the waters with great amusement and surprising skill.  We even did donuts down the rapids in the end (on purpose).  No one fell out and we had one hell of  a ride!  Our adventure was provided and overseen by Wilderness Voyageurs. They’re a very reputable (for good reason) company and I highly recommend them.

 

Was whitewater rafting adventure enough? Nopeeee. Never ENOUGH adventuring.

Que: the We Are Wild Women caving expedition in the Laurel Caverns.

During this amazing spelunking feat, we went down under the earth a total of 46 stories, army crawled through a cold stream, climbed through the tiniest of holes and banged our heads constantly (thank goodness for our trusty helmets), sat in total darkness and had a total riot exploring.  I LOVE THIS GROUP.  We always have a remarkable time together, experiencing new corners of this natural world side-by-side.

 

Wondering if I worked during this month at all?  Rarely.  Though, July did end with a work/fun + whirlwind of a trip out west, all over Colorado, with my best girl and Body in Balance HC.  Driving cross-country overnight and arriving in Colorado the following night (yeah, it’s mind-bending), our CO journey began in Garden of the Gods at the crack of dawn.  I was thrilled to take Jocelyn and Tami to all the astonishing and breath-taking spots in Colorado that I had been so blessed to explore in past years.  Even though I’d already been, I couldn’t wait to return.  Twin Lakes is one of my all-time favorite campsites and Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my all-time favorite places.

I did enjoy some novelties, too…

We hiked “the incline” in Manitou Springs and drank carbonated water straight out of the ground via natural springs.  We soaked in SO many hot springs throughout the state, including Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Streamboat Springs, CO and visited some small, authentic western towns en route.  We even attempted to summit Mt. Elbert (highest mountain in the Rockies) and were nearing 14,000 feet when a foreboding lightening storm disrupted our climb, forcing us to retreat down to the tree-line.

One of the coolest moments: driving through Rocky Mountain National Park during the Full Moon and seeing the peaks illuminated like never before.  The moonlit, rugged scene was so ethereal and magical  – I saw my beloved park in an entirely new and unbelievable light.  Being a part of it was so surreal, a waking dream.  We also encountered a myriad of wildlife such as coyotes, moose, elk and a bobcat.  I can’t help but feel fulfilled when given such grand opportunities to witness such divine beauty.  What a wonderful world there is out there.


 

August 2018:

Family and film work. ♥

 

Road-tripped with my grandma and aunt down to South Carolina where we met up with the rest of the (huge) family for multiple celebrations: My cousin’s gorgeous wedding with spectacular mountain views and my amazing grandma’s surprise 90th birthday party.  My time in South Carolina was preciously spent with relatives aplenty and, a top the celebrations, we enjoyed such fun as axe throwing and breweries, etc.   I grew even closer to the young ones in the family, my (second?) cousins, Madelyn and Baylor, and treasured my time spent playing board games, pool and having silly shenanigans with the both of them.

Returning home from South Carolina, I ventured into haunted territories with two of my cousins and my husband as we chose to be locked inside the massive walls of the famed Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  We wandered the hallways of the 9-acre building full of history, stories and secrets for over 8 hours and learned so much. We had a few unsettling occurrences, but nothing truly terrifying (or was it?).  Be on the lookout for the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum video – I’ll be releasing it SOON on my website. ☾

Photo Dec 14, 10 09 15 PM
Photo by: Doug Michaels

Already in West Virginia, Doug and I camped along Summersville Lake (sleeping most of the day away since we stayed up the ENTIRE night during our haunted adventure).  Regardless, napping on the beach under these sheer cliffs was a relaxing joy in itself.

Photo Dec 14, 10 09 26 PM

Now, for the work.

YES, I do work.  However, not all of my film gigs are noteworthy and I don’t feel the need to discuss them all.  However, during August, I worked one of my favorite film gigs of the year documenting Charles Manson and his bloodline.  We worked closely with his grandson and visited his childhood home, the prison he was incarcerated in and more.  It was fascinating content to work with AND the crew was comprised of the coolest guys.  If we weren’t busy filming a scene, we’d pop on over to the local tavern and enjoy some beer and games of pool.  After filming, they’d treat us to dinners and..you guessed it..more beer!  Doug and I also got put up in an awesome/swanky Air BnB in the middle of the woods.  It was such an enjoyable experience and I had an utter blast being a part of this documentary.

Photo Dec 14, 10 09 07 PM
Me in a prison cell at the West Virginia State Penitentiary during filming.

 

September 2018:

The grind.

Considering this was a month of work, work and more work – both locally and away – I will move this month along at a quicker pace.

Not only did I work my backside off on my website at an exponential level and began to see it soar further, I also took on many film gigs in comparison with the rest of the summer months.   September was my “money making” month, website wise and film wise.

Film gigs included:

♕Worked on a television pilot for Lifetime network called Life on Mars (working title).  Think: Desperate Housewives in Mars, PA.

♕Traveled back down to West Virginia for a stint on an Investigation Discovery show titled Heart of Darkness.

♕Assisted Doug in shooting some B-roll of Washington D.C. for a feature film being (mostly) shot in Los Angeles.

*Fun fact: B-roll is the supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shots.  It can be day to night time-lapses or people walking the city streets.  It can even just be pretty, scenic footage of a specific area, i.e. Washington D.C.

♕Following D.C., I was hired for a fun little film job: working behind the scenes at the Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker concert for a CMT tv series, Country on Campus. Having full range to roam the stadium and talent quarters was a unique experience.  During the concert, my work ceased and I got to enjoy the show from wherever I fancied.

♕Then, I worked on an impactful and inspiring pilot series in Pittsburgh regarding recovered heroin addicts who created admirable lives for themselves despite all their past trials and tribulations.  They overcame such hardships.  Hearing their tales of hope and seeing the wonderful people they’ve become lit up my face – soul touching.

Beyond the film gigs, Doug and I wandered in the woods and had a few photoshoots (I constantly need practice posing – I’m no model by any means).  We attended a good friend’s wedding and enjoyed ourselves immensely – surrounded by such great people that I’m so grateful to have become friends with over the years (thanks to Doug).

 

Another We Are Wild Women event took place mid-September, as well.  Wedged in between all that work, I needed this fun day of play with these rad ladies. Once again, we had the BEST time – this time it was while climbing and swinging through the trees in North Park, Pittsburgh via Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure.

 


 

October 2018:

Mmmm, October.  My favorite time of year, always.  As you may or may not know, I’m an enormous fan of Halloween and all things autumn: haunted places, pumpkin patches, crisp air, fall foliage, apple cider, over-sized sweaters, boots, halloween festivities + costumes – SO MUCH of it that I love.

This month was also a month of big + small travels and big family changes.

Right from the start, October 1st, Doug and I took on a job filming for Late Night Eats as seen on the Cooking Channel.  Well, Doug took on the job and I, more or less, tagged along for travel’s sake.   The job took us to Philadelphia, followed by New York City.  I never get sick of admiring that expansive skyline.

Photo Dec 13, 2 06 44 PM
Photo by: Doug Michaels

Upon return, we packed our bags and flew overseas for an astounding trip to Amsterdam  + surrounding areas in the Netherlands and Belgium.  Being the nature-lover that I am, it’s typical for me to get more excited for travels geared towards the natural world.  Therefore, as excited as I was for Amsterdam +, I never thought I’d be as thrilled walking her cobbled, narrow streets as I was roaming the sandy, desert trails in Southern Utah.  Man, was I taken by surprise!  I never expected to fall so head over heels in love with a city-based trip.  Now, the love I have for it differs from my love for nature-based journeys – but the intense love is there, nonetheless.  When asked why I love Amsterdam so much, the best way I can sum it up is: the vibes.  The city was ALIVE with people of all walks of life, all getting along and enjoying the beautiful fall weather outdoors: bicycling, dining, sight-seeing, window-shopping, boat-touring etc.  At night, it awakened to new levels.  Yes, people smoke weed all over there (and it’s legal) and yes, prostitution exists in the Red Light District (and is legal).   However…everyone who is partaking in such activities or merely drinking in the bars is cordial, polite and simply enjoying their night.  I never witnessed a brawl or a screaming battle (a common sight where I live).  The streets were packed with laughter and vibrant smells, the lights glistening off of the countless canals.

To read more about the Red Light District, refer to my post: How Raunchy is Amsterdam’s Red Light District, Really?.

I could go on and on about my love for Amsterdam, but I’ll leave that for my upcoming post that has not yet been published.  So, until then, keep an eye out if you’re interested (or subscribe to my e-mail list).

I will mention a few of my highlights:

-Visiting Zaanse Schans – a quaint, country village with authentic Dutch windmills.

-Roaming the canals and seeing the brilliant architecture that line them.

-Taking a canal tour on the Smoke Boat (refer to my blog post above for more info on it).

-Riding on Europe’s highest swing (325+ feet high) at sunset above Amsterdam’s cityscape.

-Drinking Belgian beer, eating Belgian chocolates and waffles.

And, of course, so many more… stay tuned.

I will end with this: I had SO MUCH FUN on this Euro-trip; it’s partially what led me to choose my next international travel destination in January 2019, Spain and Italy.  I just couldn’t wait to return to Europe and get more of her.

 

After this immaculate adventure, many Halloween activities commenced.  I went to two haunted houses, The Scarehouse and Haunted Hillside, with my parents (I get my love for Halloween honestly).  I saw the new Halloween movie in theaters with the We Are Wild Women gang. Of course, I attended many costume parties and bar-hopped dressed up for the holiday (went as a witch and a viking) plus handed candy out to trick-or-treaters.

But, moving past all the festive fun…

My baby nephew was born on October 27th, 2018!!! ♥ 

Photo Dec 15, 12 35 26 AM


 

November 2018:

Did I mention, I’m now an Aunt?!

The first half of November 2018 I spent in Virginia, visiting with my brother, sister-in-law and their precious bundle of joy: their newborn son + my nephew, Hudson Douglas.  My parents were also there this duration of time, which leant itself for some grand family time with our newest member in attendance.  The first time I held him, my heart filled with utmost pride and unconditional love.  I vowed to always be there for the little guy and promised to take him on all the adventures as he grows.

IMG_9625

Look how stinking’ cute he is!

Other than holding Hudson and ooo’ing and awe’ing over his adorability, the family spent time playing with the pups at the beach and walking along the bay trails.

 

We shopped for Christmas gifts (early) and tried out some local brewery/restaurants, played games, watched way too many Hallmark movies and explored Colonial Williamsburg on a stunning autumn day.  Which, by the way, if you’ve never been to Colonial Williamsburg – go!  It’s among my favorites, if not THE favorite, of all the historical towns in the Eastern US.  Besides history, Colonial Williamsburg offers an array of artisan craft boutiques, vintage book stores, charming coffee shops, taverns and wine cellars aplenty.

Photo Dec 15, 12 35 05 AM
Photo snapped by: my momma, Lisa Neyman

After my (almost) two week visit at my brother’s house in VA, I spent more time with family and friends back home.  Doug and I went to dinner at the The Harmony Inn to celebrate his parent’s, mom and dad Michaels, wedding anniversary and enjoyed a splendid + scrumptious Thanksgiving feast at their house later that week.  I spent some time going out with good friends in the Pittsburgh area and had a date night with my hubs, celebrating our 2 year wedding anniversary.  We booked our trip to Spain and Rome, Italy for January over my 30th birthday.  We went Christmas shopping, more than Doug prefers (lol).  Oh, and I worked some jobs here and there – one worth mentioning for my fellow Steelers fans/football lovers: I worked with Hines Ward and filmed him surprising fans at the local Veteran’s Club.

There’s also the fact that I pumped out multiple blog posts this month, kicking it into high gear.


 

Lastly…

December 2018:

IMG_9572

On the first day of the month, my 90 year old grandma was hit by a car as she exited the local Dollar Tree store.  It was quite the scare!  Every family member that was able to, immediately rushed to the hospital to be by her side.  With that being said, thank the heavens she ended up walking away with only a broken ankle and a couple stitches in her elbow.  At 90, she WALKED away from being hit by a car..let that sink in.  She’s a wonder; utterly amazing.  I love that woman to pieces and I’m so elated that she’s alright.  Since then, however, family has been taking turns staying with her to help her get around her house, provide her with meals and all that jazz.  She’s still having difficulty getting around on her own, but she’s improving day by day as her broken ankle heals.  I’ve stayed with her multiple nights and have greatly enjoyed my invaluable time with her.

Besides this setback, I spent my time writing and editing away along with hanging out with some long lost friends that I haven’t spent time with in a while. Then, there’s the fact that..

I got hired for a full-time production coordinator job on a returning, popular television series beginning in January! WOOO!  That means: money money money AND, after the money, travel travel travel.

In all seriousness, as thrilled as I am for this new job, I’m equally uneasy about being able to keep up with my website, writings and videos.  This job will be full-on go go GO for a couple months..so, please be patient with me because A) I will definitely still be on the move and will try to write and post as often as possible and B) once it ends, this gal will be able to afford some even MORE baller travels..like some crazy bucket list, dream destinations along with some extended time off.  Thus, amidst the chaos, this is what lights my fire.  I can’t wait to share more with you all!

Seems to me that 2019 is going to begin with a BANG!

New and awesome job ✔

Traveling to Spain and Rome, Italy ✔

Winter We Are Wild Women events ✔

A crap ton of birthday celebrations ✔

Skiing! ✔

And who knows what else is in store!?  However, I can’t wait to see it all unfold.  I’m downright grateful and blessed for this past outstanding year and I’m ready to bring in the new.  Let’s go, 2019!


 

Photo Dec 13, 2 11 17 PM

 

Writing this post was therapeutic.  It helped me realize just how much I’ve accomplished, personally, and just how much I did this year – holy wow!  I’m eternally grateful for my blessings.  I suggest everyone take the time to deeply reflect.

Furthermore, writing this post provided me with insight regarding resolutions and new goals, etc.   Very enlightening.  So, if all else fails, I enjoyed reminiscing my year.  Still, I hope you enjoyed as well.

Let me know your highlights of 2018 in the comments below! ↓  I’d love to hear about your year.

As always, thank you for reading and happy travels,

-Mindy ✕ ◯

 

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2 thoughts on “2018: A Big Year in My Life

  1. Excellent blog! I identify very much. I’d love to join your We are Wild Women group. McConnells Mill is the first place I rapelled. We love it there. Kudos on organizing your photoautiobiography. It’s fantastic. I always have good intentions, but the travel photos seem to just collect electronic dust after they’ve been shared with family and friends. That’s so admirable that you consistently post and write. Keep it up, Mindy on the Move! I love it!

    Like

    1. Please join! We’d love to have you on board and I truly hope to see you on future adventures!! McConnells Mill is the first place I ever rappelled as well!! ☺️🙌🏻. Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words – I very much appreciate the support ❤️

      Like

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