Parative flag & my new room!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS Y'ALL! Here's a little story behind making one of my projects come to life. The why, who, and how we all did it and a little sneak peak of my new room! You can shop and get one of the flags for your home here: there is a big flag and a smaller one

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This holiday season I teamed up with some really amazing people to bring one of my words from the window seat to life. Words from the window seat started back in September of 2014. One early morning flight I felt inspired to leave a note of encouragement in the seat back pocket for another passenger to find. It read "be kind to yourself." That was my first words from the window seat and this idea sparked to start a really cool, inspiring photo series. I decided to turn it into a project and share my heart and my notes on my blog & Instagram. Ever since then, I've been doing them and leaving them constantly when I feel like I have something on my heart I want someone else to hear. So, I wanted to make one of my favorites I've done come to life for all of the people who have been following me/ supporting me/ and encouraging me, to have something in their home to encourage them as well. 

My awesome friend Drew who started Parative reached out and had the idea to create one of my pieces into an AMAZING flag. I was so pumped. We brought on board Laura Supnik who is an illustrator based out of NYC and she came up with the amazing design. I'm beyond excited with how it turned out. Not only is it supporting all of our passions, but Parative partners with 2 manufacturers that employ women out of the red light districts in India. Parative has a vision to create more safe employment opportunities in India, grow the women's skillset, and to inspire people everywhere to "Dream to Do." I couldn't be more happy to create such an awesome opportunity for so many people thanks to Parative.

Here are some of my favorite images taken from my sweet home in Logan Square chicago of the big flag. Wes Taylor took all of the portraits and they make me happy. We did a shoot for Parachute Home and it ROCKED.

P.s. They sold out in basically 2 days. TWO DAYS. Jesus is so cool. Can't wait for round 2. Keep your eyes opened for more projects coming with Parative!

San Diego

One of my sweetest best friends has a place out in San Diego, California so we decided to take a best friends trip out there. Riley & Chris are some of my closest friends so this trip was nothing short of amazing. We all had such a ball. I've kind of been in a funk working through some hard things in my life and it was incredible to escape the city and my every day life to go run around and get kissed by the Cali sun. Here are some fun adventures we went on and some amazing pictures from my self and my sweet old/ new friends. People make the places you go. I will say it a thousand times over and over again.

I flew in and met Chris & Riley late at night so of course we went and got In & Out. We then got the tour of Chris's little beach town, Encinitas. It was ADORABLE. We ended off star gazing at Swami's which was the best star gazing I have seen yet. Shooting stars flying around everywhere. Was so beyond gorgeous. 

Our first full day there Chris showed us all of his favorite spots. He took us to the meditation garden in town. It was so peaceful and the views there were perfect. You can just sit back and watch the surfers from the top of the cliff.

These are some of the pictures from our walk around the meditation garden. So peaceful right?! From there we went and spent some time climbing all over the rocks at Torrey Pines.

After that we headed to see the seals (yes I said seals) and watch the sunset at La Jolla with some new friends! La Jolla was so amazing. We had such a blast and also had the best mojito at Jose's. Oh PLEASE go have one for me if you ever end up in La Jolla. 

But for real they have seals all over the beaches and rocks! Just swimming around and sun bathing every where. People were snorkeling and swimming with them too! It was the coolest thing. They were so cute. 

We then met up with our new friend Erick to catch sunset. Please go check out his work he is so talented! The sunset was beautiful and I am so thankful for the new friends we met. 

Day 2 we went to Victoria Beach to see the castle that is out on the water. I think the pictures speak for themselves. The weather was so dreary and it contributed to how moody and vibey all of our pictures turned out. 

Our sweet new friend Erick too these. So incredible right?! Here are the rest from our castle adventure! 

My time in San Diego was so sweet. A sweet friend & I talked on this trip about how sometimes we're given things in pieces; one at a time, day by day. We can only see bits and pieces of our healing, so when we start working through ugly things, we don't get to see the full picture. We get to see chunks. And that's okay. Because could you imagine getting a reality check of EVERYTHING you needed to fix in your life whenever your heart is already overwhelmed? Hello. Train wreck. I've been heart broken with some things/ situations in my life and have felt so overwhelmed recently. But I've felt so comforted to know that God gives me chunks of my healing whenever I am ready for them. So instead of beating myself up for thinking I need to be somewhere that I'm not, I'm rejoicing that I get to take it all in day by day. I took this weekend to simply breathe and to live free and meet some of the sweetest souls. The Cali sun and San Diego hugs from strangers who are now friends were so dear to my heart. I am just tickled by the beauty in my life amidst such heart ache. Joy is our weapon. No matter what we are walking through. Until next time San Diego.

P.s. check out all my friend's work I was having fun with this trip.

Chris Hershman: photo/ video

Erick Frost: photo

Riley Phillips: photo

Tyson Motsenbocker: musician (go listen to his music because it is AMAZING)

Lisbon

After 4 days running around in Lagos, we headed back to Lisbon for 4 more days of exploring. Back story of this trip is kind of fun. My traveling buddy Bryce & I were actually going to spend our vacation in Rome & Santorini, but due to troubles with life and some family issues going on, I had to back out last minute. So Bryce & her cousin Jordan planned on Portugal instead. Things ended up clearing up for me and I decided I still wanted to travel with them so I tagged along. I had honestly never really heard of anything in Portugal. I had no idea what it was like or where we were going or what the cities were like. I just booked my hostels and flights and didn't do any research and showed up. I think I enjoyed the trip so much more and was so amazed because I had absolutely no clue what to expect. I hope you have sweet friends in your life that will always have like your back and let you feel included and invited, no matter the messiness. So excited to share my few days in Lisbon. There was so much we didn't get to do and see and I can NOT wait to go back. My favorite place I have been internationally so far. 

Where we stayed: Lisbon Old Town Hostel 

Our hotel was pretty good. Not my favorite hostel I've ever stayed in for a couple different reasons, but mostly because we had a weird experience with our roommates but the staff were the cutest and extremely helpful. The location is SO ideal and it's such a close walk to all of the stuff you want to be exploring in. 

Favorite places to Eat: Quase Cafe, Time out market & Manteigaria

Pastel de nata. Lisbon's famous pastries. They are amazing and I wish I could eat them 5 times a day. We basically did the entire trip. These egg tart pastries were invented back in the 18th century from Catholic monks. Back then egg was used to starch the nun's clothing, so they had an abundant supply off egg whites left over after doing the laundry and needed to do something to do with it. So they would use it to bake and this is where these bad boys were invented! Manteigaria was our local favorite shop to get them around the area we were staying in. Can't forget our daily shot of espresso too! 

Right around the block was this amazing market called Time Out market! They seriously had everything there. Fresh flowers, Sweets, Dinner & Lunch, foods from all different cultures, and of course all of the seafood. It is the perfect spot if you want a huge variety of food selections.

This next spot is so near to my heart. Quase Cafe. During our last day exploring before I had to head back to the states, I got my phone stolen by a pick pocketer. It seriously happened in the blink of an eye. I was so upset and beyond stressed out. It all ended up working out but it was not fun. Right after it happened we went into this cafe to see if they spoke any english and to see if they could help us. There was not a ton they could do, but they were the sweetest couple and my heart was just so comforted by them and being in their shop. They had the best cheese I have seriously ever eaten in my life (that is a huge deal) and the best mojitos. Whew dang it was unreal how good it was. They brought comfort to my distress and I want everyone in the entire world to experience Quase Cafe. 

What to do: Day trip to Belem, Day trip to Sintra, market on Saturday, Get a picture of the famous 28 tram car

Day Trip to Belem. Since I don't have enough good things to say about Lisbon's famous pastry (astel de nada) of course we had to take a day trip out to Belem to eat some at the bakery where they originated! It was so worth it. The line gets extremely long so make sure you don't wait for a table and go at a good time! The train leaves right from Lisbon and is a short ride over to Belem. 

Day trip to Sintra. Honestly, I should probably just have a separate blog post for Sintra because that is how much beauty there was. I got so many amazing captures and basically just walked around all day with my jaw dropped. It is the most gorgeous castle with so much character and history. Please make sure to take the train to Sintra. It was incredibly worth it and one of my favorite parts of the trip. 

Saturday Market: Feira da Ladra. A guy who worked at our hostel and quite a few other people recommended the market that happens on Saturday. It also happens on Tuesday but we weren't there for that day. We ended up going and there was so much stuff. For sure make sure you go and check it out! We met the sweetest girl who made the cutest handmade prints to pay for her school.

Make sure you catch a picture of the famous 28 tram car! And also make sure you hold onto your purse cause this is when I got mine stolen. People warn you every 5 minutes about holding onto your bags and it is no joke. 

Lisbon was so amazing and I feel like I didn't even get to see half of it. I can not wait to go back. The ridiculous hills, breathtaking tile, and Pastel de nada are some of my favorite traveling memories. Until next time Lisbon!  

Lagos, Portugal

As soon as we landed in Lisbon, we hopped on a bus to ride 3 hours South to the most beautiful Costal town called Lagos. Lagos is a part of Portugal's Algarve region. Even pulling up my heart was skipping beats. Their beaches are unlike anything I have ever experienced before. So stinking' beautiful.

I seriously am so excited to share my first half of my Portugal trip. We spent about 4 days in Lagos and then went straight back to Lisbon until I had to head back to America! So here is Lagos through a travelin' lady's eyes.

Where we stayed: White Sun Hostel

It's about a 10 minute walk from the town center where the bus drops off (STRAIGHT UPHILL PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE WITH SHOES OKAY?!!!) Sweetest couple owns it who speak little English but they were so kind and I adored our hostel. Couldn't have been happier with it. And we met the coolest people there too, but that's always a given when you pick a hostel over a hotel or air bob. Plus you save LOADS of money too. 

The Beaches: Praia Dona Ana, Praia Do Camilo, Praia Da Balanca

I still have dreams about the beaches I got to experience in Lagos. LOOK AT THIS MAGIC Y'ALL! A lot of people rent cars and will drive, but in all honesty we just walked. They have trails that run right along the coast where you can get such amazing views straight down into the cliffs. If you are on a budget and don't want to spend money on transportation, walking really was not bad at all. You can beach hop and get to experience them all in a day. Plus when you walk you get to be on the cool dirt trails that run right by the coast which made the experience even cooler. 

Praia Da Balanca is a MUST. It's probably the hardest beach to get down to due to how many stairs their are and you have to jump the wall to get down into the water. But it is so worth it. This was my favorite beach out of all of them. There is so much green and brown sea glass, I went home with a handful. Make sure if you are in Lagos you make it a point to get your booty down there. 

WHERE TO EAT (Most Importantly)

I have too many good things to say about the food in Lagos. It's a beach town so of course all you eat is sea food. Before my trip, if I even looked at sea food I would freak out. I spent my childhood in Florida and I haven't been able to stretch my sea food tolerance levels past a kids pop corn shrimp order. But I wanted the full experience of Portugal. So I laid my fears aside and went all out and tried EVERYTHING. I am a changed woman. I love seafood and could eat octopus for the rest of my life I'm pretty dang sure. Praises. Get some octopus for me while you are there okay? Deal.

We tried so many little restaurants and shops & sadly since I got my phone stolen later in the trip, all the notes I had were gone! But here here is my favorite spot we went to. Also if you don't get a pitcher of Sangria every night, you are not experiencing Lagos properly ;)

The Garden. If you scroll through this slide show you get a little taste of how stinking ADORABLE it was. By far my favorite little spot to eat and grab a pitcher of sangria in Lagos. It was so photogenic and so yummy. You have gotta go and experience this cuteness overload for yourself. But make sure to go when it's open because it has weird hours and also is extremely busy so you might want to make a reservation too! 

Make sure to take a day trip to Sagres! 

 

Sagres is the most western point of Europe and it is the sweetest little beach town! We took a bus up straight from the city center and spent the day exploring around. 

Lagos was good for our hearts and souls. We got tan, filled up on Sangria, and met some of the sweetest people from all over that we had some fun with. I loved Lagos and it holds such a special place in my heart. 

Find me on an American Airlines Seatback!

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I'm so so so tickled to announce that as of this October, you can find my face on the seat backs of the new American Airlines planes! What an honor. If y'all find me make sure to take a selfie with me! What a fun life I get to live.  

 

Grand Cayman with Carnival

Our first stop during our Carnival Cruise was to Grand Cayman. The largest island of the Cayman Islands located in the Caribbean. This is where we picked to do an excursion! I decided on swimming with the stingrays and couldn't have been more excited about it. 

After a morning cup of coffee on our seaside balcony, we set off to take a ferry to the island! We then got on a bus where we had the funniest bus driver. We learned a lot about the island and got a little mini tour, and then got dropped off at our sail boat and then made our way towards Stingray City! 

The sail over was so peaceful and relaxing, we had such a fun time. We also had the sweetest people on our boat ride too which made it even better. Once we got there I jumped right in and started swimming with the Rays. It was an absolute BLAST. I wanted to keep swimming all day. I was a little bit nervous at first, but I truly felt so safe. I didn't realize how loving and friendly stingrays are! 

After we spent a decent time in the water, we headed back to the main center to head back to the ship. Had to get some fresh coconut from The Coconut Man before I left though! It was such a solid day. Couldn't have had a better excursion. 

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

white sands

I had an El Paso layover this October and was so excited because I have been absolutely itching to get out to White Sands National Park. It's about an hour and a half drive from the El Paso airport, so me and my good friend Nyri decided to rent a car and have ourselves a little adventure. It was an adventure to say the least because we actually ended up getting into a little hit and run accident which was insane! We were fine and it was really minor and decided to still stick to our adventure and go play in the sand. 

Here are my favorite images from our adventure out there. My only advice is to bring sunglasses and get ice cream & a cool match from the gift shop on the way out. If y'all can ever get out there you absolutely have to! 

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Our time there was so great. We did a lot of dancing and running around (which are my favorite things). Want to end this photo diary post with El Paso's hidden secret. Her name is Kikki's and she will steal your entire Mexican food lovin' heart!!! Kikki's was a Mom & Pop's restaurant someone recomened to us. It was recently featured on the food network channel so we had to go see why. And boy did we. Love you Kikki's!! If you are ever in the area or passing though; YOU HAVE TO STOP!

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Venice Beach #adultTAYcation

I turned a normal vacation into adult TAYcation this past September. I've never had a 401k or an adult job that gives you paid vacation so this was really fun and new for me. I travel so much and so often that I just wanted to take a break from all the craziness and wanted to go somewhere with sunshine and family. So I set off to L.A. since I haven't really had much time to explore there yet. My wonderful Aunt and her precious family were kind enough to let me crash their gorgeous home in Venice Beach and have a blast for the next week! Also just a spoiler alert- they have the cutest baby in the entire world. Prepare your heart for that one in advance.

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If you ever get time to play in Venice, I highly suggest renting a bike or bringing a skateboard. The beach board walk is so much fun to cruise on. Venice is biker friendly. If you're there and don't have a bike- rent one! There are places all over. It's so easy to get to the beach or to all the cool areas with really good shops and food. I spent so much time this bad boy running into shrubs and garbage cans. 

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They have the cutest market set up on the weekend that you have to go check out. It's right on the board walk where my favorite skate park (that's famous to say the least) is. I was so pumped to finally be able to go check it out and see all the Cali boys cruisin' for a bruisin'. 

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While you are around that area, look out for the little food carts that are all over the boardwalk. We stopped at one that put lime and chili powered all over fruit and I could have had 10 of them. There's also really incredible street art all over so keep your eyes on the look out for all of it.

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It's extremely hard to list all of the food spots I ate at cause there were so many good ones I can't even begin to tell y'all. But here are my favorites:

For brunch: Superba Food & Bread. I still have dreams about how good the avocado toast was. And that says a lot.

For lunch: Lemonade all the way. Lemonade is a really awesome cafeteria style lunch/ dinner place. They have all sorts of salads and sandwiches and tons of fun lemonade flavors (as shown). Best lemonade I have ever had.

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For dinner: Clutch. Really increible BBQ and chicken. 

The coffee scene was increible too, so of course my heart was beaming. My favorite spot was called Deus. Half of it is a coffee shop and the other half is a motorcycle repair shop & goods store. It was so incredible. 

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Blue bottle was really fancy too. I felt like I was in Japan or somewhere really modern. Being fancy is always fun you know? They had a New Orleans pour over that was so suspiciously good I didn't even know what to do about it. Intelligentsia is always a good cup of joe too. I even ran into a sweet friend from Georgia while I was there!

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There were so many fun things to do and places to explore, but the street called Abbot Kinney Boulevard was something else. It was a dream boat guys. It had the coolest old vintage clothing stores, coffee shops, bars, food, and plant shops. That's where I spent most of my time and exploring.

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Venice was a dream and #adultTaycation was one for the books. There's something so great about being around love ones and getting to explore really cool new places. L.A. is of course so great, but if you have time to go explore all the beach towns, you have gotta check out Venice.

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All the love from precious baby Eden & I. Venice you were a blast!

this is for you.

 

For the longest time now, I've felt like someone has paper shredded my heart. I feel as if my emotions and thoughts have just sat scrambled and jumbled on the floor into little pieces. And for the past few weeks, I've been sorting through the chaos. I have found the courage to share these words and speak them outloud. There are things that need to be said, things that I have realized that I want you to know too.

I have known extreme heartache and I have experienced great loss, but I don't have words to explain this past season I have been walking through. I really don't have any words for them. I feel as if I have been battling through my own personal hell. No one told me at 22 years old that breathing was something I would have to remind myself to do. 

But that has been the reality I have lived in.

This past spring, I had plans to be a wife. I had dreams of a home. I had hope to be a mother, because it was sitting right there in front of me. Everything I could ever have dreamt up was right there in front of me. All of it. I was set.

And then all of the sudden it was gone. Completely. In a matter of hours. And I was left with nothing but useless, hopeless dreams.

I can tell you what it's like to cry yourself to sleep for months straight.

I can tell you what it's like to lose your voice because you spent so much time screaming at Jesus.

I can tell you what it's like to have to get rid of your dream wedding dress. I can tell you about the heartache that one caused.

I can tell you what it's like to feel completely and utterly alone, so much so, that your heart aches and seeing sunlight hurts.

And maybe you don't know what it's like to have to sit on the shower floor because your heart feels too weak to stand. But maybe you know exactly what it's like. This is for you.

I'm not telling you this because I feel sorry for myself or for my situation. I am not playing the victim. I have screwed up more times than you could ever think of. And my loss was as much my fault as it was anyone else's.

I'm just a girl searching for hope, grasping for it, and I refuse to stay quiet because I know some of you are walking right there with me. Hope is so much more important than pride.

I am writing this with so much courage my fingers are shaking and I am crying with hopeful tears. Because you know what? It gets better. It gets so much better. I can truly, wholeheartedly say that and mean it.

I'm still not a wife. I'm still not a mother. I am living a life completely opposite of everything I had planned. I live on my own in the cutest little studio apartment and there are days where I open my door and feel safe, and then there are days where I open my door depressed and I find myself crying on my kitchen floor for hours straight. I am finally seeing glimpses of Jesus' love again. I can feel my heart beating and not swelling.

And I know some of you reading this are crying with me because you get it. You know how hard losing love is. You know how hard it is to be completely alone while everyone else in the entire universe is finding love (or at least that's what it feels like). You know how hard and painful it is to be growing by being torn down. But sometimes we have to do that. We have to be completely stripped and we have to face isolation head on. I've been learning growth isn't always fields and fields of beautiful flowers. Sometimes growth is digging up bad roots and replacing bad soil so more beautiful, wonderful things have room to grow. Being cut down hurts so extremely bad. Facing our problems and demons head on is such an ugly sight, but it's needed. And you know why it's worth it? Because your future is worth it. This next season that is waiting for you is worth it. Every tear shed, every painful wound found on your heart. It's worth it. You will heal.

I get asked so much "how do you do it Taylor?" And you know what? I can't tell you how I do it. The fact that I haven't pulled out all my hair yet is miracle to me. The fact I got out of bed today and smiled at a stranger is probably the biggest accomplishment of my day. I don't have instructions on how to keep fighting for joy even when it's the last thing I want to do. All I can tell you is that you have to do it. When you open your heart (even just a tiny little bit), the light will find a way to get in. We have to be willing. You have to keep fighting for yourself.

I wish I had big fancy, bright words. I wish I could tell you everything is going to be alright. But you know what? Sometimes everything really isn't alright. But the beautiful thing is, is that you can admit that. You can admit you're not okay. You can admit life is horrible and down right evil sometimes. 

But once you do that, you just can't stay there. You have to make the decision, as many times as it takes, to look pain straight in the eye. You have to swallow spoonfuls of courage and you have to fight.

And it took me almost 6 months, but I decided not to stay there anymore.

So, that's exactly what I did. I got up and opened my eyes to the hope, the joy, and the love that was all around me. I found it in the city sky lines, in my passengers on the airplanes dimples, in jumping on hotel beds, in strangers laughter; I found it everywhere. And that's exactly what you can do to. 

Whatever personal hell you are experiencing; you don't have to stay there. You can start rewriting your story. You can start getting up on your worst days. Take it all in, day by day.

Lastly and most importantly, you can start opening up to others. When they ask how you are doing, you don't have to say "good" and leave it at that. I hate that we do that. I want to make a new rule. Right here & right now. Whenever someone asks you how you are doing, don't leave it at good; be real and be honest. People are so important and so vital in growing. Healthy people that are able to love you and speak life into you are the people you need. Stick with those guys. If something is wrong let it out, don't hold it in and let it take over you. Vulnerability is such a beautiful thing. It's a gift and Jesus gave us a voice for a reason. And I've realized He didn't give us a voice to walk timid and to handle healing on our own; He gave us a voice so we could let others in.

I may not know your story and I'm sure it probably looks a lot different than mine, but please know you are not alone. Remember your courage. Keep getting up off your bathroom floor and keep praying for brighter, better days. Because they are on the way. Hope is on the way.

You are loved more than you know.

 

TIME MAGAZINE WHAT?!?!

Extremely excited to announce that I was picked to be featured for TIME MAGAZINE as the top Instagrammer representing Virginia. Way too wonderful. I love how much Instagram has shaped my story. Go check it out and also find some of the most incredible, passionate people on the list.