A Floridian in New York on New Year’s Eve

Cassidy, her mom, and her sister posing in front of the Rockefeller Tree on New Year's EveFor the last few years, my family and I visited New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve. This year, our celebrations will be strictly limited to our living room thanks to the pandemic. So, I thought remembering our first New Year’s Eve trip may fill up some of the wanderlust I’ve felt since this whole thing began. This trip inspired my family to start doing family vacations. The years after, my dad and brother joined us for another New York trip, and the whole family visited Ireland the year after. Unfortunately, any plans we had for this year had been diced. I’m just glad I have the photos and memories of these trips to keep me going!

New York on New Year’s Eve

During our first trip, it was just my mom, sister, and I. We were there for an extended weekend. We felt dead set on jamming all of the New York highlights into our trip. It was also the first time we’d been to the city during winter. Although it was milder than our following trips, we splurged at a nearby winter accessories store on 7th Ave. While my mom and sister picked up a pair of wool hats, I grabbed a pair of luxurious mittens (I could write a paragraph about how wonderful these mittens are — seriously, sometimes my hands get sweaty). Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the shop, but definitely keep your eyes peeled for extra-warm looking hats, scarves, and mittens near the theatre district!

We spent most of our trip finding unique breakfast diners and wandering around the city. In just a few days, we managed to squeeze in a horse-carriage ride, saw a peaceful protest in a local park, and took a long walk around Central Park’s lake. Our wanderings took us to Chinatown’s Columbus Park to find a vibrant community playing table games. Plus, we visited the then-brand-new Second Avenue Subway Station, a welcome reprieve from being on our feet.

Times Square on New Year’s Eve

Thanks to my mom’s employment at an NYC-based company, she had racked up enough Hilton points to get us a hotel a short walk away from Times Square. When we stepped out onto the streets on New Year’s Eve morning, the streetscape had been completely transformed. There were police everywhere, with news vans parked on every corner. Barricades blocked the street from any cross traffic. The closer we got to Times Square, the thicker the crowds got. There were people already staking their claim to see the Ball at 10:00am, making for a grueling 14-hour wait.

NYPD preparing for New Year's Eve

A Happy Coincidence

Although we had originally planned on seeing the Ball that night, my mom, sister, and I were completely disinterested in spending one whole day in New York just waiting around. We decided to try to figure something else to do that night. The three of us spent the day exploring Chinatown and LIttle Italy. We ended the night in an Irish pub with no clear plan in sight. With minutes to spare, we decided to return to our hotel to try and see the Ball from our room. 

As we got closer to our hotel, the barricades became increasingly more secure. By the time we had reached 7th Ave, we needed a police escort to cross the street to get to our hotel. As the officer led us through the crowds, he and my mom started chatting about how we were liking New York, what our plans for the evening were, and where we were from. As it turns out, he had visited our hometown quite a few times! Halfway across the street, he stopped us and told us he could try to get us closer to the Ball. 

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Chance

The officer led us behind the police barricade giving us the OK to the other police officers standing guard. Block after block passed as we sped by what must have at least been a million people crammed onto 7th Ave. My sister and I stole shocked looks at one another the closer we got. After a few conversations with his superiors, he got us a whole TEN BLOCKS closer to the Ball, the closest they would allow civilians to be! We were right there!! He got us so close we were able to see the confetti. We sang Auld Lang Syne and New York, New York with the crowd and danced in the snow, thanking the officer profusely the whole time. It was undeniably the most magical New Year’s Eve I have ever had, to this day. 

Confetti in Times Square on New Year's Eve

After the New Year broke, the crowds quickly dispersed, and our officer friend wished us a happy New Year and a good evening. Discarded New Year’s hats and streamers littered the street and passer-bys shouted “Happy New Year!” to the sky. We knew we had experienced something we would certainly never be able to again. The whole experience felt altogether surreal. Fortunately, I had been videoing our trip the entire time and was able to capture everything on camera. The video is attached below for those interested in watching!

The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree, which Cassidy and her family visited before New Year's Eve

Be Kind

Although I don’t remember the officer’s name, he gave me and my family a New Year’s Eve celebration I don’t think any of us will forget. This year, if you get the chance, be sure to tell our public workers thank you for everything they’re doing. Remember to be kind and extend a helping hand whenever you can. Although we may not be able to celebrate like normal, the holidays can still be full of love and support. Happy holidays and warm wishes to all!

Holiday Guide: Rest, Relax, Enjoy

By Dreams Abroad

Amidst a year like no other, we’ve all found new ways to bring people together, even when physically apart. The holiday season is for feeling grateful and giving to our loved ones. We are so grateful to our readers and writers for giving us their support. We asked the Dreams Abroad team which pieces they connected with this year. We’ve had new members, guest writers, many locations, and an array of professional tips that we shared over the course of 2020. Rest, relax, and enjoy our selections in our 2020 holiday guide. 

Our Holiday Guide

The Team Behind the Scenes: Dreams Abroad Ops

Our operations team is thinking of guests and professions this year, and here’s what Emma and Tyler have selected.

Emma Schultz

Emma Schultz picked two diverse but equally inspiring pieces on travel and on completing an internship abroad for our 2020 holiday guide.

Guest writer Lisa Mallett’s piece, Living In A Tourist Destination: Niagara Falls, Canada was one of Emma’s favorite reads this year. The guide offers incredible insight into the region and has lots of detailed tips on things to do in addition to admiring the falls! Emma hopes to travel there someday (hopefully sooner rather than later!) to enjoy some ice wine and a ride on the Niagara Jet Boat.

A photo of Horseshoe Fall

Emma also enjoyed Leesa’s interview with We Study participant Ajay Pfister, My L’Oreal Internship: A Dutch Workation. In this, Ajay details his experience interning for La Roche-Posay (L’Oreal) in the Netherlands during a global pandemic. He talks about navigating joining a new team while working remotely 50% of the time. Ajay’s comments on creativity, networking, and growth particularly resonated with her.

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship

Tyler Black

Tyler Black chose two pieces that covered the difficult topic of coronavirus in Spain, where he lived for two years, and Mexico, where he recently visited.

Writer Edgar Llivisupa talks about teaching in Spain with Leesa Truesdell in his interview Living in Ontinyent, Spain While Social Distancing. This piece really hit home for Tyler because he was also an English teacher in Spain, and could really relate with the challenges that Edgar had to overcome. Tyler was also interested in hearing about life in Spain during the pandemic. Edgar’s positive outlook throughout the interview was reassuring during these difficult times.

A drinking fountain that Edgar noticed had been shut down as he started traveling again.

Tyler also relished Stephanie Vargas’ piece The Day of the Dead During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Tyler visited Mexico City in 2019 shortly after the Day of the Dead. Stephanie gave him an impromptu tour, so he was very interested in seeing how the city was dealing with the pandemic. Stephanie does an incredible job of detailing the changes that people have had to make this year in order to pay respects to their deceased loved ones. 

One More Edit: Dreams Abroad Editors

Our Dreams Abroad editors chose four very different yet equally great articles. 

Cassidy Kearney

Cassidy Kearney highlighted two very different pieces about traveling and studying abroad for our holiday guide. 

She really enjoyed reading about Emma Higgins’ month wandering around Vietnam. Emma saw so much of Vietnam, all while on a tight budget. From mysterious mountainscapes to towering skyscrapers, she highlighted everything that makes Vietnam an exciting destination point. Plus, the food looks amazing!

Hue Vietnam

Jiye Kang’s article about studying abroad in Haifa, Israel, was also a fascinating read. As someone who considered applying to a master’s program abroad, Cassidy found Jiye’s piece especially interesting. Plus, she’s studying archeology in one of the most archeologically-rich areas of the world. This is a great read to get to learn more about studying abroad, what living in Haifa, Israel is like, and to get some insight into the fascinating world of modern-day archeology.

A photo of Jiye brushing off an artifact at a dig site.

Matthew Hirtes

Matthew Hirtes recommends checking out two of our management members’ pieces.

While he is always drawn to Leesa Truesdell’s interviews because of the stimulating questions she asks interviewees to open up about their experiences, his first choice was this travel article from February. The colorful descriptions and expert photography transported him to Leesa’s epic birthday in Paris and he felt like he was actually there celebrating with her.

Champs de Elysse

October brought this superbly-researched guide to Pittsburgh from Tyler Black. Like Tyler, Matthew enjoys exploring a new city thoroughly upon relocating there. Tyler did so with gusto, which makes for an infectious read.

Explore things to do in Pittsburgh!

All the Way to the Top: Dreams Abroad Director

Leesa Truesdell

Finally, our Dreams Abroad director shares two pieces from Madrid, a place close to her heart, in our holiday guide. 

Leesa selected Sarah’s Guide to Moving to Spain because it is one of the most comprehensive guides to moving to Spain she’s read so far. She has fond memories of living abroad in Spain. Leesa recommends reading Sarah’s guide to get you overseas and to Madrid. If you’re thinking of teaching abroad, check out Sarah’s article to see how this is possible. It’s not as difficult or daunting as you might think. Live outside of your comfort zone and chase your dreams abroad! 

Sarah at the Jefferson Memorial while applying for her visa in Spain

Timisha’s most recent article about celebrating the holidays abroad reminds our director of her own holiday experiences, but through a different lens. This heartfelt piece is worthy of recognition and a read. Be sure to break out the eggnog and holiday cookies before reading this article to get the full effect. 

Timisha spends the holidays abroad

We hope you have a happy and relaxing holiday season. Our Dreams Abroad family will continue to share their experiences in 2021. Would you like to share one of yours? Join us by sending us an email or refer a friend who might have an inspiring story. You know where to find us. Happy Holidays!

A Few of My Favorite Things 2018

Christmas Holiday Traditions

I can remember a few of my favorite things when I was when I was a young girl. I always thought of Christmas as the time when my Tata would cook her infamous bacalao fritters and paella. My grandmother’s favorite holiday pastime was to sit around the piano and play music for all. Tata loved to entertain and spread holiday cheer that would bounce from wall to wall. Christmas was her favorite holiday for many reasons. She always cooked her signature dishes from Puerto Rico and loved to be with her family. Tata adored her family, sharing gifts, and spreading holiday magic with all of us.

favorite things 2018 my family

Last year I asked the Dreams Abroad team to share some of their favorite things. It turned out to be a great post because each person had such a different response. This is what we all had to say: HERE

A Few of My Favorite Things 2018

This year will be the second Christmas and New Years since she passed, and for some reason, it hit me harder this year. I spent a good amount of time writing my resilience abroad pieces and haven’t really reflected too much on the passing of time. I also haven’t reflected on my emotions of her passing since I completed the series. Perhaps, the combination of working hard, not reflecting, and not traveling outside the US as much this year could all be reasons why her being gone this year hit me hard and fast. I knew toward the end of our time together how precious it was. When she had her memory and life was good, we made the most of our time together. These are the times I remember and cherish deeply.

traveling abroadIt took me thirty years to get to Puerto Rico to visit her hometown. She spoke about this town for all of my life and now, I can’t stop traveling. She is with me always in my heart and through my actions. My Tata taught me to be considerate, thoughtful, and strong.

Take Each Day as it Comes

“‘Cause you never think the last time’s going to be the last time- you think there will be more. You think you have forever but you don’t.” A quote that I always try to keep in the back of my mind to remind me how precious each friendship and each moment of each day truly is.

Tata always shared her love for travel. If not for her, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the wonders of the world and the joys of travel as I know it today. Remember to tell all the people in your life how much they mean to you because you just don’t know what tomorrow brings. So, make today awesome and share your love.

With that, here are a few of my favorite quotes and travel memories from this past year:

“Life is all about how you handle plan B” – Anonymous

quote grateful heart

” If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” – Grey’s Anatomy

My Big Brother

My favorite memory from spring 2018 was being able to spend time with my big brother and go to our first concert together in a while. We went to see Blue October perform in Orlando, Florida. We met the band before the show and it was epic! I had seen them play in London in 2017 and wanted my brother to see them live. A definite favorite!

brad & leesa truesdell traveling

blue october orlando florida

My Trip to San Francisco

My favorite memory from summer 2018 was my trip to San Francisco when I linked up with my best friend Luis. Whenever we have an adventure planned — we adventure! This trip was too short, but then again, I always feel like our trips are too short. We have way too much fun! Fourth of July in California with Luis was certainly not like the first Fourth of July that we spent together (see my Travel Tale about Medellin) but it is a favorite memory of 2018 for sure.

fourth of july best friend luis

Castle in Burgundy, France

My favorite memory from fall 2018 was walking through a castle in Burgundy, France. Although I had many wonderful memories from Paris, taking the train to Dijon and driving to Burgundy in the fall was absolutely magnificent. The castle was built in the 1500s and reminded me of the castle from Beauty and the Beast. It was undoubtedly breathtaking. I felt timeless. The gardens had fresh flowers in every color and the roses were beautiful.

smelling rose in garden

“Take time to smell the roses” – Leesa Truesdell, a lesson learned from Burgundy, France

Birthday in Madrid

Another favorite memory of 2018 is the dinner I shared on my birthday with some of my Dreams Abroad family. Despite how close we’ve come from working together, it was the first time some of them had met. This marked the third year I spent my birthday in Madrid, and it was certainly such a special way to celebrate.

madrid trip abroad for birthday

Stay tuned for more articles from me and the rest of the Dreams Abroad team in 2019! We always look forward to sharing more with you. Thank you for being a part of our community.

Happy New Year,


by Leesa Truesdell