Hi, I’m Kaitlan and I’m the author of what I would refer to as the “attainable travel, active exploration, connection-making, and hopefully educational” content you’ll find on From Cities To Trails. I’m happy to see you here.
Yes, in a way this is another travel blog, but I’d like to think that what you’ll find here is content on travel and exploration that facilitates a deeper understanding of, and connection with, a place and its culture. Travel for me is as much about connecting with people, understanding the history and culture, and appreciating the natural beauty as it is about checking a destination off a bucket list. Lists are great (New Zealand still sits high on mine) and it’s satisfying to visit a place that you’ve envisioned in your head and worked hard to get to, but what I strive to do is encourage people to extend beyond their bucket lists and comfort zones. I think it’s important to have some background on a place before visiting, and when I get there I like exploring off the beaten track and pushing myself to take risks that challenge my perception of what I’m capable of or think I know.
Speaking of background, I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but am currently residing in Brussels, Belgium, ever so slowly picking up a little bit of French and Dutch while consuming plenty of Belgian chocolate. This blog – originally The Brussels Blog – started as a side project for keeping family and friends updated on our (my husband and I) life while living and working abroad. This endeavor has evolved into a full-time passion for writing and sharing informative content on my experiences getting to know a new country and adventures in other destinations near and far.
My love of travel didn’t start in Belgium though. There were more than a few road trips across the US undertaken by my family and then a semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain while studying Accounting and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Living with a lovely host family and immersing myself in the local culture instilled in me an appreciation for living outside my comfort zone while getting to know new cultures.
I should also mention that being active is another important aspect of my life and one of my favorite ways to see a new place is in my running shoes on a morning jog. Other outdoor activities that I favor include hiking, biking, and swimming, on their own or together (triathlon participant since 2007). Being outside fuels my creativity and inspires me.
This leads me to what is, in my opinion, another important facet of travel – discovery. For me, discovery can mean a visit to a different café, exploring a new author or genre of book that challenges the way you see things, or extending a conversation with someone you haven’t conversed with previously. That’s why you’ll also find me writing about what I learn about my own neighborhood – the people I’ve met, the places I’ve walked, and exploring new running, biking, and blading routes.
Here’s a fun fact for you – if you’re familiar with Business Chemistry assessment, I’m an integrator (green), which means that I really struggle to answer the question of what my favorite place is that I have visited. I don’t have a solid response to that, but what I can share are the places I’ve visited that have taught me some important lessons:
- Milwaukee, WI: Take pride in where you come from and if people have never heard of it, tell them about the cheese curds and brutal winters.
- Sevilla, Spain: Sometimes you just have to go all in when it comes to getting outside your comfort zone. Moving in with a family you’ve never met before for four months (hello Mateos!) and only speaking Spanish in their home is one way to do that.
- Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Appreciate the people who help you make it to your destination.
- Iguazu Falls, Brazil: Take the plunge… fully clothed… into a pool… on New Year’s Eve… even though you don’t exactly understand that tradition.
- Brussels, Belgium: Risk taking can be rewarding.
- Marrakech, Morocco: Connecting with locals can significantly enhance your experience and bestow you with perspective.
- Egypt: Standing in front of the remnants of one of the earliest civilizations on Earth is mind-blowing, but a willingness to set aside your expectations and attempt to understand, rather than dismiss, cultural differences will allow for an even more fulfilling experience.
If you’ve made it this far, then I’ll leave you with a high-level summary of what you can expect to find on From Cities To Trails. Since the blog make-over and my delving into full-time writing, you’ll find:
- Concise “What to Know & What to See” posts with informative content that can help you prepare for and enjoy a visit to a city, neighborhood, park, etc.
- Longer “Recap” posts which, while very detailed, are filled with personal anecdotes and usually plenty of self-deprecating humor (see some of my earliest entries when we moved to Brussels).
- Enlightening “Get to Know a Local” posts where I share insights direct from someone who knows a place best.