Needless to say, 2018 was a HUGE year for us that was full of exciting change!  The moment that topped it all off was our move overseas from Virginia to Sicily, Italy in February.  So much has happened over the last 12 months, I thought it would be fun to relive the best of 2018!

I really loved going back through all of my photographs from this year and reliving so many memories!  So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2018 including some of my favorite memories:


The Best of 2018

The BIG Move

  • 2018 started off with a BIG announcement that were moving overseas! The next month was completely insane as we shipped off all of our things, sold my car and our home, and made arrangements for our new digs in Sicily!  Once we arrived, we immediately moved into our Americanized-Sicilian townhome and patiently awaited the arrival of our car and household goods. That period of time was truly crazy!


Exploring Our New Home – Sicily

  • We began our time in Sicily with some trips around the island. I (sadly) didn’t get around to blogging most of them, but here are a few of my favorites:
  • Agrigento (photos below)
  • Catania
  • Taormina
  • Syracuse & Ortigia Island
  • San Vito Lo Capo & Erice
  • Enna
  • Caltigerone
  • Noto
  • and Cefalú

You can find “highlights” of all of these trips over on my Instagram, if you are interested: click here.

Exploring Europe

  • Our first trip off-island was fast-paced, fun, and exciting! We ventured to Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast (Positano) during Easter weekend.  It was a quick trip FULL of hilarious stories.  From visiting catacomb after catacomb, to our friends’ car getting locked in a parking garage before our trip to the airport.  Our Naples trip was one we will never forget!


  • Malta was GORGEOUS and a literal dream of mine. We traveled all over the main island, but would still really like to go to Gozo and Comino if we go back.


  • Lyon, France (blog post coming soon!) for a long weekend was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!! In particular, I enjoyed the shopping and the food, but I never got around to blogging this one. Whoops!

  • In the heat of summer, we visited one of my old faves – Berlin. Berlin is always amazing, the food is always delicious, and the weather is HOT in the summer.  Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hang out with my friends Pauline and Michele again, and meet Pauline’s boyfriend, Ben.


  • For our week long “vacation,” we flew to London for 24-hours (STAAAAAP, London, I love you!!!!!) and then to Dublin, Ireland, where we embarked on a 5-day road trip around southern Ireland. This was my favorite trip of 2018 for sure – the nature was just breathtaking and the people, so kind.   If you have ONE trip you could take to Europe, I’d recommend this one, hands down. See why I’m so in love here and here.


  • For my birthday, we jetsetted off to Sofia, Bulgaria – a country I’ve wanted to visit for a long time!! I got to visit with my college buddy, Rashko while I was there, and my best friend Ashley’s college buddy, Niya kindly picked us up from the airport and sent me lots of information about things to do. It was a cool experience and I’m so glad we went.  Blog post on this one is TBD!


  • In September, we flew to Munich to meet up with Ashley, John, Maddie, and Justin for OKTOBERFEST!!! I personally was not that excited about the actual festival before we went (I know, I’m so weird), but I actually enjoyed it and had a fabulous time!  The city of Munich was clean and beautiful, and the people were seriously, so kind.  Also, Bavarian food!!!!


  • TWO DAYS after our Munich trip, we boarded another plane for Paris, France. What a romantic dream trip Paris was!! From sunrise at the Eiffel Tower to strolls around the Louvre, Paris was everything I thought it would be!! Unfortunately, I did acquire some unknown “life-threatening bacterium” (words of my doctor) at some point during this trip and spent nearly three weeks recovering.  As I’ve said before, the bacterial infection (as horrible as it was – truly effing horrible), won’t stop me from returning.  As a matter of fact, I’ve already booked my next trip!


  • After Paris, we embarked on Barcelona, Spain (blog post coming soon!) for some R&R and more incredible food! We spent the majority of one day at the hotel spa (no regrets!) and the remainder of our trip jaunting around the city!  We also got to meet up with our friends Rachel and AJ and their parents for my first international photoshoot!!


  • CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN GERMANY was another item on my “bucket list” that I got to cross off this year! We flew to Berlin for a quick weekend trip to visit Pauline and Ben and THREE of Berlin’s MANY markets.  It was a dream trip and we can’t wait to visit more next year 😉


We are heading to one more place before 2019, but I’ll wait to post about this one until we have actually returned!

Volcanic Eruptions

  • We visited some of the other islands around Sicily. Stromboli (one of the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily), was our first island hop.  We ventured there for one night and a SEVEN, yes SEVEN, hour hike to the top of Stromboli volcano at night.  It was as exhausting and strenuous as it was enchanting!! We got to watch the volcano erupt many times, so it was worth it!!


  • We got to witness not just one but TWO volcanic eruptions!! On Christmas Eve, Mount Etna erupted with plumes of smoke, over 130 earthquakes and two fresh new craters spouting LAVA! It was an unexpected Christmas surprise that has kept many native islanders on edge!

Time with Family

  • Despite ALL of the above, my favorite moments of 2018 were with those I love. Being at home with Jordan, Birdee, and Chalupa was by far my favorite thing I did this year.  As all military families know, time (and holidays) together are not guaranteed.  I think this makes me appreciate every moment with them so much more.


My life has changed in so many ways over this past year, reflecting back on it all is really actually quite surreal. I think my biggest takeaway from this past year is that you never know where life is going to take you.  As a person who was extremely “type-A” for so long, stepping back and allowing life to take over a little bit has helped me to realize that sometimes the best things that happen to us are the unplanned ones.  I’ve also developed an even greater sense of YOLO (you only live once, right?!), that I’m a little bit overwhelmed with the fact that I will never get to see or do all the things I want to. So, for 2019, I aim to be more present in everyday life; to enjoy the little moments just as much as the big ones!

Ireland was a blast, but required quite a bit of planning on our part (read all about our adventures here).

Usually we book one hotel and only have our daily activities to decide upon, but this trip involved an almost daily hotel change and quite a bit of driving. I’ve had a few people ask me how we decided what to do and where to go, so I’m posting our itinerary here for anyone to use as a base plan for their vacation. We actually received a similar itinerary from a friend and we augmented based on our tastes. I’ll include some optional things that may be easy to hit along the way if you’re interested.

Overall, I’d recommend you spend more than five days exploring all Ireland has to offer.  There were so many things we wanted to see and do that we just didn’t have time for.  Which is why we are already planning to go back… 🙂

I hope our driving southern Ireland travel guide helps you plan your trip to amazing and relaxing Ireland!


Airline: Aer Lingus

Day 0

  • Arrive in Dublin Airport 
  • Rent Car ( Budget ) * Note: Driving is on the left side here (and that means shifting with your left hand for a manual car!)
  • Sleep in Dublin



Hilton Dublin Kilmainham
S Circular Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland
+353 1 420 1800
-Checkout @ 12 noon


Day 1

Dublin to Shannon, sleep in Shannon


(From Dublin to CoM 266km, 3.5 hours)

  • Cliffs of Moher – Arrive at 18:30(Take the turn about a kilometer before, just south of the visitor center. A tiny sign will read “parking here for the Cliffs.”  Turn down the tiny road and honk around corners to warn those approaching the other way that you’re coming up. Get to cliffs by 6:30PM, sunset is 9:30PM)

(From CoM to Shannon – 62km, 1 hour)

Treacys Oakwood Hotel
Airport Road, Shannon, Co. Clare, Ireland
includes free parking and breakfast


**Optional Dublin to Galway. Spend the night in Galway.

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Day 2

Shannon to Killarney, sleep in Killarney

(Shannon to Bunratty – 10 minutes)

Bunratty ​-

(Bunratty to Dingle – 160km, 2.5 hours)

Dingle ​-

(Dingle to Killarney – 65km, 1.5 hours)

Cahernane House Hotel – includes breakfast **highly recommend
Address: Muckross Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Phone: +353 64 663 1895

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Day 3

Killarney, sleep in Killarney

Killarney ​-


Brehon Hotel and Angsana Spa – includes breakfast
Muckross Road, Killarney, Ireland
+353 64 6630700

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Day 4

(Killarney to Cashel – 142km, 2 hours)


(Cashel to Dublin 141km, 2 hours)


The Morrison, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin, DUB IE
T: 353 18872400

**Optional stops in Kilkenny (Medieval Mile) and Cork (Blarney Castle)

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Day 5

** Optional Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar, Jameson Distillery 

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It’s been a little while since our trip to Berlin and my last update.  Since then, we haven’t traveled much because I have been sick and it has been a Sicilian summer (aka hot AF).  I have been working quite a bit and picked up some volunteer opportunities which have kept me pretty busy!  However, we recently got back on the road for a midsummer trip to Ireland!  *If you’re looking for a simplified planning itinerary with additional options, click here.

I have to say, I wasn’t as excited about Ireland as some other places we have traveled.  As it turns out, Ireland is my most favorite place yet.

Here is our itinerary for our five-day venture, along with lots of photos of course!


Day 1 – Dublin and Cliffs of Moher 

On our very first day in Ireland, we awoke in Dublin and decided to spend the first half of the day checking out what it had to offer before we jaunted off to the Cliffs of Moher for sunset.  We had already pre-purchased tickets (I highly recommend doing this) to Kilmainham Gaol and The Book of Kells at Trinity College.  So, as I kept saying during the trip, our first stop in Ireland was… prison 🙂

Kilmainham Goal is a former prison that held many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.  The tour was a bit somber, but enlightening, as we learned about and visited areas where many were imprisoned and executed by the British.

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After the tour, we walked around Dublin a bit before our reserved time to see the Book of Kells and the Old Library at Trinity College.  The Book of Kells is Ireland’s national treasure – a book created in a monastery c. 800 AD!  The book is very ornately illustrated and contains a manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament in Latin, along with other passages.  Of course, photos of the book are not allowed, but I was able to take a few photographs of the impressive Old Library.

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After our visit to the prison and the library, we stopped in at an Irish bar for a pint.  After the pint, we did some walking and shopping before heading to the opposite side of the island to the Cliffs!

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the Cliffs, there was no visibility. So, we headed to Shannon for our second night.


Day 2 – Cliffs of Moher and Killarney

Since the Cliffs were rained out on the first day, we decided to try again on Day 2.  We arrived just in time to get a decent view before the rain came in and clouds covered.  It was an amazing to see in person. We also got to pet some super cute cows, so that was a bonus!

The Cliffs of Moher are ~700 feet at their highest point and range for over five miles.  Photos don’t do it justice at all – even seeing it in the fog and rain was just so breathtaking.   If you look closely at the left side of the photo, you can see tiny little people on top.  That can give you an idea of just how overwhelming the cliff faces are.

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After the Cliffs, we drove to Killarney and checked into our “hotel,” Cahernane House, which was actually a manor house that was constructed in 1877.  It was absolutely gorgeous and definitely one of the most luxurious places I’ve ever stayed.  We spent the remainder of the day relaxing around the grounds.

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Day 3 – Dingle 

After a much needed day of relaxation, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at our hotel before before heading out to Dingle for the day.

The drive to Dingle was stunning!  Our first stop was at Inch Beach.

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After Inch Beach, we proceeded to Slea Head Drive, where we drove around the peninsula and stopped in various locations to explore and enjoy the views!

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Famine Cottages

This famine cottage museum is dedicated as a memorial of the Great Famine in Ireland (+2 million deaths).  They also have a small animal park located there, in which we got to pet a variety of cute animals.

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Scenic Views 

Slead Head Drive is a MUST SEE while in Ireland.

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Dún Chaoin

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Ceann Sibéal – Star Wars Film Location for ‘The Last Jedi’

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Gallarus Oratory

This dry rubble masonry building is ~1,300 years old (and it’s completely waterproof, how?!).  It was built by early christians in the area and is definitely worth the 3€ entrance fee!

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After exploring the peninsula, we headed back to Dingle for dinner before returning to Killarney for the night.

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Day 4 – Killarney 

We originally intended to visit Dingle on Day 2 and Killarney on Day 3, but alas, rain.  It definitely would have been nice to have more time to explore the Ring of Kerry/Killarney National Park, but it would have taken us much more time than we had available. We started the day off at Ross Castle and then moved on the visit Muckross House (which was coincidentally once owned by the brother of the former owner of the Cahernane House).  The grounds surrounding the house were massive, so we explore them a bit before continuing on the drive around the Ring.  We stopped at random stop offs before visiting Ladies View, which was absolutely remarkable. Since we needed to drive back to Dublin that night, we had to end our exploration of Killarney there and hit the road.


Ross Castle

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Muckross House

Built in 1843, the house is now managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Trustees of Muckross House. The Queen of England once stayed here as a guest and you can see her quarters if you elect the tour.  We had the tour (no photographs allowed), and it was very informative.  But, the grounds themselves are massive and gorgeous, so you don’t really need the tour to fill your time.

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Torc Waterfall

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Ladies View

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Scenic Stop-Off

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About half-way to Dublin, we stopped in Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel and have dinner. According to local folklore, the Rock of Cashel originated in a mountain 20 miles outside of Cashel but landed in Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave.  It was also the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman Invasion.

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After our visit, we had a nice, leisurely dinner and then hopped back in the car to Dublin.


Day 5 – Dublin and home

On the last day, we spent most of our time packing to go before walking around Dublin one last time and heading to the airport to catch our flight.  We briefly checked out Dublin Castle.

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We honestly wish we had more time to spend exploring Ireland.  So, you know what that means… we will be back! 🙂

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