I just returned back to Chicago late last night after a week-long work trip to Rome, Italy and Budapest, Hungary. It’s 5:30am the next morning (jet lag is real), I’m sitting on my balcony in my apartment in River North, drinking coffee, overlooking the Chicago skyline. I move to a new apartment tomorrow and am taking in this special place in this apartment, one last time, as I reflect on my last week abroad. I started to write in my private journal, but felt compelled to jump in a word doc and share some things with you, my precious, amazing and sacred readers.

So, hi guys… thanks for being here. I’m always honored.

Coming home from these international trips, I always feel a mixture of emotions. Usually exhausted, drained, ungrounded and unadjusted. But this trip was particularly special, and the mix of emotions are a little different this time.

So let’s feel some feelings, shall we?

First things first…Gratitude. For being in a job that allows me to travel the world, see the world, experience the world, while launching a product that improves the quality of people’s lives. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve spent the last year launching DreamTrips Local, a dining and entertainment extension of the world’s largest private travel club DreamTrips. In the span of 2015, we launched five international cities. Since the beginning of 2016, we have launched 23 global cites. You can imagine how intense, stressful, fast-paced and enormous these past six months have been for my team and I. And while it’s been an amazing journey, the time on the road, away from my family and my life, has been super hard. This last week, my partner and I got a chance to stand on stage in front of 3000 of our members and talk about the growth of our program since its inception. We were met with non-stop cheering, standing ovations and hugs of embrace from mere strangers when we walked off the stage. It was overwhelming, to say the least. It also completely changed the game for me. You see, I think one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is the gift of appreciation. There is nothing like it. That single moment made all the work, the grind, the hustle, the time away from my family and friends all worth it. However, one shouldn’t have to stand in front of an arena size audience to feel that kind of love. So here’s a challenge: think of anyone you know, from your colleague to your barista to your dog walker to your best friend to your mom. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Do it today. Maybe even right now. Mean what you say. It has the power to change their day, and quite possible their perspective on their job, life or circumstances in an instant.

Relief! For the break from ingesting all those damn Italian carbs and drinking all that Hungarian rosé. You see, when I’m home, I eat a pretty healthy diet, sans gluten, dairy, sugar and limited alcohol. I also work out four to five times a week. Trying to keep up with that kind of lifestyle while on the road is just fucking bananas. So I went for it. I’m talking gelato at 10am, a pastry with each espresso, pasta for lunch and dinner, pizza for a snack with a side of Pinot Grigio, Chianti at dinner and always finished with a glass of Limoncello. (#WhenInRome.) In Budapest, we were hosted by locals who had so much pride over their regional cuisine, wines and spirits (anyone ever try Palinka?!), that we would have been point blank rude to turn down the tartare, goose liver, risotto, oxtail, and goulash. It’s safe to say that, YES, I feel relieved that I can get back to my routine now. But also relief (and a bit of pride) that I allowed myself to indulge this last week and not think twice about it. And for a gal who has struggled with food and body issues her whole life, this was a huge step for me. You can step into it, too. Next time you travel, or simply get a chance to experience something new, do it without regrets. Live in the moment. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let go. Say yes. Give yourself a break. It will be worth every bite, sip, taste and, most of all, the memory. I promise.

Ready. So May has been an insane month. Not only did my husband travel to Ireland himself while I was gone in Europe, I mentioned we are preparing our house for a big move to a new neighborhood. (I literally landed last night and the movers come tomorrow.) I started packing before my trip and while doing so, I shed a LOT of stuff. A move is always a beautiful opportunity for renewal. It’s a perfect time to clear literal and emotional clutter to bring in new fresh space and new energy. Coming home to a house full of boxes last night might have felt stressful in the past, and especially after rolling in right after a week abroad…but on the contrary. I made a point this last trip to spend a bit of time on my own while abroad, inside my own head and heart, getting lost in the streets of Rome, exploring the landscape of Budapest, waking up extra early to meditate and write in my journal, knowing full well that the second I got home, I would literally be starting a new chapter. Creating that extra time to be with myself each day was critical. I haven’t typically done that in the past. The result has left me feeling sooooo ready. Peaceful. And empowered. I encourage you to take some time each day for yourself too. Life is chaotic for all of us, regardless if we’re traveling for work or just simply living out our daily routines at home. Make some space for yourself. If I can do it, you can do it. And we both deserve it.

Love. For my home, the great city of Chicago. After traveling to over 20+ cities around the world in the last year, I can safely say that Chicago is the greatest city in the world. (IMHO.)

For my husband, who I miss so deeply when I’m gone, who greets me with such genuine excitement and happiness when I walk in the door, every. damn. time. Those moments are priceless.

For my dog, who I sometimes miss more, (just kidding), who wiggles her whole body at my presence and greets me with endless kisses. Those moments are pure gold.

For my friends and family, who check in on me every single day while I’m away, and text me up a storm the day I am coming home, wanting to know my ETA for touching down in Chicago… just because. Those messages are blessings in the digital form and I am grateful for every single one of them.

For my life, that I have worked so hard to build here, that is always here waiting for me, just as I left it, when I return. The ugly truth is, I experience a ton of FOMO from being gone so much. It’s been unbearable in the past and has caused me a lot of anxiety. I realized more than ever before on this trip, that no matter how far I’m gone and no matter how long it’s for, these are all constants in my life.

They are never going to go anywhere.

And for those things, most of all, I feel grateful, I feel relieved, I feel ready and I feel loved.

Here’s to honoring our current chapters, and opening up to the next ones…

With a TON of feelings, per usual –