Tuesday, January 3, 2017

11 Things I Crossed Off My Bucket List in 2016

Wow, 2016 was a busy year!  Although I'm a little late to blog about it, I wanted to take the time to reflect and remember a few of the highlights from this past year. I have so much to be thankful for!

1. Graduated from Iowa State University
I'm so thankful for the wonderful four years I spent at Iowa State. It sounds so cliche, but my experiences there really were life changing. Chances are, none of the other highlights on this list would have happened with out the relationships I built and lessons I learned in Ames. Thanks to everyone who supported my education and celebrated with me in May!

Photo credit: Beck's Hybrids

2. Started the Why I Farm Roadtrip
If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know the Why I Farm Roadtrip has dominated the last seven months of my life. A week after I graduated from Iowa State I hit the road for this year long, 50 state road trip. I've had a blast honoring farmers and sharing their stories through blogs and photography. Some days I still have to pinch myself. I'm actually living my dream.

Photo credit: Erin Brenneman

3. Pulled my first pig
Before I even got out of Iowa on the Why I Farm Roadtrip, I was crossing 'firsts' off my bucket list. Erin Brenneman of Brenneman Pork was the first farmer I highlighted. She was so patient with my awkward interview skills and constant picture taking. While I gathered the details of her Why I Farm story, I truly got to experience a day in her life - showering in and out of the barn, checking heat lamps, and pulling pigs! Literally bringing life into the world isn't an experience I'll ever forget!

4. Rented my first car
When I announced I was leaving on a year long road trip instead of taking a traditional job like most of my friends, I joked I was avoiding 'adulting.' Funny enough, I think the Roadtrip has forced me to do a lot more adult things than had I taken a corporate position. This includes renting a mini van from the middle of downtown Boston at rush hour. I returned it a month later without a scratch!

5. Flew by myself
I needed a rental car because I'd flown, by myself, to Boston for my last Quiz Bowl tournament. I was not a pretty sight dragging my overpacked bags with a month's worth of dirty laundry through the airport on the way home, but I did it. And I made it back in one piece.

6. Did my first big media interview
When I left on the Why I Farm Roadtrip, I never anticipated I'd be talking to the media so much. I'm much more comfortable asking the questions in an interview! Although I have lots of room for improvement in 2017, I've had the chance to share my travel experience with RFD-TV, Farm Bureaus and podcast hosts across the country. 

7. Blogged more
In 2016 I wrote more blogs than I ever have before! More than 100 if you add in my Why I Farm pieces. Like my public speaking skills, my writing skills still have plenty of room for improvement, but it takes practice, practice, practice. I hope to continue this trend into the New Year.

8. Visit Alaska
I feel very blessed to have crossed so many cool places off my bucket list in 2016. I really can't pick a favorite, but Alaska is certainly near the top. I may never get the chance to go back and was so special to have my dad along. 

9. Stayed in my first Air BnB
In the spring of 2016 I stayed at my first Air BnB. Since then, I've stayed with more than a dozen Air BnB hosts and had wonderful experiences. It's been an awesome, budget friendly way to travel and meet locals that have great advice for authentic experiences in their area. If you're planning an upcoming trip, I highly recommend booking a stay.

About half way through the Roadtrip, I decided to add becoming an Air BnB host to my bucket list. Obviously this won't be something I can cross off right away, but I feel it's right to return the favor to the community of people who've made me feel so at home on the road. Plus, I'll be able to live vicariously through my guests' travels while resting from my own. (If you're interested in becoming a host yourself, find out more here)

10. Joined American Agri-Women
I can't take any credit for this highlight. At the beginning of the Why I Farm Roadtrip, a very generous Iowa State alum, Warren Clark, found out about my mission to honor American farmers. After he introduced me to countless farmers and agribusiness folks, I learned he'd payed my dues to join American Agri-Women. Since June, I've attended two of their events and stayed with several of their members. I look forward to highlighting more AAW ladies as the Roadtrip continues.

11. Met #AgChat friends in real life
For the past couple years, each Tuesday I log into Twitter and talk with people from around the world about various ag issues. They've taught me so much and truly become friends. Although we see each other online regularly, most of the folks that participate in #AgChat, I've never met in real life. Visiting their farms and homes as part of my travels has been a real treat.

Thanks to everyone who was part of making 2016 so great! I can't wait to see what God has planned for 2017! Happy New Year!

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