1/3 Checkpoint of #NWAfor1year

A little overview for those of you who don’t know the backstory for my little hashtag: #NWAfor1year…when I signed my offer with Kimberly-Clark exactly one year ago today (Nov. 11), I committed to doing my CDA (Customer Development Associate) year in Northwest Arkansas. Whether I’m staying in this office past this year is another unknown, but until then, I decided to keep track of my adventures via Instagram through an easily remembered hashtag.

I moved in July 11 and started work on July 20, and these past four months have flown by beyond my belief. I’ve decided to categorize my experiences for organizational purposes (heh):

Places I’ve Been:

  • Neenah, Wisconsin (for the pleasure of 4 separate times in July, August, October, and November): this is the home of Kimberly-Clark’s Consumer Headquarters in the Fox Cities (Appleton/Neenah/Oshkosh/Menasha) and each time I’ve come up here, it’s been layover on layover thanks to flying from regional to another regional airport. These were my first and only four times in the state of Wisconsin and I’ve been brainwashed by cheese curds and hotel heaters that don’t kick-in unless it is < 42 degrees outside.
  • Ponca, Arkansas (also 4 is the magic number…) from a group cabin trip to a 7-mile solo hike to the world-famous Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker’s Point, Ponca has been one of my favorite places in Arkansas. The drive there from my apartment is an easy 60-65 miles, painted by trees and windy roads, and it’s easy to say that this little town of population: 13 will house some of my best memories.
  • Climax Springs, Missouri : a good friend here has a lake house up in the Lake of the Ozarks, roughly a 4 hour drive from Fayetteville. A group of friends drove up there after work on a September Friday and spent the weekend over homecooked food, boat rides, and minnow shots (yes, you read correctly). First time in Missouri, first time eating a live fish.
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  • Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, and Houston: I’ve had the pleasure of being able to go back to UT to recruit, home to Houston to see my parents, and meet up friends in Oklahoma City and Dallas. I’m slowly understanding the ease of living “in the middle of everywhere” minus the expensive flights out of XNA…
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Top Restaurants I’ve Eaten At:

  • Hammontree’s: three times, actually. My goal is to try every single grilled cheese they have here within my time in NWA, and I think I’ll add some weight in that process. Bacon. Gouda. Fries. I shall say no more!
  • Arsaga’s: if you want hipster waiters and delightful crepes paired with some on-point coffee…and be ok with the train blaring in your ear if you sit in the patio area, this is my favorite place for brunch in Fayetteville.
  • La Carreta: we lovingly refer to this as ‘the buggy’ in our office, and it’s this tiny little white truck off Bloomington St. in Lowell, AR (where a lot of the logistics/transportation companies are housed). The dine-in population is 90% men and I often feel much overdressed, but nothing can beat authentic $1.50 tacos and I will admit quickly that I’ve become a taco snob since living in Texas.
  • Eleven: housed inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – one gets to sit in a little beetle-shaped bubble and admire the lake, nature, and architecture. I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and would highly recommend it for a Sunday brunch (11am-2pm)
  • China Cafe Bistrothe only authentic place I’ve been to here and it is my lifesaver for first time living in a town with very, very little asian influence.

Hikes I’ve Done:

Everyone who knows me well knows that I love, love, love (and need) hiking around the place I live in.

  • Hawksbill Crag (Ponca, AR | 3 miles R/T): this hike got really famous after it landed on a bunch of Facebook and Pinterest pages, and understandably so, one of the most breathtaking hikes I’ve done in the United States. A group of 7 of us met up in the morning after a 2 hour drive (granted, the last 6 miles was all off roading and I cried for my Ford Fusion’s life) and spent a portion of our Saturday engulfed in nature and perfect fall weather. Photos actually do it justice!
  • Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Ponca, AR | 7 miles R/T): I really needed some time to think/breathe early October and decided to go on this hike by myself without telling a lot of people…worth it. It was the perfect 65-75 degrees that day and I packed an apple, some pretzels, and 2 bottles of water for this personal adventure and was rewarded with a cloudless, sunny, peaceful view of the bluffs.
  • Yellow Rock (2x) (Devil’s Den State Park | 3 miles R/T): a classic, easy hike for anyone who wants a view and a breath of fresh air. Nothing challenging, but it’s a good way to spend an afternoon without having to drive more than 30 miles from Fayetteville! Though, I will have to mention that Beth and I did this hike on the hottest day of the year (according to Weather.com) in August, and it was brutal.
  • Pigeon Roost (2x) (Hobbs State Park | 8.2 miles R/T): both times I’ve done this hike, I’ve never done the full 8.2 miles. I usually get to the scenic point where it overlooks a strip of Beaver Lake and I sit on the rocks in peace for a while. The first time I hiked it, I got stung by a giant wasp through my sports bra and through my drawstring bag – very ambitious wasp. The second time, it was very much into fall and the leaves were falling, etc etc etc, but easily a hike for a simple morning.
  • Shaddox Hollow: Nothing memorable…it was the thing we did before hitting up Rogers Oktoberfest that one time.

Miscellaneous:

  • Ziplining in the Ozarks (Eureka Springs): this was my first time ziplining in the US and I was very much not disappointed. I decided to take one of my friends here when he visited and it was one of the best decisions to take advantage of the foliage, fall weather, and Eureka Springs. This place houses the longest line, highest line, and the fastest line in Arkansas!
  • Scarpino’s: when I moved here, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to dance whenever I wanted to but I found this great place in Fayetteville where now I sometimes help teach the Friday night workshop classes ^_^
  • Benton County Fair: I heard the advertisement on the radio the day before it was over and texted Beth real quick to plan this spontaneous saturdate…and we still talk about the scary ferris wheel and church pew live music to this day.
  • Gentry Wilderness Drive Thru: if you’re a fan of animals sneaking up to your car looking for lettuce…this is the place to go. ~45 minutes northwest of Fayetteville out on a giant couple hundred acres is a 4-mile drive through where one can observe zebras, emus, bison, you name it.
  • Fayetteville Farmer’s Market: not surprised that this is the nation’s #1 farmers market – all the vendors are set up around the square and you can get your week’s worth of fresh groceries (for $$$) or enjoy a coffee and breakfast taco while people watching
  • Concerts: at this rate, my friends and I are averaging one concert per month – from Bryan Adams to Corey Smith to Eli Young Band – it’s awesome to think that artists are starting to come to Northwest Arkansas. Another perk – KC has box seats at the Walmart Amp and raffles away 2 sets of tickets per concert 🙂
  • Galas/Charity Events: another reason why I love this area – everyone is so involved in organizations and attends annual events that educate people about the cause and it’s so humbling to be at an event where record donations are made, people’s lives are changed, and the whole community comes together

At the end of my first 4 months, I can gladly say I’ve taken full advantage of my time here so far and already am so thankful for the friendships, lessons, and life experiences. I leave with you with a few of my favorite places (Lake Fayetteville, Beaver Lake, Crystal Bridges Museum, and Sassafras Winery):

What have you done with all your time off?

As I’m relaxing the evening before I start the full-time work life, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve spent the wonderful seven months I had between graduation and work.

The absolute honest truth is that January and February were brutal. I am so used to being busy, on my feet, and constantly out and about. After finishing up ‘winter break’ with my friends and working Houston Salsa Congress, I quickly became lonely and restless. Most of my close friends were still in school, and when it came down to it, I just had to learn to be still and appreciate where God had put me for the time being.

Since travels hadn’t kicked off yet, I had some time at home…

  • Woke up 10:00 am (on average) everyday
  • Achieved Starbucks gold card status while I journaled, doodled, and did my afternoon readings
  • Experimented with Pinterest food recipes, which most succeeded (honey sesame chicken, sticky chicken wings, coconut chicken, pad see ew, pizza pasta casserole, penne pasta bake, sesame noodles, and enchiladas)

February 28: I took the GMAT. It was definitely something I knew I needed to do and it’ll be nice for the future!

Most of you who follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat will remember that I bombarded all of you with #sherrysglobetrot…23 flight segments later, here are all the places I visited:

  • New Mexico (Roswell, White Sands National Monument, and Carlsbad Caverns)
  • Tahiti (Papeete + Moorea)
  • New Zealand (Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Omarama, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Oamaru, Akaroa)
  • Northwest Arkansas
  • State College, Pennsylvania
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Los Cabos San Lucas
  • Chicago, Illinois

When I was not across oceans or in different time zones, I spent ample time in Waco, Austin, and Houston.

While waiting for flights or simply relaxing before bed time, I got to watch TV on Netflix. A LOT OF IT.

  • All 10 Seasons of Friends.
  • All 9 Seasons of The Office
  • All 4 Seasons of Scandal (within one month!!)
  • All 3 Seasons of Sherlock
  • All 1 Season of Outsourced (thanks Christopher + roommates for this adventure!)
  • FINALLY watched The Lord of the Rings Trilogy before my trip to New Zealand…#WORTHIT

Random other little things:

  • Went camping for the first time in February
  • Got to see John Legend at the Houston Rodeo
  • Adopted myself a cat (thanks Sarah!)
  • Cut 13″ inches off my hair
  • Played with stingrays and a bubble fish for the first time

Now? I’ve traded the 5-lane freeways for 2-becoming-3-lanes, the home where I spent middle school-end of college for a quaint, one-bedroom apartment, and 12 hours from now, I’ll be sitting at my desk for my first day of work.

Below, you’ll find some photos of my apartment and my surroundings!