How I Pack for A Weekend Getaway – Youth and Gov Conference!

Hello everyone!

Finals week is over, it’s the start of a new semester, and I got to spend the long weekend in Fresno with people that I love and in the program I’ve also fallen in love with this year. It wasn’t exactly a vacation or winding-down kind of trip, but it was still a great, good-old-fun break from the craziness of school, and a nice reward for getting through the week. As you guys know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I love to write about packing for any trips I go on. If you’re curious about what I packed for this weekend conference, keep on reading!

I used my carry-on suitcase and a Jansport backpack since I needed a bag that I could use when walking around during the day from session to session. We didn’t go back to our hotel rooms throughout the day, so I had a lot of daily essentials with me. Here’s everything I packed:

  • My delegation sweatshirt (each delegation has one, mine is a cute baby blue)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 2 pairs of normal socks and 2 pairs of fuzzy socks
  • Undergarments of course
  • Rain jacket
  • Snacks (cookies, candy, fruit snacks, granola bars… the works)
  • Perfume
  • Toiletries (retainer, shampoo/conditioner, soap, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, chapstick, retainer)
  • Tide to-go pen – a must for a messy eater like me!
  • Portable charger
  • Headphones for the long road trip
  • Money for food trucks, Starbucks, and Dippin Dots
  • Notebook and pens for note-taking
  • Vans because comfy shoes always
  • Hydro Flask
  • Lots of energy and excitement!

If you’re confused on what Youth and Government is, you should definitely look up the program and learn more about it on the YMCA’s website. It’s an amazing organization that exposes kids to debate, government, and activism while having fun doing it. I’m so happy with the experiences I’ve had in it this year and I would recommend it to anyone even remotely interested!

-Brooke

Places I Want to Go in 2020

Hello everyone!


After I wrote my post about all the places I’d been in 2019 (which you should go check out if you haven’t already), it got me thinking about where I hope to travel to this upcoming year. I traveled more than I ever have this year, so I feel like listing a whole bunch of places would be unrealistic- this list will be fairly short, and will pretty much only include places within the country. That’s why the post is listed “Places I Want to Go in 2020”, rather than just “Places I Want to Go” in general. Regardless, I hope you enjoy hearing about my longing for adventures.

  • New York, NY – I’ve been to upstate New York to visit family when I was 7, but we didn’t go to the city at all when I was there. I’ve wanted to visit New York so badly since watching Gossip Girl, and Columbia University has been one of my dream schools since I was little. There’s just so much to see there and it seems like it’s a city unlike any other, so I want to visit and experience it all (as well as tour Columbia!).
  • San Luis Obispo, CA – This is a much more local trip, but I’ve never really been anywhere in central or northern California. I’d like to visit Cal Poly SLO just to see what it’s like since I know it’s a good school, and it’s always fun to visit a beach town.
  • San Fransisco, CA – Similar to SLO, it’s a more local trip, but I’ve never been to San Fransisco. I find that funny since I’ve lived in California my whole life and it’s such a well-known city, so I really want to go and see what Northern California is like. There’s also a ton of schools to visit there like UC Berkeley and Stanford, so that’s an excuse to go. I think I want to go out-of-state for college, but SF is far enough that who knows- it may be a completely different vibe that I love. It also looks like such a beautiful city.
  • Chicago, IL – Another city to visit under the guise of college tours! I want to go see Northwestern and UChicago, and I really love cities, but I haven’t been to most of the big ones. I think this would be a cool trip, and my mom always says Chicago is her favorite city she’s been to.
  • Ann Arbor, MI – Michigan looks absolutely beautiful and I would love to see Lake Michigan and all the different parts. The reason I listed Ann Arbor is because that’s where the University of Michigan is, and I would love to go visit. It’s supposed to be beautiful there, and I would probably go in the same trip as Chicago since they’re relatively close.
  • Boston, MA – If I went to Boston, it would probably be part of a whole East Coast college tour. There’s so many colleges to look at in Boston, and all my friends who have been said it’s such a fun city. I’d like to go just to visit, but I would obviously want to tour the colleges there as well.
  • Washington D.C. – I went to D.C. for a school trip in eighth grade and fell in love. My dad has never been and I don’t think my brother plans on going on the school trip like I did, so we might do a family trip. I would also love to tour Georgetown and other schools in the area.
  • Maui or Oahu, HI – My grandparents live on the Big Island of Hawaii, but I’ve never been to the more “touristy” islands like Maui or Oahu. This is a pretty unrealistic trip since if I ended up going to Hawaii for whatever reason I would probably go visit and stay with my grandparents, but I figured I’d throw it out there since pretty much all of the other places on this list are more urban/cities.
  • East Coast trip in general – A couple of the places I listed are on the East Coast; I think I want to go to school on the East Coast, so I want to do a college tour trip where I can get a feel for all the main cities, and tour a lot of colleges. Some other notable places I would love to visit are some of the Ivies like Yale (Connecticut) and Brown (Rhode Island), and smaller liberal arts colleges.

I have no clue if any of these trips will end up happening; I suspect I’ll at least be able to go to SLO and San Fransisco, but I have no clue about anything else. I want to go do a summer program, so that may lead to a trip somewhere else in the country. Either way, I’m sure 2020 will lead to some amazing adventures, and I would love to hear where you want to go!

-Brooke

Places I’ve Been in 2019 – A Year’s Review

Hello everyone!

If you have been following my blog since the beginning, you would know that my first posts were all about my trip to Europe this summer. Let it be known that even though this year I had a couple big trips and traveled quite a bit, in the past, I’ve never taken more than one trip in a year. There were a lot of different reasons why I traveled so much more this year, and I’ll dive into these reasons when I talk about each destination. Also, as another kind of disclaimer: I know this may not seem like a lot of traveling to some people, and to others it may seem like an insane amount of travel. Whatever your perspective is, just know that I am immensely grateful for every experience I’ve had and for any of the traveling opportunities I’ve taken advantage of.

I’ve always wanted to travel more and see different parts of the country (and the world!), and this year, I actually did. I explored parts of three different countries (technically four if you count Vatican City), going out of the country for the first time. I had a couple weekend trips away from home where I got a taste of independence, and I had an insanely busy summer filled with travel. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recognize most of these- if you’re new, then welcome!

  • Palm Springs, CA (April) – Over spring break of freshman year, my friend invited me to come to Palm Springs with her family for a few days. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb in La Quinta with a pool with a couple other families (her family friends) and literally just relaxed the whole time. Funnily enough, my favorite memory from the trip was the bike rides my friend and I went on- it wasn’t actually that hot when we were there and the neighborhood was beautiful (and huge!) so we went on a few three-mile rides circling the neighborhood. I really needed the relaxation and quality time with a friend.
  • Paris, France (June) – The beginning of my first trip to a foreign country/first time in Europe, Paris did not disappoint. I had never been out of the country before since my family doesn’t travel often, but my dad had an international Rotary conference in Germany so my mom, my brother, and I planned to meet him afterwards in Paris. Whenever I thought of going to Europe in the past, Paris was my #1 destination. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, especially lit up at night, was probably the highlight of my year. The city was absolutely gorgeous and didn’t even feel real; I felt like I was in a storybook. There was some bumps along the road with my dad getting pickpocketed, but I LOVED the city and would love to go back and see more.
  • Sorrento, Italy (June) – This was actually my favorite city in Italy, and it’s not even a city. When we got off the 2-hour flight from Paris into Naples and drove into this beautiful beach town, I knew this was the place for me. It was a perfect few days of relaxing inbetween the bustling cities of Paris and Rome; our hotel was super nice and right in the middle of the main square. The beach was a short walk away and the Mediterranean Sea was so warm and beautiful- the food we ate in this city was probably the best of all too. I would love to return and see the rest of the Amalfi coast- no complaints at all here.
  • Rome, Italy (June) – Actually quite disappointing compared to the expectation I had, but still insanely picturesque. My favorite memory of Rome would either be sitting on the Spanish steps overlooking the square and shops around, or the night that we watched the sunset at a restaurant across from the Colosseum. I felt kind of unsafe in Rome due to the mass amount of scammers on the streets and the sketchy train station, but we didn’t actually have any problems there. Our hotel was amazing and we got upgraded to a suite, so that was nice too.
  • Florence, Italy (June) – A truly immaculate city, it sounds silly but I loved how clean everything was. The Duomo was bigger than I could’ve ever imagined, and seeing Michelangelo and all the other artwork was very cool as well. My favorite part was probably walking down the Ponte Vecchio and going into all of the fancy jewelry stores. I wish we had stayed for another day- our stay here was only two nights.
  • Venice, Italy (June) – Our last stop on the Europe trip, Venice was very different than I imagined it would be. The weather was really bad with lots of rain on our last day so we mainly stayed indoors, but it was beautiful when we came in. Since it’s actually a very small city, I didn’t expect how cramped it would feel. The canals were gorgeous and my highlight of this stop was definitely our gondola ride at sunset. The city just oozes with beautiful historic architecture.
  • Buena Park, CA (Knott’s Berry Farm, July) – Only a week after returning from Europe, I went to Knott’s Berry Farm for four days for cheer camp. We got to spend one day in the park, so that was obviously the highlight; I had never been before and the rides were quite fun- not too intense for me, but still a thrill. This definitely was my least favorite trip of the summer just because cheer camp was brutal, but it was nice to have a change of pace and go to an amusement park.
  • Orange, CA (Chapman University, July) – Continuing the crazy business of my summer, a week after cheer camp I headed off to stay in the Chapman University dorms for four days for yearbook camp with my school yearbook staff. This was surprisingly one of the best memories I have of summer- we were completely independent in the dorms and the camp was a little bit more free-form, so it was a true dorm life experience. The campus was super cute and small so I felt like I knew it like the back of my hand by the time we left. Also, the actual camp was SO much fun and as a newbie to my school’s yearbook staff, I got to know people a lot better.
  • Fresno, CA (November) – I know Fresno’s not exactly a vacation destination, but I went there for the weekend for a Youth and Government conference. The city is definitely…interesting… but I had an amazing time at the conference held in the Fresno Convention Center, and I met so many amazing people from across the state. It made the four-hour bus drive very worth it. It was also another taste of independence since my roomies and I were responsible for getting around to our sessions and everything.
  • Seattle, WA (November) – My mom and I planned a girls’ Seattle trip for Thanksgiving break because we had both always wanted to see the city, and I wanted to visit the University of Washington. We stayed in the center of downtown, right near the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. We had amazing food everyday and packed so much into the few days we were there, including a full day touring the college. I LOVED the city, but unfortunately did not feel at home at UW. That being said, I absolutely fell in love with Seattle and could totally see myself living there for a job one day.
  • Victoria, British Columbia (November) – My mom and I realized we had a day with nothing planned during our Seattle trip, so we impulsively decided to take a three-hour ferry to Victoria (Canada!) for the day. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada, so now I can say I have. Victoria’s an island and the capital of BC, as well as the “city of gardens” so there’s a ton to do and see there. It was beautiful (must sees are the Fairmont Empress hotel and the Parliamentary Buildings, as well as the Bouchart Gardens thirty minutes away) and it made me want to return and see other beautiful parts of Canada. I wish we had more time to explore Victoria as well.

As you can tell, my 2019 was full of super exciting experiences and I went to so many places that I had never been before and never imagined I would get to visit, especially in one year. This year went by so fast, and sometimes I forget all of these different trips all happened in 2019; so much was packed into this past year. I don’t think I’ll be traveling nearly as much in 2020, but we’ll see! You never know where life will take you. 🙂

-Brooke

The beautiful sunset view from our Airbnb in La Quinta.
The Eiffel Tower at night.
View of the ocean below from a viewpoint on the cliffs in Sorrento.
The Colosseum in a dreamy light near sunset.
The Duomo up close.
Scenic waterfront in Venice as we boarded our gondola.
The famous Valdez Hall where us Youth and Gov kids ate our meals in Fresno.
The Pike Place Market bustling at dinnertime.
The Space Needle from the point of view of a parking lot nearby.
The stunning Parliamentary Building in Victoria.