REVERSE Bucket List

When I sit down and think about my bucket list, the first thing that always comes to my mind is all of the things I want to do, places I want to visit, and people I want to meet. But what about all of the things I have already seen and done that I can cross off my bucket list? This is what inspired me to create somewhat of a reverse bucket list & write about the crazy adventures I've been on and fun things I have gotten to experience. These aren't in any particular chronological order, just some of my favorite things I've ever done! 

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA

During my junior year of high school, I went on a mission trip to Ethiopia for spring break. My team and I took this trip through Younglife Expeditions and got to meet the Younglife staff who work in Ethiopia and even had the opportunity to serve at their camp there for part of the week. The staff members quickly became our close friends and did things such as showing us around the city, inviting us to attend their Younglife club, taking us to training and prayer with their leaders, among many other amazing experiences. I could honestly write an entire blog post about how incredible and life changing this trip was, but I am going to do my best to sum it up in a few highlights. I loved getting to experience the Ethiopian culture and see how they do things so differently there. It really gave me a new perspective and changed my heart in a way that made me so much more thankful for all of the blessings and opportunities I have been given. 

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One of the first days we were there, we got to visit a skate park that had been built in Addis Ababa. A man who had grown up in this smaller village eventually moved out to Europe and had a dream to give back to the community he was raised in. He started this skate park for kids to come and express themselves and simply be kids. Here they learn how to skate, dance, and even get to stand up and share their hopes and dreams for their lives with anyone who may be in the audience. I loved how joyful all the kids here were and how passionate they were about the goals and aspirations they had set for themselves. This was definitely one of my most favorite days on this trip.

When I was in high school, making friendship bracelets was my thing. I loved giving them to all of my friends and proudly wore all the ones they had made me on my wrists every day without fail. While we were at the skate park we had the opportunity to give some of the little kids bracelets we had made for them as well. It was so sweet and special to see them get so excited and appreciative for a little gesture such as this.

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One day, we drove to the top of a mountain to a church that sat atop the hill. While we didn't have the opportunity to go inside, we stood outside and admired the amazing view. We all got to pray together for one another and for the city of Addis and it truly was such an incredible and unforgettable moment. God's presence had been so evident throughout the entire trip, but this might be when I felt it the most.

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During one of the days we were working at the YoungLife camp, we had a little bit of extra time and got to play with the sweet kids who lived close by. I don't totally remember correctly, but I am pretty sure this was an orphanage of some sort because there were many children being looked after by only a few women. This sweet little girl had one of the most infectious smiles I'd ever seen. Regardless of the language barrier between us, she made me smile and laugh so much and truly just loved being held and running around the playground with me. This is one of my most favorite memories from the entire trip and something I will cherish forever. It is so beautiful and wild to feel so connected and loved by a child when we could not even communicate with words.

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One of the last few nights we spent in Ethiopia, we saw this beautiful sunset. There were hyenas running through the fields in front of these mountains and my friend Rachel, as well as one of the Ethiopian YoungLife staff people who we called G, began to run after them and chase them through the plains. The rest of the team could not help but laugh at these hyenas being terrified of them running after them. Little did we know that later that night more of the YoungLife staff would take us back out onto the property with flashlights to search for hyenas in the dark!

Overall, this trip was full of amazing experiences and even some things that were hard to see and a little bit difficult to process. This trip truly changed my heart and my attitude toward so many things in life. I love that it inspired a deeper love and appreciation for travel and other cultures in me, and gave me the ambition to go experience more of what this beautiful world has to offer.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

One of the most amazing and unreal experiences I have ever had was the week I spent modeling in New York City. I sent in my portfolio and was, to my surprise, selected to model for Senior Style Guide and a group of photographers. My parents went with me and we spent our free time exploring the city which was amazing. I had so much fun getting to model so many different looks and outfits this week and truly, many of these photos don't even look entirely like me because of the wild makeup and costume changes. Overall I loved getting to express a different side of me and model for these photographers!

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It was so special to be in the city during Christmas time to see all of the decorations and of course the gigantic lighted tree in Rockefeller Center. I loved having this quality time with just my parents and I and to be able to experience everything the city had to offer together. They have always been so supportive of me and what I am passionate about, and this trip was no exception.

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Throughout the week the other models and I got close and it really was so fun to get to know these people I had never met and be able to spend so much time working together. I am such a people person that getting to meet so many new friends was one of the biggest highlights of my trip, and all of the photos of us together turned out so fun. All of the photographers and models were all truly so beyond talented and it made it so exciting to work with them. Here are some of the behind the scenes pictures from while we were shooting!

All of the photographers were so gifted  and it was so exciting to see the final images. This shoot ended up in the Senior Style Guide magazine and it was almost surreal to receive it and see myself in it. Overall, this trip was seriously one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I loved meeting new people, doing something a little bit outside of my comfort zone, and exploring even more parts of one of my favorite cities with my parents alongside me. I have so many special memories and funny moments from this trip that I will never forget. Here are some of the final images from the photographers who photographed me throughout the week!

CANCUN, MEXICO

Another trip on my reverse bucket list is my senior spring break to Cancun, Mexico! I went with my best friend Olivia and both of our moms, and we truly could not have had a more perfect time. The resort we stayed at was beautiful, and we had so much fun experiencing all that it had to offer. We tried all the different restaurants, went to the spa, took bubble baths in the jaccuzzi in our room, and even went to salsa dancing lessons on the beach. A lot of our other high school friends stayed at this resort as well and it was amazing to get to spend time with all of them as well as get closer to Olivia and further develop our relationships with our moms. This was hands down one of the best trips of my entire life and includes so many special memories that I will never forget.

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We loved being able to lay out and hang out around the pool, all while having such a beautiful view overlooking the beach. We stayed in a more private and not as crowded part of the resort so it was nice to be able to escape the craziness of the main area. Every single view was breathtaking and I remember the entire time just feeling like I was dreaming because everything was so beautiful and truly picture perfect.

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Being with all of my high school friends on this trip was so special because we all got to have some quality time together before heading off to college just a few short months later. We spent time laying out by the pool, getting ice cream, talking to and getting to know the resort staff, playing beach volleyball, and even meeting other seniors on their spring breaks as well. I really am so thankful for this time we all got to spend together and all of the amazing things we experienced. It meant so much to have all my best friends surrounding me during this trip of a lifetime. 

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My best friend Olivia has been my rock through everything that I went through in high school and to be able to take this trip with our moms before we left for college meant the world to me. We made so many more memories and now share so many incredible, special experiences. There are countless inside jokes and things we look back and laugh on now still from this trip. I am so thankful for her spunky heart and how her presence on this trip truly made it better than it ever would have been without her!

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

The next trip on my reverse bucket list is when I went to Seattle with my grandparents the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year. They wanted to take me on a trip where I could pick somewhere I had never been in the United States to go have a fun, memorable experience with them. This trip holds some of my most cherished memories with Nonnie and Poppie, and I am so beyond thankful that we got to experience this city for the first time together.

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Some of the highlights include dinner and dessert at the top of the Space Needle, a duck boat ride around the city, visiting the gum wall, wandering around Pike Place Market, and visiting the first ever Starbucks. We packed so much adventure into such a short week and it was so fun to continuously be experiencing new things. We went to the aquarium, did a little bit of shopping, watched sea lions sunbathe, and had so many yummy meals. Our hotel was in the heart of the city and it was so fun to be able to wake up in the morning and walk around with so much to see. 

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One of the days we took a ferry to Bainbridge Island and had the most beautiful view of Mount Rainier on the way there. I really loved Seattle because it truly had a little bit of everything to offer. There was the city aspect of it, as well as the pier along the ocean, and of course the beautiful mountain views. We got so lucky that it didn't rain a single day we were there and at that point in time, I really fell in love with the city and the dream of wanting to live there one day began.

Probably one of the most memorable things that we did was riding the ferris wheel on the Pier. We rode it once during the day and loved it so much that we wanted to go again at nighttime, and the view of the cityscape that we got to see was truly breathtaking. I loved being able to experience this with my grandparents by my side because it made for such precious memories with them. I am so thankful that they took me on this trip and for all of the fun memories we made together. I want to be able to do this for my kids and grandkids one day because even so many years later, this remains one of my favorite and most memorable trips.

SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA

During Christmas break of my senior year of high school, I got to take one of the most amazing vacations with my family. Despite the ice storm in Indy which closed down almost every interstate and major road; my parents, brother and sister, grandparents, uncle, and cousin all headed to Sanibel (after sprinting through the airport to catch our flight) and stayed in a beautiful house right on the beach. My mom and uncle grew up coming to the island every summer so it has always been such a special place for them. We spent so much time on the beach, going back to all of their favorite restaurants, and perhaps my favorite thing we did was going on a dolphin cruise and watching the dolphins swim and jump right alongside the boat. We walked all along the island and got to see the beautiful houses and I really loved how it was so peaceful and quaint here. 

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Sanibel truly has some of the most beautiful sunsets and sights to see. Usually when my family and I would go on vacations we would bring friends or go with a bunch of other families and while that is always so fun, it was extra special to have a lot of quality family time together during this trip. Some of the silly memories we have include Jack chipping his tooth on the bottom of the pool at the beginning of the week and then being toothless for family pictures, playing so many games, and countless long walks along the beach looking for shells. This was exactly the relaxation and reset I needed at this time in the year.

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My siblings have always meant everything to me, and I loved how much closer we got this week. There was nothing to argue about because we were on vacation, and all of the time we got to spend on the beach building silly sandcastles and looking for the perfect seashell made me even more thankful for them and the close relationship we share. This trip will forever go down as one of my favorite ones I've been on with my family and I really am so appreciative of every second of sweet time we got to spend together.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Last summer, Joe left for bootcamp and began what would be a three month long journey to start his career in the Marine Corps. We spent all summer and into the fall writing letters back and forth (along with reading the ones he wrote me ahead of time to read each day) to the point where I'm pretty sure the mailman thought I was crazy, running out to check the mail the second it was delivered. By the time it came for his family day and graduation, I could not have been more excited. My mom and I flew into California and met up with all of Joe's family. Family day began and was truly the best day of my life. Being reunited after not being able to talk for three months held so many emotions that it really is hard to put into words, but was the most special day I've ever had. 

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There was so much suspense leading up to finally being reunited. In this photo we were about 15 feet apart but couldn't run up and see each other as they were still practicing and finishing things up for graduation, and after about 5 hours, they were finally dismissed to find their families. The suspense was killing me since I could literally see him right there in front of me, but the wait was beyond worth it.

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This day was hands down the best day of my life, and there truly are not words to adequately explain the rush of emotions that came with this reuinion. While being apart for so long was really hard, it couldn't have been more worth it when we finally got to be together again. I could not be more thankful that I was there to experience this moment with my best friend as it is something I will never ever forget. 

Seeing Joe back with all of his family again made me so beyond happy. I can't imagine ever going through something like that and being away from my family and loved ones for so long and this made it so special to see them back together again. We spent the rest of the day walking around base, eating lunch all together, and soaking in every second we got to spend with one another. It was so hard leaving him there again that evening but graduation the next day was incredible.

Seeing him so in his element like this, accomplishing what he had worked for so long for, made me so incredibly proud of him!!! This guy gives 110% day in and day out and never asks for recognition. I am so proud of his work ethic and consistent determination that was so evident this day, and how he continues to give his all to any task set in front of him. Graduation day was so special and I am so thankful that I was there to be able to support him during it.

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The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, spending time with he and his family, walks along the beach, exploring parts of San Diego, and being so thankful that we were finally back together again! It's kind of crazy to be apart from someone for so long without talking to them and then be able to pick right back up where you left off like we hadn't missed a single day. Overall, I am so beyond thankful for the opportunity to go to family day and graduation to watch him accomplish his dreams. This was a  trip that I will never forget. 

CREEDE, COLORADO: SAN JUAN MOUNTAIN RANGE

The summer after my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go on a once in a lifetime kind of backpacking trip. A bunch of my friends and our Younglife leaders headed out to Wilderness Ranch in Colorado on a big bus for what would soon be one of the most life-changing, faith-testing, yet amazing weeks. We hiked for 6 days straight throughout the San Juan Mountains carrying only what was on our backs. I had never had to rely on God physically before until this experience, and that is something I will always remember. Over and over, He provided even when I didn't think I had the strength to carry on.

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I loved getting to know all of these girls so much deeper on this trip. Our guides, Alaina and Hannah, became two of my favorite people ever and I got even closer with our leader Sarah. Every day when we would stop for a meal one person in the group would share their life story and it was amazing getting to hear these girls pour their hearts out. This became a major realization for me in that so many people go through way more than we can ever see. Everyone has something tough going on in their lives whether it be big or small, and this is just an even bigger reason to always be intentional to treat one another with kindness in every situation.

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This trip pushed me outside of my comfort zone, had me do and try things I had never done before, and brought me closer to God in a way unlike I had ever experienced in the past. His beauty and greatness was so evident out there in the mountains, and I wanted to purposefully keep looking for the goodness of His creation even when I was back home and not in this consitently beautiful, peaceful environment. 

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Going into this week, I really was unsure if I would be able to finish the trip or if I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually equipped to handle all of the craziness of the week. God provided in the most beautiful way and I can truly say that the day we peaked that mountain was when I felt the most strong, beautiful, and braver than I had in my entire life. We still had a bit of a ways to go before we got back to the base camp, but I couldn't believe everything I had accomplished and the barriers me and the rest of the girls had pushed through to get to this point.

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Overall, the time spent hiking alongside these girls, laughing whenever we saw Cairn, joking about "Jamie da owl", sharing meals, or simply just having deep conversations, they made a major impact on my heart and the person I am today. These mountains hold some of our deepest secrets, best memories, and silliest moments. I will always remember the memories we made here and the way that this trip changed me and brought me closer to God as well as these sweet girls.

Every single one of these trips and experiences has such a special place in my heart and hold memories that I still think about almost every day. I have such a passion for traveling, experiencing other cultures, and having new & exciting experiences that I can't wait to see where else life takes me and all of the things I will get to cross off my bucket list in the future. Here's to living a life full of adventure and all of the fun to come.

TravelJulia DeWolfComment