Home.

Welll…… We’re home! The plan was 6 months or more, but we find ourselves back in the USA just one month after we left. Nothing ever goes according to plan, right? For all that are wondering and have been asking what led to this…. Here it is:

Coming home was a huge decision for us, and a decision that wasn’t made overnight. We spent a great deal of time discussing our next moves from Colombia, to Europe, and eventually, home. It’s impossible for us to pinpoint one reason that led to our homecoming, so when we’re presented with the questions of those desiring answers, we simply say, “We were ready to come home.” Me for my reasons, and him for his. We had a lot of fun together, and got to experience some really neat things, but ultimately, the time for us to return, was now. Return to home, and return to begin our lives together. A whole new exciting journey of its own. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we know that we’re excited to find out. Please continue to follow us on this journey called Life, as I will continually update our blog as our adventure isn’t over, but in many ways, it’s the beginning of an entirely new adventure as we embark on new jobs, schooling, and all those other great things we’ll get to experience in our relationship as it blossoms overtime. Looking forward to our future and the excitement of endless possibilities.

Apartment hunting has ensued this week, so keep your fingers crossed for us! We found the cutest little place downtown and are hoping to find out today if we’re worthy candidates able to reside there. We’re incredibly awesome people who are incredibly fun, so this should be a no brainer.

For now, we’ll end with this… We’re so happy to be home and thank God for football season! Go Gators.

Kevin and Ashlee!

Venice (1 of 1)

Rome, Cinque Terra & Tuscany!

Never made it to Morocco…. Just getting that out of the way first!

Traveling has had its ups and downs, but I think I’m finally getting more and more accustomed to life on the road. I’ve admittedly struggled with living out of a backpack, showering in community showers, and at times sleeping in bunk beds in a room with eight other people…. I’m a really light sleeper, so this can be dangerous territory if there’s a snorer amongst the crowd… I entered into this with great optimism, but it hasn’t been easy. Not just traveling, but also having experiences that bring to light weaknesses and faults of your own that are easy to overlook in normal, everyday life but in this type of lifestyle are magnified times ten. Regardless of those areas where I may not shine my brightest, I look forward to the rest of my journey through Europe and through my own existence of growth and change.

Kevin and I left Spain and flew into Rome Italy. What a truly remarkable place. Each day was spent exploring the city and enjoying the delicious Italian cuisine. We visited the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and went to Vatican City and saw the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We even sent each other a post card from the Vatican post office! The people of Rome were incredibly friendly and most everyone speaks English, so that has made that aspect of travel quite a bit easier.

After three nights in Rome, we took a train from Rome into Florence, Italy where I’m now writing this post. Florence is a large city, but not much for sight-seeing so we had big plans coming here. Cinque Terra and Tuscany! Before coming to Italy I’d never heard of Cinque Terra, so when Kevin told me about the towns and that there was also a hike involved, my interest began to peak more and more. I’m not the most outdoorsy person in the world, but I grew up taking family vacations to North Carolina where we would camp, and hike and do similar activities for the week and I always really loved it. So while I may enjoy a nice spa, I also enjoy a good hike! “It’s not that intense……” was what Kevin said when he originally told me about his hike through Cinque Terra six years ago. LIES. His memory served him wrong because this was no beginners hike. So. Many. Stairs. The scenery is absolutely incredible once you reach the overlooks and the views of the oceans and the upcoming towns, as well as the towns you’ve left behind, but it’s seriously a tough hike. Due to some work on the trails, as well as a mudslide that happened recently we could only do the hike through two cities. Upon reaching the third city, we scaled another mountainside so we could take a swim in the Mediterranean. SO SO SO amazing. The water is crystal clear and was so refreshing. After our swim, we headed back up and caught the train to the last two cities and then back to Florence where we ate and quickly fell into bed like two zombies with jello legs, because that’s what we were. After a great night sleep, we picked up our rental car and were off to explore the Chianti region of Tuscany. It was so nice to have our own car, just Kevin and I, to spend the day together… We’ve been together since we left, but this really felt like a date day, which I’ve missed, therefore, truly enjoyed. We had no real agenda, but made our way (in our SMART car) through little towns and up and down winding roads into a small town where we got some much needed info and booked ourselves a wine tasting and tour at a local winery. Kevin has done winery tours and tastings before, but this was my first and I loved it. Our tour guide, Jillian, was an older woman from London who truly has a passion for her job. She was so educated, informative and best of all, had a great sense of humor which is always a plus! She gave us a brief history on the winery and took us into the cellars and eventually the tasting began. The wine was delicious, as well as the olive oil and balsamic vinegar they produce there. Kevin and I had the best time and have seriously made the most of our time in Florence. Tomorrow, we catch and early train into Venice where we will surely ride a Gondola and sing “That’s Amore” out loud, to anyone who is unfortunate enough to hear us.

Here are some pictures from Cinque Terra and Wine Country!
Kevin & Ash

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Madrid!

I see London… I see France… Surprise! We’re in Europe!

Kevin and I set out to travel until December or January to see what this world has to offer before coming home and beginning our lives together. Him settling into his career and possibly pursuing more school for his master’s degree, and me to finish school and get settled into my future career as well. The course of travel was originally South America, but all along this journey has been nothing planned, nothing set in stone and nothing that couldn’t be changed along the way. South America is very much a place for trekkers looking for incredible forest/jungle/mountain hikes and exploration to see wonders that are hiding deep underground, or high above the trees and everything in between. Great beauties can be found here if that’s what you’re into. I’ve read it’s the place that travelers come to “find themselves” and I suppose spending 4 days hiking in the hot, buggy forest is the fastest way to do it. It became evident very early on that unless we want to get down and dirty for the next 6 months, we won’t get to see or experience much and will spend a whole lot of time, doing a whole lot of nothing. “If you only had 4 months to live, where would you spend it?” Kevin asked sitting at dinner several nights after arriving in Colombia….. I thought about this and we discussed it much more in depth and for much longer which has brought us to this place. This is our investment in time and our investment financially and we both want to confidently look back on the next couple months and say with no doubts, “that was the best time of my life.”

We discussed it for a little over a week and on Thursday we purchased our flights to Madrid, Spain… Our new starting point destination. We took an overnight 9 ½ hour flight on Saturday from Medellin, Colombia into Madrid and it couldn’t have gone better. They fed us dinner AND breakfast and when we arrived we exited the plane, collected our bags and were on the metro heading into the heart of Madrid. We’re both so excited to be in Europe and are thrilled that we get to share this experience with each other. We couldn’t be more happy with our decision to switch gears and change destinations.

Madrid is BEAUTIFUL. Coming up from the metro tunnel we feasted our eyes on the most beautiful buildings and streets and are both still in awe of how amazing it is here. On Sunday afternoon we dumped our bags in our hostel and headed out to explore. The sun doesn’t set here until after 9pm and before we knew it, it was 11:30 and we were exhausted. We rested up and Monday at 11:00 joined a free tour of the city. Our tour guide, Pablo, was a young man from Ireland and he did a fantastic job. During our “history lesson” portion of the tour, he asked for 5 volunteers, and I, of course, volunteered. I lucked out and got to be Phillipe II, the greatest king of all time. There were two very lazy kings and I was thankful not to be them. He showed us things we’d already seen the day before, but also some new things and it was well worth our time spent. Tuesday we slept in as we’re still suffering from severe jet lag and haven’t adjusted to the time change and once we were out and about, spent the majority of the day in the East of Madrid. We did take a break and ate Churros and Chocolate at San Gines Chocolateria, which is world famous and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was delicious!

We’ve walked all over Madrid and there’s always something new to see. It’s so clean and well maintained, the people are friendly and very helpful and simply put, we love it here.

We plan to stay in Spain until Friday, when we will be flying to Marrakech, Morocco. I think we’ll spend several days there and then, we don’t know! Maybe back to Spain to spend some time in Barcelona!

We are having the best time on our journey together and I hope you all are enjoying it as well!

Ciao- Kevin and Ashlee

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Mud Bath??

Sorry for the lack of posts this week! We’ve been in several places with less than great wifi which has made contact with the outside world a little difficult… When I left you last we were boarding a bus for a 16 hour bus ride from Bogota to Santa Marta, Colombia. I was fooled as well thinking it would be a 16 hour bus ride. Turned out to be almost 21 hours and I’ll keep all the gory details of the trip to myself as it was an experience I would like to forget.

We’ve since visited Santa Marta and Palomino Colombia, which are small beach towns. We did little in both of these places except lay by the pool and swim in the ocean. Thursday morning, we left Palomino and headed to Cartegena, Colombia. If you ever plan to visit Colombia, definitely visit Cartegena! It’s been my favorite city so far. Amazing architecture, amazing people and really hip places to shop, as well as trendy restaurants to eat in. It also has a mud volcano nearby, which if you’ve never experienced, is a total must see/do. After doing a little research about what to do in Cartegena I stumbled on this little gem known as the Volcan del Totumo…… Let me give you my version of the days events:

“After getting down into nothing but my swimsuit, I proceeded my walk up the volcano. Approximately 30 steps or so, I was completely unprepared for what I would find at the top. I knew it couldn’t be too terrible or scary as I heard only the sounds of laughter coming from inside. Conquering the last few steps I was able to peer inside and could see what all the fuss was about. A huge pit of mud. As we waited for the current visitors of the pit to exit, I grew exceedingly more and more excited to make my descent down into its grey, gooey goodness. We brought a camera and paid $3,000 pesos for a man to take some pictures so that we could cherish the time we spent getting dirty. I watched as others before me climbed down the stairs and were greeted by the 4 men who worked down in the volcano providing massages for $3,000 pesos each. They were helped down from the ladder and were then glided across the mud and “parked” where they each waited for their massage to begin… Upon inspection, the massaging was a little suspect, but they were nothing but true gentlemen! It was finally my turn. We posed for a “before” picture and then I climbed onto the ladder and began the descent. As I got closer, my anticipation was mounting, and it was at that moment, I felt it. Slippery and slimy. Mud. I reached the last wrung and was gracefully laid back where I floated just atop the surface which was so dense you could never possibly sink. I was shuffled into my space where I watched Kevin make his way in. My massage began and it was heavenly. The pit was filled with laughter as everyone made their own heads and tails of this once in a lifetime experience. We took several more photos and maneuvered our way around in the gloppy goo, before we were told it was time to get out. The resounding moans let the locals know we had truly enjoyed the experience… But the experience wasn’t quite over. After making our way back down the volcano, we were then led to the lake where we could wash off. As we got closer, women with buckets also got closer…. Before I knew it, I was being led by the hand deeper into the water as I was not going to be washing myself.. Oh no… She would be doing that for me. Bowls and bowls full of water were dumped on my head while she scrubbed my hair, my arms and my legs. It wasn’t until my bathing suit was being untied and I was sitting in a lake topless, that I thought this might just be a little strange. She re-dressed me, which was nice of her, and I was clean from head to toe! We headed back to the bus, where we changed and paid for each of our “services” and got a glimpse of the photos he snapped. Such a great job he did and Kevin and I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

Seriously, such a great experience and one that I’ll never forget. This is how these people make their living and they did such a wonderful job and were total professionals.

Today, we board a flight to our next destination….. Who knows where? That is yet to come. For now until next time, bon voyage!

Kev and Ash aka…. Kash.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Bogota, Colombia

Our travels have begun! Hooray! It’s amazing what I’ve witnessed and observed so far as I sit down to write this at the end of my first 24 hours here in Colombia. When I leave the confines of my comfy surroundings of home and venture out into the unknown, there’s always a grace period of anxiety getting to know a new city. As a “foreigner” you never know what’s good or bad, safe or unsafe, wrong or right. This can be slightly intimidating. But with each new place you can rest assured that I kindly warm-up to the city and with arms wide open give it a big hug. Even if I’m not crazy about the city, I can be happy knowing I formed my decisions based on the city itself and not on fear alone.

It probably goes without saying, but Kevin and I arrived safely in Bogota, Colombia. Even before leaving Orlando I had quiet mental reservations about how much I had packed, as I was now forced to feel the full and complete weight of it all resting comfortably (?) on my back. It was shortly after collecting my bag in Colombia that my determination in Orlando was correct. I packed too much. Packing too much for a trip to NYC??? OK! Packing too much for a 6-month trek across South America??? Rookie mistake. As time goes on, I’ll get into my groove and will slowly be leaving items behind in memory of me.

We took a cab from the airport to our hostel and were greeted by a very friendly hostel worker and her very friendly dogs. They found a quiet solace underneath the desk. It was quite overcast and foggy which was a bummer because behind those clouds was beauty just waiting to be revealed…. We settled into our room and then ventured out to grab a bite to eat and drink. Since it was dark and rainy we stopped at the first place we could find. We ate hamburgers and French fries…. Totally American, but don’t judge us… We were starving. We left there and headed to a bar with really great live music… Some of the songs that were even sung were in English, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I like having 5 minutes a day where I understand anyone other than Kevin. We also enjoyed some hot wine. It was delish! Similar to an apple cider, but better because there was alcohol!

It’s already obvious that my greatest challenge will be that I speak VERY little Spanish and the people here speak VERY little, to no English at all. Luckily, Kevin is somewhat fluent. Without him, I’d be the worst tourist on the planet. I find myself constantly smiling and nodding and then wondering to myself, “What did I just agree to?” My number one goal by the end of this journey is to be fluent in Spanish. Each day I’ll spend some time studying the language and will do whatever I can to learn and understand it.

It’s incredibly weird having no timeline… When you vacation, you constantly rush through each day. Can you really even enjoy travel that way? Each second wasted on a vacation, is time wasted. A normal amount of time spent on a vacation is roughly 5-10 days, so in order to make the most of your travels, you have to constantly be on the go. Kevin and I are lucky because in so many ways this isn’t a vacation….. This is our life. We can do everything, or we can do nothing… The choice is ours.

Wednesday, the weather in the city was beautiful. Sunny skies, cool temperatures and a bit of a breeze. The perfect walking weather… Which is perfect for us because we walk everywhere! Before leaving the hostel, we enjoyed Colombian coffee and croissants for breakfast while chatting with several other travelers. An artist from South Africa, a buyer for Louis Vuitton from Paris and a photographer from Colorado. All amazing people with the same thirst for travel as Kevin. We spent the day walking throughout Bogota experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city. Mid-morning we took some time to relax in a small coffee shop with some café con leche and a small pastry. It was so tasty and the conversation between Kevin and I was flowing as always. We spent several more hours walking before heading back to the hostel for some downtime. After some naps and some photo editing, we headed back out to get groceries for dinner which turned out muy bien.

Thursday we were up early for coffee and breakfast but, retreated back to our room for several hours to be productive with some reading and of course playing Candy Crush. Around 11:00 we grabbed a taxi to take us to Monserrate, which is a mountain that dominates the city of Bogota. We paid our admission and were ushered into a line to wait for the train that would bring us to the top. Luckily it was a very short ride and lucky for everyone around me I didn’t get motion sickness. Wouldn’t want to be the girl that yorked all over a bunch of Columbians in a tiny train car, would I? We reached the top where it was drizzling slightly, but very windy and chilly. We followed a small pathway to the top where we could see the whole city of Bogota. It was very overcast, but the views were amazing. City for as far as the eye could see. I snapped some shots and thanks to some very friendly folks, Kevin and I even snagged a few photos together. Before we knew it the clouds cleared and the sun was shining on what would turn out to be the most beautiful day. To end the day, we went to la bodega and purchased some pasta and alfredo for a small dinner at our hostel. We also made our way to the Center for Transportation and purchased two, one-way bus tickets to Santa Marta, Colombia which will be our next stop on this adventure across South America…. Please remember us and pray for our sanity as this is an almost 20 hour bus ride, but what awaits us is warm, sunny, beach paradise! That’s our tiny silver lining. Until next time, buenas noches-

Kev & Ash

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Departure.

Kevin is a seasoned traveler. I’m unseasoned…. Bland…. So when he asked me to join him while he finished the remaining six months of his year-long adventure I immediately said yes… And then said no… And then said yes… And then said no…… You get the idea. This was a HUGE decision.

For those of you that don’t know Kevin, he’s been a place or two. Or fifty. He’s been planning for the last several years to travel extensively and his dream became a reality on December 28, 2012 when he set off for a year to travel Central and South America. After agreeing before he left to continue dating long-distance, I never anticipated I’d be invited to come along…. As it turns out, Kevin wants a partner in crime on this adventure of a lifetime.

In March I was admitted to the hospital for what I thought was a simple case of appendicitis. A biopsy was performed and the results showed a cancerous tumor. A tumor that had possibly spread to my colon. My case was taken to the tumor board at Florida Hospital and it was determined that I should have a right hemi-colectomy to remove 1/3 of my colon. I was presented with their determination and the surgery took place on April 23. I think it was shortly after arriving home from my four days in the hospital I made the final decision to quit my job, postpone school, and check out all this world has to offer. Life is definitely too short and too uncertain to not experience this kind of opportunity.

I have traveled, but never outside of the United States. I’ve visited Detroit, Washington D.C., St. Louis, San Luis Obispo, New York City… All amazing cities, but nothing quite like the places we’ll visit over the course of the next six months. As our flight departs from Orlando and arrives in Bogota Colombia on August 13 I’m certain what I’ll be feeling is uncertain. I’m venturing into this with eyes wide open and with zero expectations because when nothing is sure, everything is possible.

Please join in with us as we take flight. Embark with us as we see the beauties of new people and new places. Take part in our endeavors as I’m hopeful and confident they’ll be inspiring, educational, entertaining and mostly fun for all. For now, until next time, we say ADIOS!

-Ash

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