Tea Talk 10: Kirsten Nelson | Nurse & World Traveler

Kirsten and I grew up together in the weird and wonderful world of homeschooling and 4-H. For those of you who don’t know what 4-H is, it’s an educational program for kids to learn skills in everything from photography to public speaking to gardening to cooking. Those last two are where we met (and sewing—oops, forgot one). I also have Kirsten to thank for letting me crash her co-op’s balls since I was homeschooled and didn’t have anywhere else to experience the glory of a high school dance. We also ended up going to the same college, although we weren’t there at the same time (sadness).

Kirsten is a pretty amazing woman, to say the least. She’s travelled around the world helping people and using her nursing skills to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. The long and short of it: She’s pretty swell. I’m more than happy to introduce you all to another amazing woman who is very dear to me.

1. What started your passion for traveling?

Most of my traveling has been service trip/mission trip related. I love that I can explore new places and see new cultures from a close-up perspective instead of just as a tourist. In addition, it is really special to interact with local people with a giving mindset. Some of my favorite traveling memories have been sitting with a new mom and her baby in a village in Papua New Guinea or talking with a Syrian refugee outside of the U-Bahn in Frankfurt.

2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

If you are interested in traveling while also giving back to the place you are exploring, make sure you partner with a reliable organization that has local contacts in the area you are going. Nothing is worse than going on a service trip and finding out that you are working with an organization that has a poor reputation or is exploiting local communities.

3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

One of my favorite things to do when I visit new places is to buy locally made clothing, or clothing that is commonly worn in that area. This always enables me to feel more comfortable and acclimated, both physically (when its 90 degrees and humid in India you want to be wearing loose clothing!) and culturally.

4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?

Do it! My favorite place I have ever traveled is Papua New Guinea. I went with an organization that sails around the coast providing medical care to remote villages. Many of the people in this village only see a doctor once or twice a year when the ship comes by. I am a nurse and I loved getting to provide medical care while also seeing an amazing part of the world that is extremely remote and I probably would have not seen any other way!

5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

Wear comfy shoes that you have already broken in. Wanting to enjoy a new place and fully experience a new culture is hard to do when you have blisters.

6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

Going to countries that are generally labeled as “unsafe” to travel i.e. Papua New Guinea

7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

I love taking local transportation once I arrive at my destination. In India, the primary mode of public transportation is an auto-rickshaw, usually just called an “auto.” They are bright yellow motorized three-wheelers that zip in and out of traffic. When I first tried to figure out the system (hint, there really isn’t one) I was pretty overwhelmed, but by the end of my trip I felt comfortable bartering for my fare and knowing I was getting a fair deal.

8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Add on extra days to the end of any service trip – you have already gone so far, explore the area you have been in for a while! On my way back from Papua New Guinea I had a 12 hour layover in Sydney, Australia. I wish I had stayed a few extra days!

9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?


Tea Talk is a monthly series featuring extraordinary women who travel around the world! If you know someone who should be featured, or would like to be featured yourself, shoot me an email at morehouseemilee@gmail.com or post a message on this blog post! Join me again in February for the next feature!

Burning Bridges And Tying Loose Ends

Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India

Today I saw a picture of a little girl hugging a fish – a huge grin spread across her face. The caption? “Girl saves fish from drowning.”

At first it was funny. Then it was convicting. Not that I have a spiritual experience every time I read a meme, but my mind couldn’t help thinking about how often I’m that little girl – grasping for something that needs to be let go so both it, and I, can continue living.

The problem is, I’m stubborn. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. And I hold on even tighter when someone tells me to let go of something. Call me a typical Virgo, or just an overly tenacious Irish/Norwegian woman, but I’ve just never been very good at saying goodbye.

Lucky for me (*insert sarcastic grimace*), in this intermittent season, between where I am and where I’m going, my life is proving to be heavily portrayed by two words: Letting Go.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not the best at change, or at transitioning myself from one time frame to another. When I moved to southern California, I was nauseous for weeks because I couldn’t settle myself enough to enjoy my surroundings (mainly including the Pacific Ocean and palm trees that were steps from my front door – hard life).

But we all have to face change sometime – and that point, for me, is right now. Finding out that I’m moving halfway around the world, with the potential of not coming back for a very long time, has changed the way I interact with people in the present. Actually, I’m starting to realize now, that if I had lived this way before, I probably would have had higher life satisfaction prior to present day.

To make this transition easier, each week, I’m giving myself an “assignment.”

Like last week, specifically: I challenged myself to be intentional about saying, and putting myself in a position to say, goodbye to people that I had simply cut out of my life. That being said, in the true revolving door fashion of my life, some relationships have been harder to close than I initially thought.

This week has been filled with emotions (are you noticing a trend here?). There’s been laughter and tears, hugs and high fives and finally learning how to drop some fish that I was trying to “save.”

Relationships are messy. And being raised with a “don’t burn any bridges” mentality, and an over zealous social media involvement, has resulted in me putting many on “life support.” You know, when you’re still “friends” with someone, even though you haven’t spoken to them in five years, nothing truly keeping the relationship alive.

My social media life (*cough* Facebook) easily gives me the false feeling of having dealt with things I’ve passive aggressively swept under the rug. After all, we’re still “friends,” right? I don’t need to wrap things up, say I’m sorry, or end on a good note with people. It’s the perfect system.

Or is it? See I’m starting to realize that, sometimes, it’s healthy to burn bridges, to say goodbye, or to walk away from things that are harming rather than helping. Sometimes, you need to do those things in order to really be able to move forward.

While change can be good, never confronting or having to make actual decisions about past chapters in your life is not. It’s like never deleting emails – yeah, they aren’t immediately showing up every time you log in, but they’re still accumulating and taking up memory.

I’m starting to mildly hate that I have, maybe a couple hundred friends/family members I actually interact with, but three times that amount of “friends” on Facebook. Who are these people? Ghosts of past seasons, floating amidst the ocean of my news feed and shared viral cat videos. Do they know me? Do I know them?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being friends with people years after you’ve met, but what I’ve found myself doing is using social media to pacify my actual interactions with people. A habit that ends up being a lose-lose situation.

I’m not a fan of interpersonal shortcuts. I like phone calls more than text messages, and sitting down, talking to someone, more than Facebook messaging. And when it comes to saying goodbye, I’m no different. I want people who are close to me to be close because we’ve actually had a conversation in the past six months. I want people who I’ve decided are not healthy to have involved in my life, to actually be out of my life; sometimes, it’s ok to close the door, turn the key and walk away.

We don’t heal from ignoring injuries, we only make them worse. And, although, it can be painful to deal with them, I’m making an effort to enter this next part of my life in as healthy a way as possible; letting go of dead relationships, and nurturing those that are worth investing in.

It’s true; I’ve never been very good at goodbyes. But, I am starting to realize that I have an option, the power to decide, who and what remains in my life post this transition.  A decision I don’t want to waste. Yes, it’s terrifying to start everything off again with a clean slate. But it’s also unimaginably liberating to step forward into the unwritten future.


Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India


It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).


2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.


4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.


7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.





8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.


10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.


Six Impossible Things

Seattle, WA

This week I’ve challenged myself to finish a book.
Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, yes and no.

See, I have this thing about books. And TV shows. And life. I don’t like endings.

If you came over to my apartment, you would see an entire bookcase filled with books read ¾ of the way through. The bookmarks are still in them. It’s almost comical at this point. I’ve always had this thing about endings. I think I’m so terrified of reaching a “wasted-time ending” that, when I get close, I’d rather shut the book and imagine the rest.

The problem with this habit is that all endings aren’t bad. And when I choose to forgo the potentially bad ones, I’m also missing out on the potentially good ones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As a book reader, this is silly. But in life, it’s an all too real situation.

How often do we step back from something because of the potential for it going bad – shutting off the little voice in our minds that says, “But what if it works out?” Sure, by never taking chances, you can be safe and free from the embarrassment or disappointment of failure. But what about the rewards of succeeding in something that seemed impossible!?

If you know me well, you probably know I’m obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. It’s one of my favorite books/movies/tv shows. I love how it breaks conventional rules about how a story becomes relatable to readers, and when I was a kid I named my cat Dinah (the name of Alice’s cat). One of my favorite Lewis Caroll lines, from Alice in Wonderland, is about thinking up six impossible things before breakfast.

I actually do this.

At first it was just for fun, but after a while, I started to notice “impossible” things actually coming true; not that they were popping up out of nowhere, but that I was starting to notice them. Verbalizing, or writing things down, is an awesome way to be able to look back, and see your impossibilities becoming realities. These become milestones in our lives.

A few years ago, when I wanted to go to India, I was broke, I was a college student with a 20-credit load, I had never been out of the country and no one I knew had ever been to India before. But it felt right. And I’m a big believer in following gut feelings. When I found out how much the trip would cost, I sat down and wrote out how I could, even potentially, make enough money. It didn’t add up. It was impossible.

So, I wrote God a note. Classy, I know.

I said,

“Ok, God. I feel like this trip is something I’m supposed to go on. I have no independent travel experience, no idea what I’m doing, and financially this is ridiculous to even think about. But, if you want me to go, I’ll trust you. I have no idea where this money is going to come from, but I trust you to get me there.”

I folded up the note and stuck it in my journal. Then I went about my life, applying for visas and passports with money that seemed to come out of nowhere. I got offered a job that fit perfectly with my class schedule, and a raise at my other job completely spontaneously.The trip was going to cost me $2500 and, in addition, I needed probably $75 for spending money etc.

After buying all of my gear, getting shots and paying for passports/visas, I looked in my bank account: $2576.00

True story.

I dreamt about something impossible. And ended up half way around the world as a result. I tried something that had little to no chance of being able to happen, and trusted that the money would come if it was meant to be. It was blind faith, an unknown ending. I could have ended up getting to the end of the whole process and not having enough money. I could have failed. I could have wasted hours working my butt off, only to fall flat on my face. I had no idea, until the week I was flying out, that there would be a “happy ending”.

But there was.

That trip changed my life, in so many ways, that I couldn’t even possibly begin to write them here. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. Seeing the impossible become possible changes you.

My brother used to always say, “Fear isn’t in the present. It’s only something that lives in the future.”

When we allow it to overcome us, we’re, essentially, being crippled before we’ve even met our opponent.

For each of us, our fears are different. Maybe it’s something huge like traveling around the world. Maybe it’s small, like finishing a book. But, regardless, it’s so much more rewarding to fight for the impossibilities that we’re drawn to. We don’t know the future, so why fear it?

Instead, today, let’s think up some impossible things, dream a little bigger, and blindly take a leap of faith – or just finish a book.

“Throw yourself to the edge that you’re always scared of. Try being independent; do it your way. You’ll love it.”

Ameerah Al-Taweel



When You Wish Upon A Star

London, England
London, England

Today I’ve been reading a lot about taking chances and following your dreams. Both of which, I fully support. But, as I was sitting here trying to think of what my dreams are, and what they have been, I realized something. Dreams, or callings, or whatever you want to name them, are not as single sided as they sound. They change, evolve and sometimes pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes your heart can be dreaming about something for years before your head gets caught up with the program. Then, when an opportunity comes along, it’s like, “WHAM!”

Sometimes, dreams smack us in the face.

My current prognosis for my life is that I knew myself better as a 10 year old than I do now. Why? Because when I was 10 I didn’t care what other people thought of me. I tried new things because I wanted to, and pursued them because that’s what felt right. I climbed trees and pondered life, wrote poetry, made forts and conducted random science experiments, because that’s what I wanted to do with my time. I was completely free of the restrictions of having to think whether climbing a tree was beneficial to my 401K, or if blowing things up in the kitchen would yield higher profit margins.

But, as adults, how often do we get that option? In college you take classes because, if you don’t, you’re not going to graduate (not because you can’t live without Molecular Biology). In the career world you work places because they offer you medical benefits and vacation time. Rarely is it because it’s some place you’ve wanted to work your whole life (although, of course, there are exceptions). And when you have kids, you get up at 5am every morning to get them ready for school, not because you want to, but because it’s your responsibility to as a parent.

With all these responsibilities floating around, it can easily feel like there isn’t room for dreams. When do those fit in? Between 3-5am? On the first and third Wednesday of every month?

But here’s a challenge that I give myself. When I have a rare moment of silence, no kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs, or responsibilities piling up by the second. I sit there and I ask God to remind me of the dreams he has fulfilled.

What were the things that I thought I’d never be able to do, and then did anyway?

When I look back, it reminds me of all the times I stood, shaking my head, thinking, “That’s impossible.” All the times I tried crunching numbers that seemed impossible to come out even, but then did. Never, for one moment, have I lacked the guiding hand of my Father, and the comforting whisper to try. And always, without fail, when I start to walk forward, the pieces come together seamlessly.

My favorite part about following your dreams and ambitions is that it starts what I like to call, Dream Dominoes. People inspire people. Stories inspire stories. When we step out of our comfort zones we empower others to do the same.

It always blows my mind when I take a step into an unknown place I feel called to and, all of the sudden, others start telling me about how they’ve decided to pursue things in their own lives as a result. It makes you wonder, what if changing the world is as simple as taking a chance on the things your heart beats for?

We never know the impact our own lives can have, until we step away from the comfortable and start paving our own paths. To stay safe may feel comfortable, but that doesn’t guarantee that the comfortable is safe.

My challenge for you, today, is to grab a notebook and write down three things you dream about having happen in your future. But, FIRST, write down three things that have happened in your past. Dreams that you never thought could turn into realities, but then did. It doesn’t matter if they turned out like you thought they would, or went according to plan, just that they happened.

Here are mine:

P A S T:

  1. I travelled farther than anyone else in my family. When I went to India I had no idea how I would scrape together $2,500 for the trip but, in the end, I had the exact amount of money I needed in my bank account.
  2. I wanted to intern with Krochet Kids International more than anything in the world. For two years I hoped and prayed that I would get an opportunity to work for such an awesome organization, and then I got chosen as a summer intern. I couldn’t believe it! I had wanted it for so long that I almost cried when I found out I would be working there.
  3. I went to college. Financially it seemed improbable that I would get there, let alone graduate. But I did – with honors. And everyone who ever told me I couldn’t because of my age, race, social standing or gender had to sit there and watch me succeed.

F U T U R E:

  1. I want to work somewhere that allows me to combine what I’m passionate about with my talents. I want to help people. I want to inspire hope in women who have been lied to about their worth and their place in this world. I want to write and explore and wake up every morning knowing that what I’ll do that day will change lives.
  2. I want to write a book. I don’t know what about or how on earth this is going to happen, but I want to write a book and have it published, even if there’s only one copy and it’s sitting on my bookshelf.
  3. I want to adopt. Probably not for a long time, obviously, but adoption is something that’s really close to my heart. I don’t have specific plans… actually I think it’s kind of weird when people pick a favorite country, or custom order what kind of kid they want, but this is something that has been on my heart for a wh-ile.


And that’s me! What are your guys’ dreams?

A Survival Guide To Airports

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

I have never flown and not been stopped by security. Maybe it’s due to my too ‘innocent’ baby face, maybe they’re just starving for riveting conversation, but regardless, security guards LOVE to stop me. It’s almost become a joke at this point, as I see them nod to each other about my “suspicious” items (aka headphones or a charger, usually). Brilliant.

In light of my extreme expertise in this field,  I thought I’d give y’all some tips for traveling through airports. I’ve made quite a few mistakes while flying, so here are some de-stressing tips!

1. Bring a refillable water bottle and empty it when you’re going through security, and then fill them up on the other side: If your water bottle is full of liquid when you go through security, it will be confiscated and, depending on the niceness of your security person, you might not ever see it again (regardless of whether it’s reusable). To ensure that you don’t lose your favorite water bottle, pack it empty and then fill it once you get on the other side of security.

2. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and slip back on: I generally travel in lace up boots, which is the worst idea ever. But, if at all possible, try to wear shoes that are easy to take off and slip back on so when you go through security you’re not the girl sitting there trying to re-lace your leather boots for 20 minutes  *like this girl*.

3. Don’t try to bring back jam for your grandmother in your luggage. It is a liquid – and therefore a terrorist threat.

4. Always go to the bathroom in between flights: To save yourself from having to cram in an airplane bathroom, I always advise going to the bathroom in airports during layovers, even if you don’t “need to go” (my nannyness is coming out). Believe me, it will make flying so much more comfortable.

5. Pack an extra pair of underclothing if you’re flying connecting flights/out of the country: If you’ve signed up yourself for a 26 hour flight, make sure your only underclothing isn’t in your luggage, which you probably won’t see again for the next 26 hours. Making sure you have a pair of undies/bra in your carry on can be the deciding factor to holding you together until you’re reunited with your luggage again. Just do it.

6. Bring snacks on the plane: We all know airplane food is less than kosher. One of my favorite fun facts is that the one time  I’ve ever had food poisoning was when I was flying to a third world country – when they warned me about eating the food there. Bring your own favorite snacks. Save money, eat watchu want. Win, win.

7. Bring more than one thing to do on the plane/headphones: Mostly this is for longer flights, but running out of things to can ruin a flight (especially if the movie that’s playing is Wolverine…number 2). Usually I fly with a book, a notebook/journal to write/draw in, iPod, and some kind of activity book (Suduku, Crosswords etc.)

8. Don’t ever buy pre paid phones in international airports: NEVER EVER EVER buy electronics in the airport when you’re traveling internationally. You’ll probably end up paying 3x the actual value of something. Make sure you pre-plan on things like prepaid phones before you leave, or look for a shop that sells them after you leave the airport.

9. Make sure you know what customs line you’re standing in: This is brilliant. I repeatedly get put in the wrong customs line. Probably because people just have no idea “what” I am. In India, I was Indian. In Ireland, I was French. People just can’t get it straight. Just make sure you let the airport workers know what country you’re from when you ask what line to do in – and before you end up wasting 30 minutes of your life.

10. Never let your belongings out of your sight: I’ve never had anything stolen from me, probably because I watch my belongings like a hawk. But friends of mine, have. Just remember to keep your belonging close to you when you travel. Especially if you’re backpacking and you’re carrying all your belongings on your back – Don’t. Lose. Them.

11. Make friends with strangers that know larger airports: I love making friends with people I sit next to on planes…mainly because they can’t leave if I try to talk to them. I make it a personal mission to find people who have been where I’m going and ask them questions. It’s the best way not to waste time in airports, and you get to make new friends. Yay!

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when trying to find a connecting flight: I don’t really like talking to people in general, but when I travel I force myself. You can get extremely lost, miss your flight or get stuck in an airport if you don’t have some kind of information. It’s not worth it. Just ask people for help when you don’t know what’s going on.

13. Two words: Window. Seat.:  If at all possible, I ALWAYS get a window seat. It’s so much more fun than being squeezed in between two people. Not only can you fall asleep against something, but you get to see the country you’re going to from the sky. Glory.

14. If you get pulled to the side while going through security, don’t freak out: Like I said before, I’ve never NOT been stopped by security and (in my opinion) I’m not very intimidating looking. Security personnel are just trying to do their job. If you happen to get pulled to the side, think of it as a good thing. You stood out from the crowd *cyber high-five*! But, really, keep calm and just be nice to the people working there. You’ll be fine. 🙂

15. Be nice to the people who are working there: People who work in airports have to see people traveling every day while staying where they are. Personally, I think that sounds like some kind of hell. So, throw a smile someone’s way. Ask them how they’re doing. And always say ‘thank you’ when someone helps you out! Let’s spread a little courtesy no matter what continent we’re on!

Five Ways Traveling Has Changed Me

My favorite thing about traveling is how much it challenges me to grow as a person. It’s nearly impossible for me to leave a place and not be changed by it in some way – a characteristic, which convinces me that, in order to fully discover myself, I need to continue to travel and see the world. There are several ways that I’ve already seen my outlook on the world change from traveling! Here are my top 5!

 1.     THE FOOD I EAT


One of the first things people discover about me is that I have a dictionary/list of allergies. Most of them have to do with food, so growing up I never experimented with different kinds of food (in case I accidently killed myself). It was such a huge surprise to me when I traveled to India and found out I can eat 98% of the food there! Before then, I figured if it wasn’t “All American” AKA steak and potatoes, I probably couldn’t eat it.  Now Indian food is my absolute favorite, and I’m so much more open to trying new types of food (Haggis, anyone!?), no matter how weird they sound!

2.     HOW I DRESS 


When I bought my first tartan skirt in Scotland, it was a proud moment in my life. I love traditional anything, and being of Scottish decent, I love connecting with my roots. A little Tartan power isn’t something I usually rock, but now that I’ve worn it, I love it so much.

In India I also picked up another FAVORITE trend: henna. I’d seen it before, being from the hippie town of Seattle, but there was something so much more appealing about getting henna done in the country where it was born. Henna is one of my favorite adornments and something I “put on” every chance I get.


Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 4.43.55 PM

When I was traveling through the UK, Veterans Day occurred. As an American, there are certain rituals I’m used to in recognition of the holiday, but being in the UK really made, what is a mediocre holiday here, into something so much more impactful for me.


 November 11th 2013 (Journaling on a train from Glasgow to London)

 “Today I saw 3 Van Gogh paintings, which was absolutely breathtaking. How can paint and canvas cause you to feel so many emotions and experience so many stories? I guess it’s true that a picture is, “worth a thousand words.” I think yesterday was the first time I ever felt like, seeing something done, my heart said, “ That’s what I want to do!” I want people to experience the narrative of their own lives through the paintings I create. I want to write a story about social justice, war and conflict without ever having to type a word…. Photography is great, but there’s something uniquely beautiful about paint and canvas speaking of the greater issues of our world.”



There’s something eye opening, heart breaking and completely revitalizing about being in a place where you can’t understand a word anyone is saying. It’s confusing and frustrating and you have to realize, perhaps for the first time, that you (AMERICA) are not the center of the universe.

Being vulnerable and uncomfortable is so incredibly humbling, and so entirely necessary to gaining compassion for those around you in your every day life.

Before I left for India I felt like God really kept pushing the verse 2 Samuel 6:22. In it, David, being ridiculed for obediently praising God, says, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”

Be a little uncomfortable. It’s amazing how empowering the experience will make you, and those you encounter in similar situations, from there out.

Le Temps Est Maintenant

Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India

The first time I travelled outside of North America, I was 18 years old – and absolutely terrified. I had never been on a plane before, never been off the continent and had barely even been out of my parents’ sight most of my life (homeschooler – Woot! Woot!). But, after 24 million hours of flying, we finally reached Bangalore, India. Our group consisted of “ The Bangalore 12” : six men and six women, and I sat nicely on the bottom rung of the ladder as the baby of the group.

The greatest limitation that I had throughout that trip was continually feeling like I wasn’t “old enough” to participate or succeed in exploring a country different than the one I was raised in. I was way too shy to approach people, ask for directions or even order something at a restaurant. I just wanted to be invisible. You see, despite popular opinion, I am NOT an extrovert. And in addition to natural introversion, I come from a strict “keep to ourselves” Scandinavian family.

But, I remember sitting down with one of the women on the trip and telling her about how inadequate I felt. I expected pity, instead she dared me to feel empowered. She reminded me that age is only an obstacle if you allow it to be. I became so much stronger through that experience, because I finally allowed walls telling me to “stop trying” to be broken down. Was the transition smooth or fun? No. I still got nauseous every time I talked to someone. But, sometimes, the biggest success is taking your first step forward.

Years later, as I travel, I love to talk to people about their own travelling experiences. In particular, I always try to talk to older people while I travel. And every time I meet someone new, I’m reminded that although each of our stories are different – they’re not entirely lacking in similarities. For instance, every single person I’ve EVER asked about traveling (50+ years old) has said they wish they had traveled more and hadn’t let life get in the way. Whether they’re on their first trip, or their 100th, I have yet to meet ANYONE who was satisfied with how much they’ve traveled.

But, when is the best time in life to travel? My answer: When it’s the right time in life to travel (listening to that inner voice is key).

Now, if you’re like me and in your 20’s, you’ve probably been informed that your 20’s are “the best time of your life.” We’re told  to travel now because when we’re older, we’ll have too many responsibilities, and after that we’ll be too rickety to leave our rocking chairs.

Well, I don’t buy it.

While obstacles make traveling harder (ex. having kids, or getting married, or having a mortgage etc.), the fact of the matter is: while these can be truths, they can also be excuses.

Whether I’m running around the globe tomorrow, in 10 years, or in 50 years, I refuse for my 20’s to be the defining “best part” – I have greater expectations for the next 70 years of my life. And while traveling, I’ve been able to meet some awesome people who are my heroes for refusing to believe the “age fallacy”, as well.

On one of my latest flights, I had the privilege of sitting next to the cutest older couple, who were probably in their sixties. After talking to them about airline food (first rule: sneakily ease your way in),  I asked them where they were going. The woman lit up as she told me about her and her husband’s soon to be adventure around Ireland. They were both overflowing with a kind of giddy mischievousness. They had never been to Ireland before, and I couldn’t help but smile as they told me about all the details of their trip. While I was sitting there listening I thought, “See, here is such a great example of two constant learners of life. Age and experience don’t dictate their ability to travel. They were ready, willing and excited for their new adventure.”

My mom is another of my absolute heroes for how often we traveled as a family while I was growing up. As a single mother of four, you would think she’d have had some kind of restrictions or boundaries. But, when I was nine years old, she packed us up in our mini van, along with everything we’d need to live the next month of our lives, and started driving. In total, we reached 38 states (and every historical site, attraction and national park in between), and it still amazes me that such a feat was accomplished while she homeschooled me in the back of the van. And I don’t even have time to go into the almost 10 Canadian provinces, and trip to Alaska soon after. My mom was dedicated to making a way for us to experience the world, and she knew the best way to do that was to have us actually experience it. In conclusion, my mom is a total bad ass. Period. 

Traveling is second nature to me because I was raised in it, but I realize that travel is a way of life. One that is, at times, uncomfortable and stretches your mind, soul and spirit. It can be scary and intimidating and emotionally (and physically) draining. But I think it is such an important part of existing as part of this planet. A lot of the time you don’t have the tools, or any idea how things are going to work out, but I think it’s exactly that lack of certainty that allows travelers to expand their minds and grow so much more over shorter periods of time.

Starting in college I made a commitment to travel somewhere I’ve never been before every year. Maybe this will actually pan out, maybe it won’t. But having the goal keeps me on track to do everything in my power to make it happen. So far, so good. I’ve been able to go to amazing places for the past five years, and I can’t wait for even more adventures.

But, the thing about the best adventures are that they happen when you’re the least ready for them (Bilbo Baggins?! – yeah, I went there). And sometimes I have to remind myself that God doesn’t keep a stopwatch on our lives that we can measure. He knows when we are ready and sends us out, regardless of our belief in the fact (Romans 8:28).

Honestly, 90% of the time I do things, I have 1% confidence in my ability to succeed. But, I have to take a step back, take a deep breath and make the decision to do it anyway. And generally it takes patience, tears and A LOT of prayer. But, you know what? Amazing things happen when you start trying to make them happen. People jump on board and support you, pieces fall into place and you start seeing little miracles occur in your life.

There’s a verse in the book of Esther that says you have been called, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Esther, in no way, thought she was ready to move forward on the path God directed her – but she took the first steps, knowing that regardless of the outcome, she had already succeeded by being faithful. Maybe it’s because she’s my namesake (maybe I just love stories), but I love this biblical lesson of blind faithfulness being rewarded. And while I’m totally on board with being called to go out in the world while I’m in my twenties, I want/hope/wish/plead that God will continue to challenge me to travel for the rest of my life as well.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Bangalore, India – 2008