Exploring Notting Hill

Last week, I dedicated much of a day to wandering around Notting Hill in London, and it did not disappoint, especially at the beginning of spring. From blooming cherry blossom trees to pastel-colored homes, there is plenty to see and do in the picturesque neighborhood just west of the city center. If you find yourself in London, make sure you take some time to explore Notting Hill, and here's a short list of things you can see and do.

First things first: take the central line underground to Notting Hill Gate, grab a pain au chocolate from Paul's, and then start walking north. Stop to take in the gorgeous architecture, take photos of the blooms, and chat with the locals. Walk through the circular streets, and then head toward Portobello Road.

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A Little More Love

Something that's come to the forefront of my attention recently is just how much the world needs to see and experience the love of Jesus.  There are a lot of things happening in the world right now, from controversial politicians to the refugee crisis to gun control issues to the sex trafficking epidemic and so on and so on, and it seems that there is just so much darkness surrounding us, making it easy to understand why people might be feeling a little — or a lot — hopeless.  And hopelessness, in a way, is like a disease.  It infects and spreads and wears people down, bit by bit until they can hardly see the light and goodness that are present in the world.

And living in the time that we do means, I think, that there's just a lot of confusion about who God is.  Is he cruel, judgmental, full of wrath, and if so, is that why the world is so dark and hard and evil?  Or is He loving, kind, and full of grace, because if that's true, where is that on display?  Plenty of people grow up or grew up in some form of the Church, learning about God and about Jesus.  Many "know" the basics, yet have chosen not to believe, and I really think that a choice like that — to not believe — may be two-fold: they see evil in the world, and can't bring themselves to believe in a God who would allow it (or "cause it" — another topic for another day); and/or they don't see God amongst the people who claim Him... which is a very huge and very real problem.

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Packing for Europe

While I leave for Europe in just under a week, it feels like I've been preparing for this trip for such a long time.  From saving all the money to deciding what bag made the most sense to creating dozens of Google Docs containing information for this trip, it's been a whirlwind.  Being that I'll be traveling for just over four months and moving from city to city pretty quickly, I knew I needed to get practical in my planning and packing, and as I am now getting all of my things together and organized, I wanted to share some of the practical ways I'm packing for this Europe trip.

THE BAGS

The first thing I did was start researching what kind of bag I wanted to use.  For a long time, I was torn between a backpack or a rolling suitcase.  While some people recommended the former, I saw three big issues with a backpack: I have minor back issues so it didn't seem smart to carry around a ton of weight every other day, the idea of having to unpack/repack a backpack so frequently seemed too tedious, and then there was the fact that I already have an everyday backpack that I was bringing to carry my laptop, camera, etc. and use as my carry-on for flights.  I had been eyeing an Away Bag for a while, and finally decided that it would be the best choice for this trip (and life in general).  Not only is it built of unbreakable polycarbonate, but it has an amazing lifetime warranty so that if literally anything breaks or malfunctions, Away will replace it.  I chose the Medium size (26") in Asphalt, which is just bigger than a carry-on.

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What To Do in Vancouver

Earlier this month, I took a short solo-trip to Vancouver, Canada and I had the best time navigating the city, exploring much of what it had to offer.  I came across a cheap flight back in December and found a great deal on an idyllic AirBnb, so I booked both on a whim, not really knowing what I wanted to do in the British Columbian city north of Seattle.  Yet it ended up being such an amazing trip.  Vancouver is a vibrant melting-pot of beautiful, kind humans from all over the world, and I loved it so much that I could easily imagine myself living in a city like that one day.

About a week before leaving, I realized I had very little planned, so I got to work researching all of things that I needed to see and do, and — of course — all of the places I needed to eat.  In my four days of exploring, I found that I was able to do everything on my list, and since Vancouver is a fairly walkable city with wonderful public transportation, it was very easy to get around.  I always want to share the things that I think everyone should do in a new city, so here is my list of what to do in Vancouver, BC!

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