Monday, November 10, 2014

Live your life the way YOU want.

If you go around the world asking people for their idea, their definition of living, you are bound to get a variety of answers.  To some people, living means working hard, giving back to the community you grew up in, becoming a pillar in that community.  To others, that's a life of suffocating and instead living to them means exploring the world, trying new things, living on the edge.  I belong in the latter, however I know many people who are quite content to stay at home and do their routine.  No one can tell you how to live your life. No one can tell you the direction to take. Only you can make that choice.  People may not understand your life choices and try to sway you away because it is outside their comfort zone.  Don't let people determine how you live.  Ask yourself, when I die, what do I want my eulogy to say? Do I want them to say I was an upstanding citizen of the community, that I was a pillar during tough times?  Do I want them to say I was a high-power worker in a major corporation and never settled for second best? Do I want them to say I traveled the world, experienced many things, stepped outside my comfort zone, met many people that shaped my life, that I lived a little bit on the edge?  Once you have answered that question, you will be well on your way to living your life the way you want to, not the way others want you to live.  


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Excuses are just that, excuses

There are so many things that can prevent you from taking a trip of your dreams.  Money. Family obligations. Work obligations.  Money.  You can tell me all the excuses in the world until you are blue in the face and the cows come home.  But that's all they are, excuses.  The only question you need to answer is - will you regret not doing this when you are old?  If the answer is yes, then you need to do it.

If finances is a problem, look at what you are spending money on.  Cut back on going out every night for a drink or two. Cut back on eating out - it's not healthy to eat out all the time anyways! Plan more at home activities and check out free activities within your community.  Take all that money you will save and put it into an account that you can't touch and watch your account grow.  If you have debt, pay that down right away. I have student loan debt that I am currently paying off, but that doesn't stop me from traveling.

If work obligations is an issue. Look at how many vacation days you have more than likely saved up.  Take a week or two and just travel.  You will return to work refreshed and better than ever. In fact, setting a vacation makes work leading up to your vacation so much better because you have something to look forward to.  Take the week or two off. You will thank yourself later, and so may your boss!

If family obligations is the issue, you need to determine if the family obligation is major enough to postpone your trip.  If you have a family member who is ill and you don't feel right leaving them, then don't.  If there is a wedding coming up, family reunion, try to work it into your travel plans.  If you can't, ask yourself if you will resent them for taking away from your travels. If the answer is yes, then travel - but be sure to check in on the occasion and talk with your family :))

At the end of the day, excuses are just that, excuses.  Only you have the power to make your travel dreams happen.  Don't let anything or anyone stand in the way.

Live your life the way you want, not the way people expect you to.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Life Lessons from Europe

Last year, I went through a quarter-life crisis.  I was turning 25 and felt like I had accomplished nothing.  Sure, I moved from Connecticut to North Carolina and managed to land a job teaching, but other than that, what did I have to show of myself?  I had all these grand plans.  Backpack through Europe.  Road trip across the U.S. of A just to name a few and none of them accomplished.

So in 2013, I worked on a budget and booked flights to Europe for a backpacking trip from June 2014-July 2014.  It was the best decision I ever made.  Backpacking taught me a lot about life.

1. You can't control everything. As a teacher, I feel like I need to be in control all the time.  I'm sure some of this comes from being the eldest sibling as well.  Backpacking through Europe was not without its challenges. France went on strike. causing my plans in France to be thrown out the window and getting separated from the girls.  I can't control what happens in France. I can't control the airlines.  All I could control was what I choose to make of this. So I chose to stay in Ireland and enjoy Ireland a few extra days before heading to Brussels (alone). I couldn't control the airlines. I also couldn't control the girls I was with. I couldn't make them stay with me and fly to Brussels with me.  What I could control was how I spent my extra time in Ireland. What I could control was how I spent my time in Brussels and who I meet.

2. Be open to talking to strangers.
When I was in Ireland, people were so friendly.  I went with the girls to a pub after a rather long evening of getting from London to Dublin.  We were going to just have a drink and call it a night.  However, we met some very vibrant Irish people and they talked us into going to a club with them. The club was awesome, the night ended with people throwing cookies and biscuits at one another (which I can only chalk up to us being drunk) and the people were ridiculously awesome.  If we had kept to ourselves instead of allowing people to talk to us, we never would have had the awesome night we had.  If we had closed ourselves off, we would have had a boring night of having a pint or two and then crashing for the night.  When I arrived in Brussels, I was alone.  To be honest, I was quite nervous as well. When I got to the Van Gogh hostel, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I thought it was in a bad neighborhood but it was cheap as hell so whatever.  I also wasn't that impressed with Brussels. At that hostel, I met some awesome people from Australia and California. Meeting them made my night different. I had planned to make it a low-key night and figure out what to do the following day.  Instead, I went to a bar with them and met more people who were from Norway and Sweden and possibly even Finland.  We had a grand time, getting into arguments with locals, trying to find food, trying all these different alcohol.   If I had never talked to these guys, I would not have had a blast. While I still am not fond of Brussels,  the people I met made all the difference and I had a blast.

3.  Be bold, take risks. In Switzerland, I did canyoning.  For those of you unfamiliar with canyoning, you abseil down the side of a mountain and then proceed to navigate through rocks and jump or slide down nature made waterfalls.  I've always been one for the "wild" rides at amusement parks. So I thought this was right up my alley.  It was more than I expected it to be.  Regardless, I had the time of my life. This taught me that taking risks is what life is all about. We take a risk every day getting in the car. We take a risk when we eat new food. We take a risk when moving some place new.  We take a risk when we choose not to study.   Life is all about risks. If you don't take the risk, you live a quiet dull life with no wild stories.  I took a risk when I got in a car with people I met less than 24 hours earlier and drove to another country.  I could have taken the train and gone on my way. Taking risks makes life more interesting. There's a difference between taking risks and being stupid.  Be sure you know the difference.
4. Unplug and live in the moment. In today's society, we are so plugged in. From our television to our computers to our cell phones or tablets.  While I was in Europe, I couldn't take my phone with me. I didn't have international data plan, nor did I want my cell phone with me.  I wanted to have no "saving grace" during awkward moments where  I didn't know anyone or didn't know what to say.  Not having electronic devices forced me to appreciate the moment, to live in the moment and savor it.  It forced me to talk to people, even if it was to get directions to somewhere.  Having a human connection is far better than anything you could ever imagine.  If  I had my cell phone, I wouldn't have met the locals or the travelers that I met.  I wouldn't have been immersed in the culture.  I wouldn't have stepped outside my comfort zone and asked for directions.  Now, I have eliminated facebook messenger from my phone. Yes, I still go online for work stuff and to communicate with people. Yes, I still have my TV soaps I must watch. Yes, I still text people endlessly.  But, I am now able to step away from my phone, from my computer and Roku and enjoy life a little more.  We all need human interaction and as long as humans are around, we will always need human interaction.  Hiding behind electronics is not healthy for us.  I challenge you to step away from electronics for a few days. Go for a walk. Meet friends for coffee or drinks. Volunteer. Visit a new town and explore.  Your life will be richer for it.

5. Have a positive attitude. Things won't always go your way.  When in Ireland, we had a night where we had no accommodations.  We managed to get a room in a bed and breakfast in Oughterard, a place we concluded was in the middle of nowhere.  We were aggravated.  It was way out of the way from where we were going.  We had to deal with it because all other places were booked.  So we went to Oughterard.  We had to walk from the bus stop to the B&B.  On our walk, we were exhausted. Our backpacks were killing us.  We just wanted to stop and we had no idea how long we would be walking for. On our walk, we saw a couple of donkeys.  The donkeys somehow brightened up our walk.  We took pictures with the donkeys.  Those donkeys somehow taught us that even though things didn't pan out the way we want, that it's okay, have a positive attitude and maybe the new course will be even better than the one we planned.  Now, when talking about Ireland, I be sure to bring up Oughterard because it truly was the middle of nowhere and not where we wanted to be, but we made the most of it and ended up having a lot of fun.  Bottom line - make the most of everything, even if it's not what you planned, because you may just end up having the time of your life.