Wedding Planning Wednesday: Engagement, "Gay" Wedding, and Social Media

So, we did it. We are engaged now, and we couldn’t be happier. As most all of you know, we share a lot of our life on social media. Not all of it, but those of you who have been following along the past three years know that we share a good chunk. That said, we decided to wait a good amount before letting social media know. 

 We finally announced our engagement to social media! We couldn’t be happier to share the news with you all and also share our journey. You’ve watched us go from two poor graduate students who started dating four years ago to a now engaged (and employed) couple!

We finally announced our engagement to social media! We couldn’t be happier to share the news with you all and also share our journey. You’ve watched us go from two poor graduate students who started dating four years ago to a now engaged (and employed) couple!

Social media has made our lives a balance act in a lot of ways. We need to find a balance between our non-social media jobs and social media. We need to find consistency in how much we share versus how much we keep for ourselves. Nick popped the question on our trip to Portugal way back in April of this year. After the initial shock and joy, we needed to have a serious conversation about how to proceed with telling everyone. Thus begins the first part of our blog series on planning (see also: surviving) a LGBT+ wedding in the age of social media. If you want to see how Nick popped the question, make sure you hop over to our YouTube channel and check out our engagement announcement video.

With the click of a camera and the quick press of a “share” button on social media, we have over 600k followers who instantly know what we’ve been up to. We love each and every person (except the trolls, but they do keep us humble) who has followed along on our journey from poor graduate students to a now newly-engaged couple. We’ve also made some wonderful friends through social media along the way, and we always so love running into you all when we are traveling or out-and-about. However, we’ve constantly had to remind ourselves and — in some ways — teach ourselves about the balance between our life outside social media and our life inside it. Think about it: how would you feel if you grew up with someone, were really close, and you found out through social media about a huge announcement? On the flip side, we also actively share our lives with so many, and we do enjoy sharing our lives with our followers. 

 We’ve kept our engagement quiet for the past few months. Ultimately, we didn’t want to hide it from anyone, but we wanted to make sure that longtime friends and family knew first and that we had time to enjoy our engagement before making the  big  announcement to you all, our chosen family!

We’ve kept our engagement quiet for the past few months. Ultimately, we didn’t want to hide it from anyone, but we wanted to make sure that longtime friends and family knew first and that we had time to enjoy our engagement before making the big announcement to you all, our chosen family!

Life is about balance, right? I mean, I’d like to balance my intake of ice cream to my intake of healthy foods, but that’s difficult! We decided we need to strike some type of balance with our engagement announcement. In the end, we ended up waiting six months before making an announcement on social media. We took our time, mostly to make sure family and really close friends knew first. That way, they wouldn’t learn about the engagement from social media. It’s a strange thing, social media, in that it really does so much to help us connect, but it also can disconnect us as well. We often think about the countless wonderful people we’ve met and friends we’ve made through social media. For sure, it helps us connect. However, with those whom we have fostered relationships with outside or before social media, it could potentially have the opposite effect. That was our thought process, at least. To be honest, we probably should have made the announcement on social media sooner (this being a mix of trying to figure out how to do it and just being some mix of either way too overwhelmed or just very lazy and watching Netflix). Nevertheless, we are so excited to share this journey with you all.

We remember growing up and thinking about marriage. When you grow up gay, especially in small towns, it’s hard to imagine what marriage will be like. There was so little representation of gay marriage in the media when we were growing up, even though so many LGBT+ heroes were championing the cause of inclusion well before we were born. In many ways, we still are acclimating ourselves to what a LGBT+ wedding will entail. It shouldn’t be different than any other marriage, right? At the same time though, shouldn’t it make a statement? Shouldn’t it be just a bit different to pay respect to the fact that so many had to fight for this right? Someone reached out to us saying that they didn’t think we should define our wedding as a “gay” marriage. We are — after all — human beings who love each other like any heterosexual couple. Marriage is marriage is marriage, sure, and it’s magical for everyone, but this is a new frontier. Social media has started to show the world that we deserve the same rights and respect as anyone else. We know that it’s difficult — especially on Instagram — to be “activists.” Sometimes, though, just being visible is a tiny protest in-and-of itself. We personally feel that — by actively referring to our wedding as a “gay” wedding — we take a stand. Of course, we don’t actively call it our “gay” wedding from day-to-day, but there is power in words. We hope that this journey will be a tiny continued protest for the work that must still be done. 

Needing Space: How We’ve Built Our Individuality into Our Relationship

IF YOU ARE JUST HERE FOR LINKS TO CHECK OUT/BUY THE DESK AND DECORATIONS, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST, FRIENDS!

Our Instagram may give the impression that we spend every waking minute together. Society itself may also give the impression that couples should always love spending their time together. To us, that seems silly and even somewhat unhealthy. Nick and I love each other deeply, but we are still individuals and - in many ways - we are very different from one another. Part of being the best for each other means finding ways to continually explore our individuality. 

 It took some life-learning trial and error to realize that love isn't a fix-all for every problem in a relationship. No matter how deep the love is, relationships take work, and it's silly to think that love alone will make them work. 

It took some life-learning trial and error to realize that love isn't a fix-all for every problem in a relationship. No matter how deep the love is, relationships take work, and it's silly to think that love alone will make them work. 

Perhaps the younger generation following us will be less inclined to think love is a heal-all fix, but we definitely grew up in the 1990s Disney-movies-where-love-overcomes-all era. Looking back on our past relationships (pre-Justin and Nick, if you will), it is easy to see how we both clung to those 1990s Disney values. When things went poorly or if we encountered hard times, it was easy to throw in the towel. If love didn't fix it, it wasn't real, right?

Wrong. People - individuals - are the sum of their experiences. We all bring so many different experiences to the table, and these shape our viewpoints on so many things. No two person is the same, and part of learning to navigating amongst diverse perspective is just realizing that it's really damn diverse. Nick and I are no exception, and I'm sure a lot of you who have followed us - particularly on our YouTube - for awhile have noticed some of those difference. I tend to be the more reserve, more serious one. I dislike public displays of affection, I really dislike messiness, and my political viewpoints tend to be much more liberal. On the other hand, Nick is more carefree and fun. He loves public displays of affection, he functions much better in messiness than I do, and he tends to be more center-of-the-road politically. To each other, we find ourselves highly different from one another. 

 Here is Nick,  obviously  reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" for the millionth time! We've both had to learn how to navigate being individuals while also sharing so much of our lives together. The most important thing is that we've built a foundation on love, but we also realize that love isn't a "fix-all" for all of our problems. Individuality needs to be nurtured, and we've both come up with our own ways to do just that!

Here is Nick, obviously reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" for the millionth time! We've both had to learn how to navigate being individuals while also sharing so much of our lives together. The most important thing is that we've built a foundation on love, but we also realize that love isn't a "fix-all" for all of our problems. Individuality needs to be nurtured, and we've both come up with our own ways to do just that!

We embrace these differences though. Speaking for myself, I know that Nick helps keep my mood light and forces me out of my comfort zone. I also appreciate that he doesn't think like I do and that he challenges me to re-evaluate my own thoughts, perceptions, and ideas on things I otherwise would not have. I also know Nick feels the same about me (he's talked about needing someone serious to help balance him out, and he also has said that my passion for social justice - in particular - has made him think deeply about current events). If it says anything about me, I also got Nick hooked on NPR, haha!

Embracing our differences also comes with the caveat that we must find time for our individuality. We must have places where we can go to be in our own head without constantly needing to feel like a "couple-entity." Especially thanks to social media, the impression for many is that we constantly adore each other's company. The truth of the matter is that we often need breaks from each other. We get mad at each other. We argue. We disagree. Sometimes, we just need "me" time for no reason. For me, an escape for my individuality comes in two places: my journals and planners as well as my personal space. 

 Here it is! This is my personal space. Sure, this is in the bedroom, so it isn't exactly always the most private spot. However, it works perfectly for a quick, quiet getaway. The desk also functions as a nightstand (yay, smaller space functionality)! The desk, pillow, and throw are from West Elm. The mid-century modern chair is from Wayfair. Scroll down if you are interested in checking out any of these items for yourself!

Here it is! This is my personal space. Sure, this is in the bedroom, so it isn't exactly always the most private spot. However, it works perfectly for a quick, quiet getaway. The desk also functions as a nightstand (yay, smaller space functionality)! The desk, pillow, and throw are from West Elm. The mid-century modern chair is from Wayfair. Scroll down if you are interested in checking out any of these items for yourself!

As I've already pointed out, I'm very type A. This includes being very detail-oriented with planning out my weeks (and sometimes months) ahead. I have a planner by which I live and die (not even an exaggeration sadly), and then I also love creating loose plans for our upcoming trips in fun ways that make me tap in to my artistic side. Getting lost in my planner gives me a creative outlet (I know it sounds silly, but it really does), and it also gives me a sense of peace to be able to tune everything out for a bit while I plan and draw. In order to do this, though, I need a space to do it at.

 Here's my travel journal! I love planning out trips and at least having a general sense of the things I want to see during a trip. I also get a lot of personal clarity out of channeling my energy into drawing and other outlets. 

Here's my travel journal! I love planning out trips and at least having a general sense of the things I want to see during a trip. I also get a lot of personal clarity out of channeling my energy into drawing and other outlets. 

 Another shot of the travel journal! So many people have given us great recommendations for our trip to Italy, so I made sure to write down some of the most promising ones (leave some comments on this blog post if you have some travel tips for Northern Italy, too)!

Another shot of the travel journal! So many people have given us great recommendations for our trip to Italy, so I made sure to write down some of the most promising ones (leave some comments on this blog post if you have some travel tips for Northern Italy, too)!

Perhaps the most complicated thing is the personal space. Nick and I love the location of our apartment; we are right downtown in close proximity to so many things. However, what we gain in convenience and location, we lose a bit in square footage. Our apartment is plenty big - perhaps bigger - than what we need, but an apartment still doesn't lend itself to creating private spaces to "get away" at home. In order to have some space to ourselves, we've had to improvise. I created literally the smallest nook to do work, draw, and read, and the center of it all is my West Elm Ladder Shelf Desk (and it's the Sand/Stone color in case you're curious)! 

 If you've been following us for awhile, you've seen plenty of the bedroom! However, you might not have seen the whole thing yet! Honestly, it's newly become my favorite room in the house (not just because I have my special nook here) because of the yellow/blue/grey theme and all the urban greenery (and, as always, we love these 12 foot tall industrial windows)!

If you've been following us for awhile, you've seen plenty of the bedroom! However, you might not have seen the whole thing yet! Honestly, it's newly become my favorite room in the house (not just because I have my special nook here) because of the yellow/blue/grey theme and all the urban greenery (and, as always, we love these 12 foot tall industrial windows)!

 This Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair from Wayfair was a steal, and it looks perfect here. It's also comfortable. Did I mention it was cheap (it actually came with two chairs)! The pillow and throw are from West Elm, and I absolutely love them! Again, I have links down below in case you want to snag any of this.

This Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair from Wayfair was a steal, and it looks perfect here. It's also comfortable. Did I mention it was cheap (it actually came with two chairs)! The pillow and throw are from West Elm, and I absolutely love them! Again, I have links down below in case you want to snag any of this.

The West Elm Ladder Shelf Desk is the perfect size for our apartment, gives me some space above the desk to decorate with some of the favorite books and plants, and easily holds our MacBook Pro and a desk lamp. We did a story with Nick reading in bed where you could see the desk, and so many people responded to the Instagram Story asking where the desk was from. Honestly, it's my favorite purchase ever when it comes to furniture, and now is the time to snag it up. It's currently on sale at about $100 USD cheaper than normal. While West Elm isn't always known for being the cheapest, they often have great sales (like now on the desk), and I often find steals with other pieces. For example, I used Wayfair to grab a cheap, lightweight chair for the desk: the Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair. From there, I just added my favorite books (trying to match the yellow-green-blue-grey color scheme of the room), my favorite plant (a maiden hair fern), and voila: I created a space for myself to escape. 

 I have an addiction to coffee table books and this "California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture" is probably my favorite that I've ever purchased so far! In addition, I do love all the other books here as well as the maiden-hair fern. I snagged the ceramic birds on Etsy, and I think they are just the cutest!

I have an addiction to coffee table books and this "California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture" is probably my favorite that I've ever purchased so far! In addition, I do love all the other books here as well as the maiden-hair fern. I snagged the ceramic birds on Etsy, and I think they are just the cutest!

 Adding all these items is a reflection of me in my personal space. I love architecture (particularly mid-century modern) and urban planning. I also am a huge fan of cerebral science fiction ("Authority" is one of the books in the Southern Reach Trilogy, which includes "Annihilation" if y'all have seen the female tour-de-force film earlier this year). Travel is also my number one passion, and chief among it is East Asia (I lived in East Asia for three years). All things thrown together, this space is mine, and it's my escape.

Adding all these items is a reflection of me in my personal space. I love architecture (particularly mid-century modern) and urban planning. I also am a huge fan of cerebral science fiction ("Authority" is one of the books in the Southern Reach Trilogy, which includes "Annihilation" if y'all have seen the female tour-de-force film earlier this year). Travel is also my number one passion, and chief among it is East Asia (I lived in East Asia for three years). All things thrown together, this space is mine, and it's my escape.

 Another angle on my "escape" nook! Here, you can also see my stationary pens, highlighters, and felt tips! I often use this space to doodle and draw in my notebooks. I hope you've enjoyed this blog by getting this glimpse into how I bolster my own individuality by creating a personal space just for me! Let me know what you all think in the comments!

Another angle on my "escape" nook! Here, you can also see my stationary pens, highlighters, and felt tips! I often use this space to doodle and draw in my notebooks. I hope you've enjoyed this blog by getting this glimpse into how I bolster my own individuality by creating a personal space just for me! Let me know what you all think in the comments!

By having activities that I can do to calm myself in a space that I love, I've been able to create a sanctuary of sorts. I love Nick, and I know that he loves me. Nevertheless, we also know and respect that - inevitably - we will need our space from time-to-time. If you were like us in thinking that everything was suppose to play out like Stockholm syndrome-turned-into-daddy-beast-fall-in-love realness, I highly encourage you to re-evaluate your definition of love. I'm not saying you need to throw away what you think about it. I'm just saying to take a moment and think how you come to the conclusions you did. I, personally, know I am a much better partner for Nick by realizing that we are individuals who need space. I also know it makes me work harder. Knowing that love takes and deserves work elevates its importance. It became something I no longer take for granted by simply assuming the presence of love was a salve for all my problems. Relationships take work. Ours is no different.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you all do to nurture your individuality? I'd love to hear in the comments below! If anyone is interested in what the plants are, one is an orchid (I'm sure a very common variety, but I can't recall the name) and the fern is a maiden hair fern. Also, if you are interested in any of the items I used to decorate my space, I'll compile them here:

Love you all! 

The Yucatan Peninsula: Gay Couples' Vacation

It’s impossible nowadays to not hear about Mexico. Unfortunately, very little of what we hear in the United States is positive. We are constantly bombarded by hearing about the dangers, illegal border crossing, asylum seekers. In many ways, the current political climate has framed Mexico and its people in the worst possible light. This couldn’t be farther from representing this beautiful country and its wonderful citizens. 

With that said, any travel requires safety considerations. This is true for domestic travel in the United States and international travel to places one would consider safe, such as Western Europe. It goes without saying that Mexico has tons to offer, especially for United States citizens and Canadians looking for a more affordable getaway with a variety of amazing locations (but seriously, who doesn't want to go from beautiful beaches to ancient ruins and then finish the day off with one of the world's best food and drink cultures).

 

We recently were able to travel to Playa del Carmen, a tourist area just shy of an hour south of Cancun. Playa del Carmen is equally known as a gateway to the island of Cozumel and the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum. Without a doubt, Playa del Carmen is a convenient place to have as a home base for exploring the wonders of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. For us, home base was The Fives Downtown, a newly built Curio by Hilton location right in the action of Playa del Carmen. The rooms were beautiful and spacious, the lobby was magnificent, but the undoubted highlight was the amazing rooftop infinity pool and awesome bar.

 We can't stress it enough: The Fives Downtown easily has the best view in Playa del Carmen. What makes it even better? One amazing infinity pool and a bar that serves some amazing food and drinks while relaxing poolside!

We can't stress it enough: The Fives Downtown easily has the best view in Playa del Carmen. What makes it even better? One amazing infinity pool and a bar that serves some amazing food and drinks while relaxing poolside!

Only 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Tulum is a must-see experience. One of the few Mayan complexes built right against the ocean, Tulum is a beautiful complex that demands awe and wonder. 

The Yucatan Peninsula (along with parts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) was the home of one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations: the Maya. In many ways, the Mayan culture closely resembled that of ancient Greece in that the Maya were a conglomeration of non-unified city-states. Some of these city-states were massive, such as El Mirador, Chichen Itza, Tikal, and Palenque. In addition, the Mayan culture was extremely advanced, developing a complex writing system, utilizing advanced agricultural techniques, extensively studying astronomy, creating a detailed calendar, and even being among the first to discover zero. When staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, it’s not hard to get to locations like Tulum or Chichen Itza, but there are a myriad smaller ruins throughout the region. More importantly, the Mayan culture lives on with Mexico’s largest indigenous population: the modern Mayan people. Small villages and lesser-traveled towns in the region are now home to the Mayans, and they are extremely welcoming and kind.

 One of Justin's favorite movies are the Indiana Jones movies. If you couldn't tell from this photo, that is, haha! Tulum is definitely a must-see ruin complex in the area, particularly due to its location right along the coast.

One of Justin's favorite movies are the Indiana Jones movies. If you couldn't tell from this photo, that is, haha! Tulum is definitely a must-see ruin complex in the area, particularly due to its location right along the coast.

 This is the same location from above, except there are no tourists trying to be cute and adventurous in it (see: Nick and Justin trying to serve Indiana Jones realness). Honestly though, Justin was obsesses with the light green-deep maroon natural color scheme here.

This is the same location from above, except there are no tourists trying to be cute and adventurous in it (see: Nick and Justin trying to serve Indiana Jones realness). Honestly though, Justin was obsesses with the light green-deep maroon natural color scheme here.

Cozumel is also a must-visit location in the area. We utilized the Ultramar Ferry and its short 40 minute trip to travel between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel comfortably. There is another ferry company available, but we feel as though Ultramar is the best choice for travel. Once you disembark, your first order of business must be renting a scooter to traverse the island. This was by far one of our favorite excursions while we were in the area. On scooter, it is possible to see the entire island and – for us – the highlights were the less touristy beaches on the far side of the island. These beaches offered crystal clear, light blue waters and white sands. With that said, our scooter did break down at one point, but the rental agency got us fixed up with a replacement within 30 minutes. This is absolutely a must do experience.

 Justin was horrified by Nick's moped driving the entire time, but Nick was really feeling the gay biker fantasy. Nothing says badass quite like a lollipop though, am I right?!

Justin was horrified by Nick's moped driving the entire time, but Nick was really feeling the gay biker fantasy. Nothing says badass quite like a lollipop though, am I right?!

 Cozumel easily had the best beaches we encountered in the area. The water was crystal clear and the sand is an amazing white. Coupled with zipping around the island on the mopeds, this was easily one of our favorite days.

Cozumel easily had the best beaches we encountered in the area. The water was crystal clear and the sand is an amazing white. Coupled with zipping around the island on the mopeds, this was easily one of our favorite days.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from traveling to the Yucatan is the disparity between tourist areas – particularly designed to attract foreign visitors – and inland areas in the Yucatan Peninsula. Please, take the chance to step outside your comfort zone. Experience a Mexico that isn’t all-inclusive resorts. While beautiful resorts and pristine beaches aren’t a bad thing (on the contrary, they are amazing), Mexico is a beautiful tapestry of cultures and people and it is hard to experience and dive into the full beauty of this country from the gated fences of a resort.

 Seen from the sky, it is easy to see the many wonderful resorts and hotels along the coast. A word to the wise and adventurous: escape the walls of the resorts and go truly experience the area. Mexico has so much to offer, and you're not going to experience it without adventuring into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Seen from the sky, it is easy to see the many wonderful resorts and hotels along the coast. A word to the wise and adventurous: escape the walls of the resorts and go truly experience the area. Mexico has so much to offer, and you're not going to experience it without adventuring into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

If you have decided to break outside the touristy areas, a great option is renting a car and driving between Cancun and Merida. Merida is the inland capital of the Yucatan state, and it is magnificent and vibrant. Merida boasts vibrant streets and beautiful architecture, such as the Palacio del Gobierno. Moreover, Merida is a very safe city. Between Merida and Cancun, you will also run into Chichen Itza – one of the most amazing ancient ruin complexes in existence – and Valladolid, a smaller city that has many hidden treasures. These cities give travelers a better glimpse into the vibrant Mexican cultures and the lives of the Mayan people in these areas. Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen offer some of the best beaches, but a trip to the region just wouldn’t be complete without truly diving in to Mexico.

 Traveling is one of the best experiences to share with the people you care about. We were so lucky to have experienced it with some of our closet friends!

Traveling is one of the best experiences to share with the people you care about. We were so lucky to have experienced it with some of our closet friends!

Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula wouldn't be complete without the people you share those experiences with. For Nick and I, travel is absolutely our favorite thing to share with one another. I have been fortunate enough to travel much more than Nick (my degrees, studies, and background more easily lended to me traveling), but being able to take Nick places that I have experienced is truly a joy unlike any other. Moreover, sharing new experiences is something wonderful, too. We were lucky enough to also travel the Yucatan Peninsula with some of our best friends: Matt and Beau from Probably This, PJ and Thomas from The Property Lovers, and Devon and Rob from Dads Not Daddies. If you want to see a video blog of our antics together, make sure you check out our YouTube page and find our Mexico Vlogs (there are two parts)!

Finally, we are also so excited to let you all know that we are headed back to Mexico before the year is over! We honestly can't get enough of Mexico, and we will be in Mexico City from October 30 to November 4 to experience Dia de los Muertos! If you have any tips or recommendations for Mexico City, please leave a comment below and let us know what we can't miss! 

Your Hair Looks Sexy Pushed Back - KEEPS

When I was a little kid, I loved getting my haircut. Every time I would sit in that chair from the days of my bowl-cut to my regrettably getting frosted tips, each hairdresser would consistently say, “Oh my! Your hair is so thick and beautiful! I bet your mom and sister are so jealous!” The first couple of times it made me embarrassed but then it was a silly little thing I was proud of and found gratifying. It wasn’t a groundbreaking ego trip for me and the only time I really thought about it was when I would go get my haircut every 3 weeks because it grew so fast.

 With a family history of hair loss, I found myself constantly struggling to feel confident about how my hair would look and feel in the future. Knowing that I'd need to either act or most likely start losing it, Keeps was where I turned.

With a family history of hair loss, I found myself constantly struggling to feel confident about how my hair would look and feel in the future. Knowing that I'd need to either act or most likely start losing it, Keeps was where I turned.

 By the way, Luna has decided that the bed now belongs to her. Theo has been ostracized from the bed. Isn't she just the cutest though? Seriously, the weirdest but cutest cat.

By the way, Luna has decided that the bed now belongs to her. Theo has been ostracized from the bed. Isn't she just the cutest though? Seriously, the weirdest but cutest cat.

Fast forward to my late 20s and here I am putting off getting a haircut as long as possible. Why? Well, let’s just say I am no longer Aaron Samuels and my hair doesn’t look sexy pushed back. Do I look like Tommy from Rugrats? No, but I definitely don’t have lush, thick hairy anymore. I worry about hair loss, a trait that has plagued some members of my family.

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My hairline has definitely receded some and it’s thinner than it used to be. I don’t like styling it certain ways because it looks a little more sparse in the front if I push my hair up. A lot of people have body image issues at some point in their life and most of the time you have two choices: either let it be or do something about it.

This is the first time I haven’t felt in control of my body because I have been lucky to have good health and fitness has always been a part of my life.

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My father passed away from cancer when I was two years old, so I only have pictures to remember him. Before he got sick, his hair had receded and thinned out. No one in our family has gone completely bald on my mom or dad’s side, but it has always been something I have been nervous about. Do I think I will eventually lose my hair? I don’t know, but I’m not going to sit around and wait for hair loss to happen!

I personally feel that we are empowered when we are confident in ourselves. Everyone has different ways they find confidence. I have personally chosen to take preventive measures through Keeps, and I love feeling like I can take charge of my body. If you’re like me or just want to be sure, make sure you go to www.keeps.com. Now is a great time to try it out as all new subscribers get the first month free (a 33 percent discount)!

Keeps made it easy and fast to get the information I needed to take back control. An easy, quick health questionnaire and three photos is all you need to have a actual doctor reach out to you. A real doctor means you get services and products backed by real science. That doctor then provides a prescription and a treatment to get a handle on your hair. There is no obligation to buy these prescriptions following the questionnaire, but Keeps localizes all the information and makes the process seamless and private. Even more, Keeps makes it affordable to tackle your hair loss. For me, Keeps has restored my confidence and given me peace of mind. I can't recommend it enough for people like me.

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This blog has been sponsored by Keeps.

The "Must-Visit" Farmer's Market of Richmond: South of the James

We moved to Richmond nearly ten months ago, and one of the things that we immediately fell in love with is the sense of community built around many of the neighborhoods in the area. It is something we loved about Pittsburgh, too, so seeing it appear so strongly in Richmond made us feel an instant bond. Located in Central Virginia, Richmond is ultimately a very unique place. It features plenty of southern charm (as you would expect) in its many quaint neighborhoods with beautiful row homes, but it also feels distinct from its neighbors to the south. It's the capital of Virginia, so it also is a hub for local and state politics (we are only a few blocks from the Virginia Capitol, which happens to be one of the United States' first architectural marvels), but it's not just a city of politics. It is a city after all, so there are plenty of amazing places to shop; no shopping lover would be remiss here! However, it also features some amazing parks (and the beach and mountains are a quick drive away). We've loved getting to know all of Richmond's unique angles.

 The South of the James Farmer's Market is a Southern Living "must-see" farmer's market. Seriously, the approximately 100 vendors at South of the James in Richmond, Virginia make it one really amazing place to check out in Central Virginia!

The South of the James Farmer's Market is a Southern Living "must-see" farmer's market. Seriously, the approximately 100 vendors at South of the James in Richmond, Virginia make it one really amazing place to check out in Central Virginia!

Perhaps, though, Richmond is becoming increasingly well-known for its blossoming food and spirits culture. The first thing Richmond folks told us is that the city is a foodie paradise. This is absolutely true. So many wonderful restaurants, bars, and breweries have popped up all over Richmond over the last decade, which lends to one really amazing thing: quality local farms, fisheries, and shops. If you want to see for yourself, look no further than South of the James. 

South of the James is a farmer's market located near the intersection of West 42nd Street and New Kent Road in Richmond. Open from 8am to 12pm during summer and fall then 9am to 12pm during winter and spring (yes, it is open year round), South of the James features approximately 100 vendors ranging from flower shops and pottery makers, to small local butcheries, fisheries, and farms. Honestly, the amount of vendors makes South of the James endless fun just scouring the grounds multiple times. It's probably why Southern Living named South of the James  a must-see farmer's market!

 South of the James has a bit of everything. There are amazing bakeries, fisheries, soap makers, art boutiques, honey sellers, and organic farms represented here. There is also some amazing food from bagels to doughnuts to empanadas and Southeast Asian cuisine!

South of the James has a bit of everything. There are amazing bakeries, fisheries, soap makers, art boutiques, honey sellers, and organic farms represented here. There is also some amazing food from bagels to doughnuts to empanadas and Southeast Asian cuisine!

When we first moved to Richmond, South of the James was one of the first things we experienced. Like most, moving to a new place presents challenges, and we found ourselves missing the comfort of Pittsburgh. However, when we first arrived at South of the James last summer, we knew that we could fall in love with Richmond in much the same way we loved Pittsburgh. The farmer's market was so lively, filled with all types of families and - most importantly - so many amazing dogs (we have heard from many people that seeing all the dogs there is the best part).

Theo - our two year old Australian Shepherd - has come to expect Saturdays as his day to go to the farmer's market. It's one of his favorite days of the week now. Not only does he get a ton of love and attention from everyone at the farmer's market, there are also a slew of vendors that sell homemade, healthy dog treats (and they love to give him free samples). In addition, all of the vendors are dog friendly, and most have water bowls for puppies scattered through the market. We've never had a problem with any other dogs there, and everyone seems happy to have their dogs greet each other and generally have a fun time. 

 If a blog about farmer's market doesn't include a close-up of strawberries, is it even a post about farmer's markets? Probably not, so here it is! The many small organic farms with booths at South of the James offer numerous different fruits and vegetables.

If a blog about farmer's market doesn't include a close-up of strawberries, is it even a post about farmer's markets? Probably not, so here it is! The many small organic farms with booths at South of the James offer numerous different fruits and vegetables.

In the months that we've been coming to South of the James, we've already honed in on some vendors that we always stop at or things that we need to take home each time we come. Chief among them (and mostly for Nicholas) is coffee. There are a number of amazing cafes in Richmond, and one of our favorites has a quaint, all-wooden trailer at the back of the market: Alchemy Coffee. Since Nick is always in constant need of caffeine and his love of coffee knows no limits, Alchemy Coffee is usually our first stop at South of the James. Honestly, you can't go wrong with Alchemy Coffee!

 Nick is coffee-obsessed, so Alchemy Coffee is typically our first stop at South of the James. We always try to arrive right as the farmer's market is opening at 8am, so Alchemy Coffee gets us ready to tackle all the vendors at South of the James!

Nick is coffee-obsessed, so Alchemy Coffee is typically our first stop at South of the James. We always try to arrive right as the farmer's market is opening at 8am, so Alchemy Coffee gets us ready to tackle all the vendors at South of the James!

Since we typically arrive very early to South of the James, breakfast goes hand-in-hand with Nick's desire for coffee. Luckily, South of the James has more than enough options for amazing food on-site! Almost all the typical things you'd expect to find are present, but what makes this farmer's market so cool is the atypical vendors. For food, Goatocado is a local favorite (and a healthy option). Think Chipotle-like bowls, but more adventurous and tasty. There are places that make crab cakes for you to chow down on straight from the Chesapeake as well as BBQ joints that grill up some amazing options if you are feeling meat. At 8am, we typically are on the hunt for two things: carbohydrates in the form of bagels and/or doughnuts. South of the James absolutely delivers here with Kitchenette and Yoder's 

 Kitchenette offers some of the most amazing bagels we've ever had outside of New York City. The line is always long for this one. If we had to recommend one thing, make sure you try to Bagel with the Works here... you won't regret it!

Kitchenette offers some of the most amazing bagels we've ever had outside of New York City. The line is always long for this one. If we had to recommend one thing, make sure you try to Bagel with the Works here... you won't regret it!

 If sweet carbohydrates are more your thing than savory ones, Yoder's Kitchen Donuts is a staple of South of the James. Many people who come to this farmer's market come just for this. The doughnuts are handmade on site and glazed to perfection right in front of your eyes. If you thought the line for Kitchenette was long, just wait until you see how long this line gets. You absolutely must try one of these doughnuts when you visit South of the James.

If sweet carbohydrates are more your thing than savory ones, Yoder's Kitchen Donuts is a staple of South of the James. Many people who come to this farmer's market come just for this. The doughnuts are handmade on site and glazed to perfection right in front of your eyes. If you thought the line for Kitchenette was long, just wait until you see how long this line gets. You absolutely must try one of these doughnuts when you visit South of the James.

Ultimately, South of the James has something for everyone: from cookies to baby clothes to amazing produce. If you find yourself in Central Virginia on a Saturday, make sure you check it out. If you see us there with Theo, make sure you say hi!

Navigating Social Media and Our Relationship

Since we started posting our lives together on social media, we've been pretty consistently asked the same questions. Here are the top three questions:

  1. Which one is Nick and which one is Justin? 
  2. When are you coming to Brazil?
  3. How do you manage putting your relationship out there for everyone to see?

The answers to the first two questions are fairly easy! Nick has a beard, and Justin (much to his dismay) can't grow one. To all you wonderful Brazilians, we want to visit Brazil so badly and we are hoping to come down and meet you all in 2019! The last question, however, is an important one that deserves a little more time and thought. Honestly, it is a question we asked ourselves a lot when our social media first became increasingly viewed, subscribed, and followed. Even though our relationship and its integration into social media took precedence for our own private discussions, this question has a lot of implications beyond just us. How has social media changed us?

 We couldn't be more opposite. We also have to navigate the weird world of social media while sharing our lives together. It's led to a lot of tough questions and - we think - has made our relationship stronger.

We couldn't be more opposite. We also have to navigate the weird world of social media while sharing our lives together. It's led to a lot of tough questions and - we think - has made our relationship stronger.

For a quick review and introduction, Nick and I never started social media with any intent of "hitting it big." In fact, we had initially created our joint account as a way to keep our families up-to-date on our relationship and how we were doing. With both our families scattered across North America, it was our way of staying in touch. Things didn't officially blow up with our account on Instagram until Buzzfeed found us and (without our knowledge) wrote an article about our social media. We went from around 10,000 to nearly 200,000 follower almost overnight, and we were completely caught off guard by it. The speed at which this happened - in and of itself - provided our first challenge. Our relationship was still fairly new at the time and we had hardly fleshed out even some of the most basic aspects of two people sharing a life together, let alone figuring out what to do about social media having a (much) wider audience than we anticipated. 

As many of you may know from our YouTube, we've talked candidly about both the pros and the cons of social media. In terms of our relationship, social media has again brought both. For our relationship, it has given us many opportunities to reach out and engaged in ways we never thought possible. We've also been doing what we can outside of our busy work schedules (yes, social media is not our careers, though we certainly have no qualms against it as a source of extra income or a career path) to use our platform for something more. Particularly, we've been interviewing politicians about how young people can become more engaged in politics. In some ways, too, it has also strengthened our relationship. We've developed a unique amount of trust in each other, which was brought on by - perhaps - the new era of constant options. While there is plenty of good that has come of social media, there have been some tough times.

 Social media has provided us some really wonderful opportunities. We don't take these lightly, especially coming from families where money wasn't always something that was readily available. We know, though, that we have to take it all in stride. There are a lot of important questions to ask ourselves. This is part of the "give and take" of having our relationship on social media. 

Social media has provided us some really wonderful opportunities. We don't take these lightly, especially coming from families where money wasn't always something that was readily available. We know, though, that we have to take it all in stride. There are a lot of important questions to ask ourselves. This is part of the "give and take" of having our relationship on social media. 

Quite honestly, we've had to really take a look at how we engage. There are plenty of sides to the debate on how social media is affecting the LGBTQIA+ community, and we can honestly see how it both benefits the community (amplified voices, increased understanding, more engagement, etc.) and potentially hurts (pushing stereotypes, drowning out voices of the most vulnerable in the community, etc.). We've also had to think hard about what it may do to our relationship. Like I said, we were pretty fresh in our dating when the social media explosion took place. We often had to ask ourselves how comfortable we were sharing our relationship. It also begets some questions about our relationship's authenticity, right? While I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we love each other, doesn't the constant bright cheeriness of Instagram seem strange? We asked this question all the time, especially because - like any couple - we have plenty of arguments, we disagree about a lot of things, and sometimes we just don't feel bright and cheery. Like so many as well, there are things that we struggle with about our appearances, too. Sometimes we don't feel attractive, and it's easy to compare yourself against others when you are constantly embedded in sea of beautiful people on social media. With all these issues, we've had to talk long and hard about what it means to us. The LGBTQIA+ community? We strive to be aware of issues regarding intersectionality in our community and make ourselves open to conversations (mainly with us listening and learning), especially to those carrying hurt. Sharing our relationship? We have to have really good lines of communication to make sure we are comfortable. Authenticity? We try to be as open as we can - especially on YouTube - about the struggles that we face (because we sure have plenty of struggles like any couple does). Our self-worth? We try to lift each other up, making sure to not let our insecurities overtake us. 

With all that said, social media is a give and take. We often say that social media has had little overall effect on our relationship as a whole. Ask April, our roommate. She'll definitely tell you that we are as quirky, weird, and "us" as we've always been. That said, it would be naive to think that it hasn't had some effect on us. Our hope is that the effect has been for the better, making us stronger and more engaged in the people and world around us. At the end of the day, our relationship is the most important thing, and we realize there will be plenty more hard conversations to be had surrounding social media and our lives together.

Let us know in the comments below if you all have any questions or comments about this topic! In some way or another, we've all been touched and affected by social media. We'd love to potentially do a YouTube live Q&A on this or something to that effect with the questions/comments you all have!

 

Finishing Touches on Our Bedroom

We moved to Virginia about ten months ago, and our mission was to create a space that we loved coming back to. Like many starving graduate students, our apartment back in Pittsburgh was passable, but it wasn't necessarily a space that we loved. Moving also gave us the opportunity to get rid of some Craigslist mismatched furniture that we had collected throughout college. 

 Justin enjoying all his hard work! He tends to be the more type-A particular one, so he took most of the bedroom re-design on his hands. 

Justin enjoying all his hard work! He tends to be the more type-A particular one, so he took most of the bedroom re-design on his hands. 

 We wanted to bring outside into the bedroom. We also try to go with yellow-orange-red hues to add a pop that compliments that old smokestack outside. Plants from left to right: bird of paradise, succulents, aloe vera, maiden's hair fern, and Japanese painted fern. 

We wanted to bring outside into the bedroom. We also try to go with yellow-orange-red hues to add a pop that compliments that old smokestack outside. Plants from left to right: bird of paradise, succulents, aloe vera, maiden's hair fern, and Japanese painted fern. 

We fell in love with our apartment for two reasons: first, it's a renovated historic warehouse that was used in Virginia's old tobacco trade (we love a backstory, honey), and second, the huge windows! As soon as we moved in, we set about snatching up furniture. Most of our focus was spent on the living room and kitchen areas for the first few months. We figure - why not hone in on the areas where guests will spend the most time? After literally months of dragging our feet to update our bedroom, we finally dove in last weekend.

 We've spent the majority of the last few months working on our living room! The floor lamp, the red chair, the couch, the coffee table, the media cabinet, and the bookshelves are from West Elm. It took us forever to find a rug that worked with our yellow-orange-red hue goal, but we finally found it at Crate & Barrel. Feel free to read us for still not hanging our new pictures...

We've spent the majority of the last few months working on our living room! The floor lamp, the red chair, the couch, the coffee table, the media cabinet, and the bookshelves are from West Elm. It took us forever to find a rug that worked with our yellow-orange-red hue goal, but we finally found it at Crate & Barrel. Feel free to read us for still not hanging our new pictures...

We love mid-century modern furniture, so we've been frequently checking out their website to find pieces that will tie in our look. We eventually settled on some dried flowers and a copper metal side table from West Elm. IKEA provided the console table, and we couldn't be happier with the pine wood brightening up our bedroom (especially since much of our furniture in there currently is black or off-black). What Justin wasn't happy about was spending the afternoon putting the HEMNES console table together (but who does like that). Many of the small items were just things we have slowly been picking up as we go out. 

 Justin loves architecture and urban design, and Zaha Hadid is his absolute favorite architect. It just also happened to work out that the gold-orange tones in the coffee table book worked with the overall color scheme we were going for!

Justin loves architecture and urban design, and Zaha Hadid is his absolute favorite architect. It just also happened to work out that the gold-orange tones in the coffee table book worked with the overall color scheme we were going for!

After tackling putting together the IKEA console table, we got everything moved into the bedroom and started decorating. We wanted to create a space that we loved spending time in. For months, our bedroom has been mismatched and cluttered, simply because we had so little time to spend designing it with our busy work schedules. Now, though, we absolutely can't get enough of the bedroom. Even though the bedroom space is small, the light colors make it seem larger. The plants - along with being beautiful - help purify the air and just generally lend to us feeling so much better about our space.

 It's sad and adorable how much Justin wanted a maiden's hair fern. He's been looking for one forever, and it was an intense moment when he finally came across one here in Richmond. We also can't remember the name of these dried flowers for the life of us, but they are from West Elm and pretty spectacular! 

It's sad and adorable how much Justin wanted a maiden's hair fern. He's been looking for one forever, and it was an intense moment when he finally came across one here in Richmond. We also can't remember the name of these dried flowers for the life of us, but they are from West Elm and pretty spectacular! 

 Another shot of the finished room! We have a king size bed, and most of the square footage in our apartment is in the living room-kitchen area. Given that, we had to think about how we can both brighten the room, draw attention to the large windows, and incorporate the natural light. The end goal was to make the room feel welcoming, but also to brightening it up and make it feel clean, comfortable, and big.

Another shot of the finished room! We have a king size bed, and most of the square footage in our apartment is in the living room-kitchen area. Given that, we had to think about how we can both brighten the room, draw attention to the large windows, and incorporate the natural light. The end goal was to make the room feel welcoming, but also to brightening it up and make it feel clean, comfortable, and big.

We hope you guys enjoyed taking a peek into our bedroom redesign. It honestly was low effort and low cost for a whole lot of SHABAM. We are proud of it, and now we are looking forward to welcome our moms down to Richmond for mother's day (mainly to show them that we learned from their expert guidance growing up)!

The Case for Madeira: the Island You Probably Haven't Heard of, but You Should Know

If you’re like us, you probably aren’t familiar with Madeira, the Portuguese archipelago west of Morocco and north of the Canary Islands. Perhaps rightfully so; Madeira has long been associated with a much older tourist crowd predominantly from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Scandinavia. If you’re like us, you are blessed with having no preconceived notions about Madeira Island. If you aren’t like us and have only heard about Madeira as a sleepy island chain for older tourists, you are absolutely wrong. Let us change your mind, friends!

North of the Canary Islands, west of Morocco, and southwest of mainland Europe, the Madeira Archipelago is a top global island destination that's experiencing a tourism boom.

Nick and I arrived on Madeira Island at the end of March with absolutely no idea what to expect. The first thing that immediately struck us — aside from the very modern, but seemingly-precarious Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport built on a cliffside — is how mountainous Madeira Island is. Think Hawaii meets Jurassic Park. Every road was dominated by tunnels, making navigating the island easy and unique via newly built Vias Rápidas. Seriously, travel on this highly mountainous island would be a nightmare without the nearly 150 tunnels and 130 bridges. For reference, the island is only 35 miles (57 kilometers) long and 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide. Basically, it is small and jam-packed with major infrastructural developments. Many of our drivers talked about the “old days” before the infrastructural developments when the 30 minute trip from the airport to our hotel would take 3 hours!

 This is just one of the many amazing homes along Rua de Santa Maria in the old area of Funchal. The old cobblestone street - once known as a shadier part of the city - is now packed full of amazing restaurants and shops.

This is just one of the many amazing homes along Rua de Santa Maria in the old area of Funchal. The old cobblestone street - once known as a shadier part of the city - is now packed full of amazing restaurants and shops.

Speaking of hotels, we stayed at Savoy Saccharum in the village of Calheta. Calheta is about a 30 minute drive from the capital of Madeira, Funchal. This tiny but exciting town features a sandy beach (with the sand being imported from Morocco) and this amazing resort, which is part of the Savoy Hotels and Resorts family. We honestly cannot recommend Savoy Saccharum enough. The rooms were well-apportioned and modern. The rooftop infinity pool was stunning. The restaurant and buffet were well-staffed and the food delicious. The spa was relaxing. It was an amazing place to stay. If you are going to Madeira Island, please consider staying here! We do have two words of advice for those wishing to stay at Savoy Saccharum: first, make sure you select an ocean view room and, second, consider upgrading to the Savoy Premium Experience. The rooms facing away from the ocean did not have great views (which may help if you are looking to save money). The Premium Experience package — for an extra daily fee — gives you premium amenities, in-room food, unlimited entry to the spa area, exclusive access to an amazing lounge area on the rooftop, and mini-bar service (because who doesn’t love those tiny shots).

Now, you are probably wonder what there is to do an such a small island. What Madeira Island may lack in size, it makes up for in sheer volume of things to do and experience. On our first full day in Madeira, Nick and I rented a car (a very easy process on the island) and literally drove around the entire perimeter of the island. I can’t recommend doing this enough; it gave us a very unique take on the island’s many different offerings. First, we traveled to Ponta de São Lourenço, the far eastern point of the island. This area of the island experience a great deal of wind, which makes it completely unique to other parts of the island. There are no trees in the area, just low brush and flowers. It honestly looks like coastal areas of the United Kingdom or Ireland. If you have time to spare, the hike from the parking area to some of Ponta de São Lourenço’s best sites takes roughly two hours total. Honestly, we think this hike is a must-see experience on the island, especially for Nick who was getting some hidden-horcrux-Harry-Potter-sixth-movie realness served to him. 

 Ponta de São Lourenço couldn't be more different from the rest of the island. Owing to its geography and the high wind speeds in the area, Ponta de São Lourenço looks nothing like the rest of Madeira Island. This is just one of the many stunning views on the 2-3 hour hike here.

Ponta de São Lourenço couldn't be more different from the rest of the island. Owing to its geography and the high wind speeds in the area, Ponta de São Lourenço looks nothing like the rest of Madeira Island. This is just one of the many stunning views on the 2-3 hour hike here.

Following Ponta de São Lourenço, we headed north in the direction of Porto Moniz. One thing we immediately noticed was the drastic change in climate, leading to an equally dramatic change in the flora. Going from Ponta de São Lourenço to the northern coast highlights how unique the island is with its many changing climates (locals state that Madeira Island has nearly 24 microclimates). The north coast of Madeira Island looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park. The mountains are high and steep, while the weather is humid and hot. This leads to beautiful Mediterranean to tropical climates and temperatures. Adding to the wildness is the fact that — of everywhere on the island — the north to northwest coast of Madeira Island is the least developed. Whereas the south has many accessible highways and tunnels, the north is a maze of roads that wind precariously up the side of incredibly steep cliffs. If you are scared of heights like me, it’s definitely going to get your heart rate racing. Luckily, Nick drove us around during this part of the trip! Highlights for us along the northern coast include the black sand beach of Seixal and the volcanic pools of Porto Moniz (both are must-see). 

Our second and third days on the island involved a lot of relaxation, courtesy of Savoy Saccharum. Just check out the amazing pictures from this stunning resort!

Perhaps one of the most amazing experiences on the trip happened on day four during our visit to Fajã dos Padres. Inaccessible by almost all means except for an incredibly steep cable car and small boat, Fajã dos Padres is called “an island within the island” by locals due to its closed-off locations. Once you’ve descended down into Fajã dos Padres, you are immediately surrounded by the rustic beauty of the organic farm located below. Even better, this farm supports the amazing restaurant located on site. Everything at this restaurant is brought in directly from the sea and the surrounding farm, making for one of the most memorable restaurant experiences we’ve ever had. In addition, Fajã dos Padres features a number of generous, historic cottages that are available for vacation rentals. We were so fortunate to have the owner of the Fajã dos Padres complex give us a tour of the facilities, which included an amazing wine cellar in a 400 year old building. I know I’ve told you that everything is must see, but seriously, do not leave the island until you go here.

 Fajã dos Padres is at the bottom of an extremely steep cliff face, making it accessible only by cable car. Locals have dubbed it an "island within the island" as no roads lead here, and it's easy to see how the beauty of this area has been preserved.

Fajã dos Padres is at the bottom of an extremely steep cliff face, making it accessible only by cable car. Locals have dubbed it an "island within the island" as no roads lead here, and it's easy to see how the beauty of this area has been preserved.

Day five took us to two unique extremes on the island, one being 6,000 feet above sea level and the other being right at sea level. With a wake up call of 4:45am local time, we gathered ourselves as best we could and made the trek up to Pico do Arieiro, the second highest peak on the island. To further give you an example of truly how mountainous the island is, Pico do Arieiro is nearly 6,000 feet (1,818 meters) above sea level! Any griping we had about the early wake up call melted away immediately upon seeing the sunrise from Pico do Arieiro. The views from 6,000 feet gave us nearly 360 degrees of amazing views, highlighting the incredible geography of Madeira Island. We spent a long time there, taking in the view while we celebrated our love, our relationship, and how spectacular our planet is. The day didn’t end here though! Following our trek up to Pico do Arieiro, we traveled right back down to the capital of Madeira, Funchal. 

Situated in one of the few gentle valleys and with an amazing port to boot, Funchal is a sight to see. Not only is Funchal the largest city in the archipelago, its population of over 100,000 makes it one of the largest cities in all of Portugal. The first settlement in the area dates back to the early 1400s, and the historic architecture of Funchal shines through to this days. The beautiful homes are packed tightly against cobble-stone streets in the old part of the city. Is shopping and luxury your thing? There are plenty of beautiful hotels and resorts coupled with great shopping centers in the newer part of the city to the west. Funchal definitely rounds out the island, truly making the island a diverse mix of climates, geographies, cities, towns, and villages. 

 Funchal is the capital of Madeira, and one of the few places on the island that can be described as "gently sloping." With a population of over 100,000, it makes up a majority of the island's population and is the sixth largest city in Portugal.

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, and one of the few places on the island that can be described as "gently sloping." With a population of over 100,000, it makes up a majority of the island's population and is the sixth largest city in Portugal.

If you’ve read this far, you know what we are going to say here: Madeira Island is a must see travel destination, as is all of Portugal. For way too long, we’ve been sleeping on Portugal, drawn instead to the continual favorites of Italy, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Now it’s Portugal’s time to shine. With amazing options from Porto, to Lisbon, to the Azores, and the Madeira Archipelago, Portugal should undoubtedly be on your travel list.