GOING BACK TO DISNEY FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MY COLLEGE PROGRAM

Surprise, I went back to Disney World! I was just as shocked as you probably are. It’s been six months since I left and came back to Tennessee to finish. To be honest, I didn’t think this trip was going to happen. With everything going on at school I didn’t think I could. Thankfully, I was able to take a long weekend to visit the most magical place on earth for a much-needed break!

I’m not gonna lie, it was weird being back. In a lot of ways, it felt like I should still be working there. It was like I never left. Truthfully, a lot has changed since my college program ended. My first day was spent back in my home park – Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This day was special because I got to see so many friends that I’d been missing. The fun part was, most of them had no clue I was coming! It was so fun to surprise them and see their reaction (really glad they hadn’t forgotten about me, that would have been awkward). We walked around seeing as many people as possible at main entrance, watched the stunning Merry Menagerie, saw all the Christmas decorations, at Satou’li Canteen, rode the safari, and spent a chilly day re-connecting. It was definitely weird being there as just a guest and not someone who was on their day off. Whenever I heard someone ask a question, my instinct was to respond or say “happy birthday, princess” to little girls with birthday buttons on. Some things will always be engrained in me!

Besides feeling weird like I should be working, the first day was so good being able to see all of my old co-workers and friends again. I’ve missed seeing them every day! Even though a lot of people aren’t there anymore, I am really glad I got to see everyone who was. The only one who knew I was coming was my DCP twin, Emily, so it was also really fun surprising them. Plus, I got to see Chip and Dale in their dinosaur outfits with CHRISTMAS TOUCHES! How cute?!

The second day was a long one! We started off by hitting Epcot for some Food and Wine Festival goodies. I got the tropical mimosa, Twinnings pumpkin spice chai tea cocktail with caramel vodka, bacon and cheddar soup, and a teriyaki chicken bowl. Everything was DIVINE and it was fun being “of age” in Epcot and getting to experience more of the festival than I have in previous years. We also were very lucky to be able to visit my close friend, Chris, who we’d seen the day before but I was so glad I got to see again!

After a lap around the world, we decided to take a ride on the Skyliner. Luckily, another one of my dear friends from the program was working it so I got to squeeze in a hug before jumping in the gondola. This was the first time I got to go on Skyliner and I was super impressed! What a cool way to travel from park-to-park or resorts. When we got off at the next resort, we made a last-minute decision to jump on and head to Hollywood Studios! We had time to kill before we could go into the Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and I had yet to see Batuu. So, off we went!

We got there, nabbed some FastPasses for Tower of Terror, and headed straight to Batuu. I’m no Star Wars fan, but it was super cool to see! Another one of Disney’s immersive lands done right. We even got to see Chewbacca and some Storm Troopers just walking around doing their thing! From there, we looked at all the Christmas decorations and took a walk through Toy Story Land. We headed to Sunset Blvd. for my first ever ride on Tower of Terror. Since I have a rather intense fear of elevators, this ride seemed like a nightmare! But, as a big fan of The Twilight Zone I decided I needed to finally take a ride. The theming was amazing!! I wasn’t a huge fan of the feeling of my brain hitting my skull with each drop, but it was fun. I don’t know if I’ll ride it again, but maybe if I take some ibuprofen ahead of time it’ll be better! It didn’t cure my fear of elevators though.

After that, it was time for the big event! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. Most people who know me know that I LOVE Christmas. Yet I had never been to Disney World at Christmas time! This party shattered any expectations I had! It was AMAZING. From the minute walking in and seeing the Christmas tree on Main St. I was in awe. There were lights, decorations, and Christmas music at every turn! Not to mention, free cookies and hot chocolate! I dawned my Christmas ears and wreath earrings and was truly living my best life! How could I not be?

We started off with a ride on Small World (much to my dismay), then hit up a couple of cookie locations. We got to meet the seven dwarves, the hundred-acre woods friends in their adorable Christmas outfits, and it wouldn’t have been a Christmas party in Disney without stopping by and seeing the old boss! Took the wildest ride in the wilderness with no wait, ate lots of cookies, took lots of pictures, and by the end of it we were dragging ourselves to the bus to go home. It was a long one, but one of the best days!

13 consecutive hours, 3 parks, and 27,733 steps later we were filled with Christmas joy but also dead to the world. Not to mention, the next day we’d be taking that 12-hour drive back home! It was 1000% worth it and a trip that my soul needed. I needed a break from school craziness and work, and was ready to visit my second home! I really leaned into my enneagram 7-ness and took a trip on a whim that was the best. Reminds me I don’t have to make sure every moment is planned out!

Other than being over the moon about seeing friends and visiting the parks, the trip also reminded me how much I’d love to make my career at Disney. As I’ve been trying to figure out where I want to be post-grad in May and weighing my options, I’m leaning in and listening to where I need to be. Working for Disney and being able to make advertising magic would be a dream! More and more it seems like I’m being pointed that way. Wherever I do end up, whether it’s back at Disney or not, I will always make sure to keep the magic alive and spread joy in every circumstance.

All in all, it was a festive, magical trip! I’ve been back in school reality for one week and I’m already itching to go back. We’ll see how long that lasts! Maybe next time I’ll be returning as a cast member.

MERRY CHRISTMAS (it’s never too early to have festive spirit)

❤ / Bailey

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