the countryside by Melissa Heap

One of my big project for this year is to go through and curate all of my pictures from last year's study abroad - here are a few from on the road, my first day in Italy!  Italy has always been one of my dream destinations... the food, the wine, the gorgeous churches, the famous monuments, the wine... Wait - Did I say that already? :)

I decided it would be perfect timing to tour Italy before my semester started, and I am so glad I did - Italy did not disappoint.  This wasn't my first time abroad, but I felt like I should go with ease when choosing how I wanted to see the country (looking at train schedules for as long as I did can really make your head spin!)

I figured a tour would be the easiest way to see all the main sights, and after a bunch of research, I chose the 10-Night Italy Tour from to kick off my semester abroad.  When you're living abroad you become a bit of a professional traveler, and let me tell you - purchasing a tour is definitely something to consider when traveling alone.  

I wanted to let you all know why traveling on a tour is so nice! Check out my list below:  

  1. It gives you an easy way to see all of the sights on your list... Seriously - most tours are guided and include all the touristy places that you know you would want to see (and some that you don't!).  And can I emphasize easy?  For many of the churches and basilicas that you will want to see, there can be really long lines for entry.  If you take a tour, you have a personal guide that gets you quickly into the landmarks (so there's more time for pizza, am I right?).
  2. Food is included... Most tours include both breakfast and dinner (lunch is sometimes an optional extra - with excursions at special restaurants).  Sometimes you will want to venture out on your own to see what you can scrounge up on your own, but an all inclusive tour with a lunch option eases meal planning stress during your travel.
  3. You get to meet so many wonderful people!  Seriously I have never met better people than those I have met while traveling.  I got to travel with some lovely ladies from South Africa, got adopted for the trip by a couple from New Jersey (shout out to the Alexanders!), and partied with some seasoned Aussies (there's really no other way to party).

What do you guys think? Have you been on group tours before? Did I miss anything on my list?

New Years Resolutions by Melissa Heap

This free print available at Lolly Janeย here.

This free print available at Lolly Jane here.

I was browsing Pinterest (does anyone else still check out theirs for inspiration from time to time?) and came across this print of resolutions for the new year.  I know these are some cheesy ones, but it's always nice to remind yourself to put forth effort each day to make time to do the things that make you happiest!  Sometimes you can't help but get stuck in a routine that makes it easy to forget to really live - and I for one have been struggling with this lately!  After settling into the new job, and waiting for my transfer I feel like I've been living in limbo... And I love that this list reminds you to believe in yourself and to never settle for ordinary! 

Okay, enough warm and fuzzy feelings :) Stay tuned this week for some photos from travels abroad!

crowned. by Melissa Heap

Floral Crown: SITG // Top: H&M

A few years ago, my best friend Natalie Burk  and I started this blog. We chose the name Crowns of Violet (props to Nat on finding such a perfect name) because it's actually a nickname for Austin, the city where we met and got to live out our adventures.  As we grew together and were able to explore this creative outlet, Crowns of Violet became so much more; for us Crowns of Violet became a symbol of our art, the magic you can find all around you, and (most importantly of all) our friendship.

Unfortunately life took Natalie and I in separate directions (physically I mean - I'm still so blessed to be able to call her my best friend!), and maintaining the blog in our initial vision was no longer possible.  But have no fear!  Natalie is still working on her photography - check out her amazing work here - and I'm trying to do the same, continuing on with Crowns and tweaking our initial vision with my individual flair.  For the new year I have set a personal goal to continue Crowns of Violet and to use it to express what I love to do.  

And, with all that being said, I thought my first post for the new year and the new Crowns of Violet should incorporate the inspiration behind my passions: storytelling.  I love art and writing and fashion because it allows you to tell a story about yourself.  Photography can allow you to take storytelling to a whole new level.  Through the combining of the photographer behind the camera, the model in front of it, and the stage where the scene is set, you can tell any type of story you like.    

Crowned. is a story about renaissance.  I wanted to create an actual Crown of Violet, that could represent all of my blessings in life and my new beginnings here with the blog.  And what better medium to choose for new beginnings than florals?  

And suddenly you know: Itโ€™s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
— Meister Eckhart

So, here's to beginnings.  Welcome 2016, and welcome world to my journey!