Three Crazy Trips I’m Planning For 2018

I’ve been pretty silent about my trips this year. I think it has to do with a little bit of burn-out surrounding the whole “travel blogger” thing. I started backpacking because I loved seeing the world and because I’m a writer who starts to lose their sanity if they aren’t writing every day—never to get attention. After traveling, and living abroad, I kind of hit a wall as far as what my motivation for travel was. Was it to get followers? Likes? Pad my portfolio?

There isn’t anything wrong with any of these things, but I needed to take a step back from the spotlight (if you will) and rediscover why I want to travel. The answer I came up with is that I want and need to travel for my own artistic inspiration and spiritual certainty.

As far as art goes, discovering the classic works of art has always been one of my number one goals with travel. I’m in love with the works of Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin and Monet. I also love seeing new illustrative styles and sculptures. As a writer, I’m also always looking to discover the literary backgrounds of the places I travel to. I’ve visited the hometowns of Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens just to name a few. I hope to see more.

All that being said, I’ve thought long and hard about the three trips I’ll be taking this year. These are where I’ve decided. FUN FACT: None of them are on the list of “Must Visit Spots for Millenials in 2018”. I didn’t choose them because of anything like that. I picked them because they speak to my heart.

1. Quebec City, Canada

When I was nine years old I went on a road trip with my family that lasted about a month. During the road trip I had my ninth birthday and we crossed over into Quebec, Canada. For those of you who don’t know, Quebec is the French speaking portion of Canada and from the moment I heard people speaking I was in love. Obviously now I know that French-Canadian and French are very different, but as a kid I had no idea. The minute I got back to Seattle I asked my mom to enroll me in French lessons, and I’ve been studying the language ever since. I absolutely adore it. Rather than Montreal, where I went last time, I’ve decided to stay in Quebec City. I’m super excited for this adventure, and for being able to see the Chatêau Frontenac! Cities with castles are just better.

2. London, England/Paris, France

For my birthday this year I’m planning on returning to the UK. The focus of this trip will probably be literary, since I’ve seen a lot of the main attractions. I may also try to stay in a beautiful spot by the water for my birthday. This trip will likely extend to Paris, as well, since I’ve always wanted to take the train across the channel and it’s been on my bucket list.

I think one of my favorite things about revisiting spots is that you get familiar with the cities and therefore you’re willing to take more risks. You feel comfortable enough to go into random pubs on the street, or to wander off the map a little. Funny enough, I really didn’t like London the first time I went…or really even the second time. But now that I’ve been there a few times it’s starting to grow on me.

3. Arcata, California

This is my least planned out trip because it will probably fall late in the year, but I’m planning on visiting some family in northern California, and exploring the Redwood Forest! I’ve wanted to head down there for a while, but I just haven’t been able to make it for various reasons. I’m super excited to go spend some time enjoying nature and seeing one of the natural wonders of the world.

BONUS: I’m also probably going to be taking a weekend trip to Vancouver, BC but stay tuned for more details!

Tea Talk 9: Chelsea Elzinga | English Teacher (Luxembourg)

Chelsea and I met in college, and honestly from the start I knew she was one of the coolest people I’d ever meet in my life. This girl is the definition of driven, passionate about life, and has a healthy sprinkle of Beyoncé swag. We both loved French culture, and years after college actually ended up living in France at the same time, which was such a beautifully weird coincidence! Now she resides in Luxembourg where she’s teaching English, as one does. I’m so excited to introduce this powerhouse woman to you all—here’s Chelsea!

What started your passion for traveling?

My passion for traveling has always been about moving beyond the limits of my comfort zone. It is an activity (or lifestyle, I suppose) closely tied to my love of language. For my first trip abroad, I went to France by myself at the age of eighteen. Living with a French exchange family was difficult even after five years of French classes because I often felt awkward when I couldn’t express myself. My happiest moments were when I got to explore alone. That was an important first-time travel experience and invaluable life lesson. Although I was a little pre-occupied by my linguistic insecurity at the time, it ended up transforming my confidence, pushing me to pursue French that fall at university, and has impacted every step of my journey since.


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

Make language learning part of your travel preparation and/or itinerary. While your ego may shrink with every butchered pronunciation that struggles out of your mouth, the synapses in your brain are beginning to form new paths of understanding. You become stronger! You don’t (and likely won’t) master another language for one trip, but knowing numbers, how to ask where the bathroom is, and basic phrases will serve you immensely while you travel.

On a recent day-trip in Germany, I was able to just barely communicate with the waiter after a few weeks of my beginner’s German class. It was my first time using German outside the classroom, and it was completely imperfect. Nevertheless, it’s a moment I feel really proud of thinking back on!

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Owning next to nothing. Hah! I can fit most of my possessions (save for about five massive boxes of books packed in my parent’s storage –sorry mom and dad!) into three suitcases. It can be scary to not have a stockpile of goods at your disposal but it is also freeing.

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

Pick your destination carefully – not just because it looks good on Instagram or somebody else wants to go there. Foster your interest in a travel location via passion-driven routes such as literature or travel writing, or perhaps through cuisine or film. It will make your trip especially meaningful if you’ve put a little sweat into learning to appreciate and contextualize the place before you’ve arrived.

The other side of this argument is that there’s something special about just showing up somewhere with no clue as to what you’re going to encounter! Having done it both ways, I’ve always been more surprised and delighted by a place after having invested in some pre-departure research, however.


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

Learning how to rearrange my goals when traveling in a group versus solo-traveling. Sometimes the right group of people is magical and emphasizes everything about the trip without effort. Other times, the group encumbers each step of the journey. I’m still learning how to be more flexible when it comes to ‘getting the most’ out of a destination when traveling in groups. Maybe it means we’ll go to a crappy pub for the sake of accommodating eight people. Chances are, it’ll still be fun.

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

My fears around travel are usually related to social anxieties: Will anybody want to hang out with me? Will I be lonely? These are the same fears I’ve had since first-grade. Traveling alone has nurtured my sense of self. The people I’ve been fortunate to meet while traveling and living abroad have each impacted me and I’ve been surprised at how welcoming people are. Now, I’m much less concerned with maintaining a tight, insular social group where I feel understood, and instead I seek to meet a wide variety of people and hope to understand more about them. Inevitably, friendships form.

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

Whichever is the most convenient! In Europe, the train is often the simplest way to travel with much less hassle involved in comparison to airport travel. Planes have always felt a bit violent to me: they hurtle you so nightmarishly through the air and confuse your sense of being in the world! Plus, they’re just scary and I could fall out of the sky. (J) A calm, quiet train ride allows you to watch each mile of landscape as it goes by from your window. No turbulence, and no take-off or landing. Of course, trains can be a bit too slow if you’re trying to get from Rome to Paris, for example…

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

Take fewer pictures. (This is advice for my current self as well.) My automatic reaction is to grab for my phone before I even allow a moment to sink in. What am I even going to do with all of those pictures anyway??? One challenge I have for myself is to go on a trip and take, like, seven photos per day! I’d imagine the experience would be different if I wasn’t always preoccupied with getting a great shot.

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

I don’t have a bucket list! But, if I had to choose one place to visit say, tomorrow, I’d get on a plane and go to Dakar, Senegal. Because, in this scenario, I have a) decided that it would be a free plane ticket and b) I’m interested in doing something close but not too far from my Francophone tendencies. As a French lit student, I’ve read a lot by authors from Senegal and would love to visit and learn more about this West African country.


Let’s talk about your current trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure?

I’m living in Luxembourg this year as an English teaching assistant through the Fulbright program. I applied to the program in Luxembourg because it’s aligned with many of my own ideologies: encouraging cultural exchange, fostering international relations at the individual level, and providing language education. Next year, I’ll start my PhD in French literature and I wanted to take a pause beforehand to improve my French skills and to also recharge after finishing my Masters.

I chose Luxembourg because I wanted to think beyond the French hexagon and to expand my language skills. Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish, so I have opportunities to learn here that I don’t anywhere else. Luxembourg’s location between France, Belgium, and Germany make it a fascinating place to be linguistically, but also culturally and historically.

The intimate yet international characteristics to this country make it truly unique. For example, this morning on my way to teach at a high school in the Luxembourgish countryside, I accidentally got on the wrong train and went to Belgium. I still made it back for the last few minutes of class. It’s both embarrassing and hilarious that this was even possible.

After my morning in Belgium, I told the story to my English class of fifteen-year-old Luxembourgish students. Although an hour beforehand I had been completely frustrated and upset, the mishap ended with everyone laughing at my groggy-morning commuter fail. Only in Luxembourg are borders so permeable and morning commutes so transnational.

What has been the best/toughest part of your current trip?

Best: Integrating in Luxembourg has been surprisingly easy! It’s an extremely international and multilingual place. I live around a university campus so there are plenty of welcoming people and activities to take part in. I have truly enjoyed meeting people from Luxembourg and from all corners of the world while living here as an English teacher.

Toughest: Being away from people I love. This year is particularly full of “life events” for friends and family back home. The longer I live away from home, the more I realize that I don’t always want to be this far.

 

What’s one thing you’ve learned from your current trip?

The real meaning of “staying positive.” At some level, it is a mental discipline that I must constantly remind myself of during tiring commutes that test my patience or when grey skies just won’t seem to clear away. If I can mentally remain positive, it completely improves the emotional and physical aspects of my life and—this is something I’m just realizing now—it will improve the lives of others around me. Nobody benefits from one more whiny expat stuck on making references to life back home where food is readily available for purchase at any hour of the day. “Living the dream” does not mean each day is dreamy. However, the more I keep myself from getting negative, the more I am able to appreciate everything about the experience.


What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from this trip?

I’m more adaptable to new situations and environments than I had realized, but I’m also not as independent as I thought. I need encouragement and community with other people to really succeed and enjoy life abroad. I feel blessed to have people from different areas of my life supporting me. I still don’t quite fully grasp how much I rely on the support and encouragement of others, but I’ve been learning that I’d rather ask for help and be vulnerable with people (e.g. Today, I’m worried about x, y, and z and I need to just cry on the phone) than to try and grit my teeth and go it alone.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Ultimately, the reason I travel isn’t because I want to have fun or even escape from day to day life. Traveling sharpens and refines my perspective on everyday life, while it also poses many financial, emotional, and mental challenges. I know it is a privilege to travel but it can also be a sacrifice. In the end, I believe travel is an investment. Traveling is an investment that returns ten-fold what you put into it. You’ll benefit personally, but also become a better global-citizen. I think the world needs more purposeful travelers who are willing to do things outside of their comfort zones. In an increasingly fearful climate, thoughtful travelers can become mini-ambassadors of resistance, hope, and cross-cultural understanding.

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 December for the next feature! 

 

6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Invincible Me

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Memories are funny things. Childhood memories can be filled with imagined wonder, or overwhelming pain. And, looking back at my crazy bookworm artist braided hair younger self; I see so much more insight into who I am, and who I am becoming, as an adult.

Looking back, I see all of the laughter, the imagination, the beauty, the pain, the curiosity, the anger and confusion – and I sometimes think I was so much more intact when I was a child. Because, back then, I didn’t worry about being filtered. I laughed and danced because it was time to laugh and it was time to dance, not because I had been told by society to do, or not to do, one or the other.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was 11 years old.

My grandma, who I had only met once, had died and I was laying on my bed, curled in a crescent shape. Alone. And wondering if I should cry. At the time, I suppose it would have been the right thing to do. But all I could do was sit there, curled up, wondering whether I was supposed to do it.

That was the beginning of a pretty unhealthy relationship with tears.

You see, I was raised in a very non-emotional family. We didn’t cry, hug, say ‘I love you’ or talk about emotions in pretty much any other way. We were strong. We were invincible. Or, at least, in my naivety, that’s what I thought.

Over the next decade I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at sad movies, funerals, when pets died, or when sad things happened in the world. I was invincible. I was strong. Or that’s what I told myself.

I still can count the number of people who have seen me cry on one hand. It’s a pretty rare occasion, and like any natural phenomena it’s usually brief and then gone, like it never happened in the first place. Crying just wasn’t ever an acceptable means of communication in my life.

Then I moved to France.

Americans make fun of the French, a lot, for how emotional they are. And, to a certain extent, those jokes aren’t always wholly unfounded. In my one year in Paris, I saw more tantrums, and crying fits than I had in my entire existence. And I’m not talking about from the kids.

Maybe it was the culture that was surrounding me, or maybe it was the trauma of being alone in a country 5,000 miles away from your next closest friend. But, when I lived in France I cried – quite a lot. In fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘cry’ is a solid enough word. I wept. A lot.

And while it still wasn’t in front of people, and there still weren’t tantrums involved, I think I have to thank France for giving me back my tears.

You see, something I’ve realized, since being back in the US, is how much more emotional I am. When shit is sad, I cry (sorry, for the swearword, mom). When I’m upset, I cry. When I see something heartbreaking in the news, I care…and sometimes I cry.

And while I may not be single-handedly supporting the Kleenex industry (yet), that’s a really big deal for me. But what’s more substantial, in my opinion, is the realization that for so long, I believed a lie.

Crying and caring hasn’t made me weaker.

It has made me so much stronger. I’m able to invest so much more in the people and relationships around me. It has pushed me forward, and allowed me to focus on creating a solution, rather than trying to control the problem.

I hear a lot about people who don’t cry: they’re tough, they’re cool, they’re manly, they’re invincible. But the truth is that we are broken. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – brokenness builds beauty all the time.

But, speaking from the other side, I’ve learned so much more about my own ability to rise higher, dig deeper and pursue and dream more. There’s something empowering about the ability to cry. In a way, I like to think of it like a phoenix burning. It can hurt to feel pain, and to allow your body to process it. But, in the end, it creates something even more beautiful; something renewed.

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5 Ways Paris Changed How I American

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It’s not grammatically correct – I know. Get over it.

Visiting any place will change the way you interact with the world, but living in a place changes you right down to the core. There are so many little differences I’ve noticed since I’ve been back from France – it’s crazy to think that it has already been more than four months since I’ve been back! What a crazy thought.

But, France is still with me in so many ways. No, I don’t have French speakers surrounding me, anymore, but I do have a lot of things that I’ve changed in my own day to day life, that weren’t even noticeable while I was living in France. Today I realized just how much my American has become French. It’s okay, though. I think these changes (for the most part) are making me a healthier happier person!
Here are a few examples:

  1. I eat dinner for lunch: If there’s one thing that the French are known for, it would be their food. Beyond this, I would say they’re known for their love of food. It’s not uncommon for Parisian businesses to be closed down for multiple hours, as workers wine and dine their lunch breaks away. As a young professional navigating the professional (very American) world, I wouldn’t say I’m quite to this point, but I definitely do pack lunches differently. When I was in France it was the first time that I had ever eaten anything more substantial than a sandwich for lunch. But lunch in France? It was a huge, gourmet (and quickly became favorite) meal of mine. And I’ve noticed the remnants of this practice in my day to day life even now. I pack meals, not yogurt and burritos, for lunch – and I’m starting to realize how much more satisfying my day is after having a substantial meal to look forward to, and to enjoy the energy from.
  2. I cross the street whenever I damn well please: Okay so this one I actually have to rework in my head every day, because I now live in a city where the police DO care if you jaywalk. In Paris I got so used to just walking across the street whenever I felt like it (as long as there wasn’t oncoming traffic, duh.) that I’m still trying to retrain myself to stick to the crosswalks and wait for lights to change. It isn’t easy.
  3. I CANNOT enjoy regular bread: It’s actually really sad to me that I can no longer enjoy non artisan bread. But I just can’t. Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t exactly accommodate my French taste buds with the penny prices that you can get bread for in France. Here in the U.S. they’re more than happy to charge you your first born child in order for you to enjoy the light fluffy goodness that bread should be. And now I’m sad to say (sorry to my budget), I don’t have any intention of ever going back.
  4. I can’t enjoy sweets/soda: WHY IS EVERYTHING SO SWEET IN THIS COUNTRY!? My salt levels were pretty off when I first got back, as well – but I definitely got over that one. Mmmmm salt. Sugar – not so much, I can barely sip off of a soda, it’s so high in sugar. Everything, in fact, seems to be dumped with piles and mounds of sugar and sweeteners. It’s a little more than I can take – but this is a pretty easy something to fix since I love fruit and vegetables more now, anyway.
  5. Old isn’t old, anymore: Last weekend I was driving past a field when I saw an old barn. It brought up a really interesting conversation/thought process when I called it ‘old’, though, because I realized that it was probably built within the last hundred years. In comparison to the thousand (and older!) year old structures I was used to seeing in Europe, it’s interesting how my thought process has changed as far as measuring the age of things around me. The U.S. is such a baby nation!What about you all!? Have you ever lived/travelled somewhere that changed your perspective on how you live your own day to day life? Comment below!Blog Signature

My Not So Guilty Pleasure: Ireland

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You all may have noticed that I have a tiny obsession (okay, maybe not so tiny) with the little island of Ireland. Why, you might ask, have I imprinted so deeply on a country where the sheep population is about par with the human? The answer? I like sheep. Also, because so many of the “selling points” of Ireland, aren’t that at all – they’re just simply truths. No sales, no manipulation needed to get you there. It’s one of the rare things in life that really is as good (if not better) than people say.  Not convinced? Here’s a taste

First off, the people in Ireland really are as nice and welcoming as you hear. I’ve never known someone to travel to Ireland and to not have a welcoming experience. I remember hearing  a story in the hostel I was staying in, a while back, about a girl who had asked an elderly lady for some travel/map help in Dublin and the woman had hopped on the tram with her and took her all the way to her destination. Having lived in Paris, a city founded on briskness, and Seattle, which is known for its “freeze” – it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the welcoming arms of the Irish.

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One of my favorite things is that, in Ireland, the scenery really is as beautiful as it looks, and what’s better, you can travel across the country and back in a day to see it.  I’ve taken so many tour bus trips while in Ireland (and plan on taking more), just because one of the best things in the world is sitting on a bus hearing stories about Ireland from Irish natives. Not only do you learn things you might not otherwise learn, while your my face is pushed up against the window, but you also get a great way to meet other travelers and become acquainted with the country (which is especially perfect if you’re running short on time).

The food in Ireland is another thing I’m in love with. Fun fact: they don’t only eat potatoes, so get that garbage idea out of your head. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was while I was in Galway and Dublin. To be fair, I do have an overwhelming love of hearty food that fills you up, makes you want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep with a tranquilly sublime smile on your face – which might not be your thing. I don’t know? Who am I to judge? Also, not just a stereotype, grab some seafood while you’re in Ireland. Such prime dishes.

If you know me well, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, as a rule. There are several reasons for this, but the long and short of it is that I’m probably allergic, and I have no desire to pass out in random places after having half a glass. The exception to my rule of drinking is in Ireland, where I absolutely allow myself to indulge in a half pint (which normally I can’t even finish – don’t judge me) of Guinness. I’ve tried it outside of Dublin and it just IS NOT the same. You really have to go straight to the source to fill up on the silky smooth goodness that is Dublin Guinness. Take it from me – if you’re gonna drink: do it in Ireland.

And while you’re drinking, you should probably/most definitely plan on enjoying some amazing music. As a former Irish step dancer, and a Irish music addict, I can promise you that going to the source, once again, really as rewarding as you might think. Whether it’s some more traditional music, or some more contemporary, the Irish know music (and don’t even get me started on storytelling) as well as they know beer. Although you probably would have trouble escaping it, make sure to enjoy some great live music while you’re visiting – and don’t be afraid to sing along.

Lastly, I’ll wrap up the same way I began this loving tale. Have I mentioned sheep, before? Okay, so I love sheep – yes yes, we all know. But mainly the reason I love sheep is because I LOVE wool, and I love all the beautiful things that happen with wool when you knit, weave, crochet and worship it (is that just me? Oh…). Irish wool really can only be matched (perhaps) by the fibers of Scotland (but they actually do have more sheep than people, so really you can’t blame them) and I love every bit I’ve ever bought. If you happen to land on the Emerald Isle, I would highly suggest that you grab some gloves, hats, scarves – or all of the above. Especially if your body tends to keep you in a state of perpetual cold, like me, the items that you get are sure to (like the whole damn country – do you get the point, yet!?) warm your heart.

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It Takes A Village

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Wow, it has been a WHILE since I’ve caught everyone up on the crazy that is my current life! Throughout the past weeks I’ve been moving, working, applying for jobs, moving AGAIN and trying to keep my head from spinning so hard it falls off.

Luckily, I am #blessed (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) with the best community a girl could ask for. Sanity saved.

So, what HAVE I been up to? Well, I’ve moved into my permanent housing situation in a beautiful Seattle neighborhood that is close to nature, parks, Puget Sound and a short bus hop to downtown. Sometimes I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m so happy to be back home, it seems surreal.

The whole moving escapade has been quite the adventure because I started off staying with a friend on her bedroom floor, my first week back (thanks Claire!), graduated to a temporary living situation with some rad Seattle chicks. And a month later, I was lucky enough to land (kind of bumpy, but I’m still in one piece!) in my current abode. I’m living with a couple of fantastical chicks, now, and I’m sloooowly pulling together my heavily Pintrest inspired living space.

I would just like to reiterate that none of these things would have been possible without the amazing community I’m a part of. I have the best friends a girl could wish for, I’ve had more support and love than I could have ever imagined, and my mother has been a darling bringing down/moving boxes. Oh! And this time I’m in the same country as these people so I can actually hug them and say “Thank you!” You all have made the miracle of this transition happen. Thank you thank you thank you!

What’s up with the rest of my life? Well my job has been keeping me on my toes, and is filled with fun every day, my housemates are awesome, I GET TO HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS, and I get to see my family whenever I want to. Sheesh. It’s all just too much. When they say “cup overflows, “ I think I finally understand what it means.

I am so incredibly happy to be back in my city. But I also recognize that my joy in being back is amplified because of the adventures I’ve been on abroad. While it might seem like regret for leaving Seattle might be a feeling that hits right about now, that’s not the case AT ALL! I’m just so happy to be where I am right now.

Will this be my forever stopping point? Who knows. But in these moments I am happy. I love being surrounded by people I love, and I love having the adventures that pop up and meet me every day.

Enough with the frilly stuff??

Okay. Fine.

Just know that moving back to one’s own country, after having adventures in another one, CAN be done successfully. It takes a lot of hard work (A LOT), and a lot of patience with yourself, but it can be done.

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning, lately, is just to let go of my trying to control my circumstances, and to really dig deep. I have so many things I could stress out about, but taking a step back and approaching them each individually has proved to be so much better than curling up in a ball and trying to hope the problems go away.

Not only does glorifying stress not help solve the situations at hand, but it prevents me from enjoying the beautiful little things around me in my day to day moments. Yes, I am so thankful to finally be back, but that doesn’t mean things have been easy every step of the way. AND THAT’S OKAY.

I’m fine admitting that I don’t know what’s going to be the next step, moving forward. I mean, I didn’t even know where I was going to live until weeks before I would have been homeless.
BUT.
Something always comes up. And I have faith that it always will; because in the end, my fate and my future are not in my own hands. While the hard work is mine to dedicate myself to, the direction I’m heading is from an always-faithful Father.

This life is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m back! I have no idea what the next step is in half of the areas of my life, but I know I’m on the right track, and FINALLY that’s enough.

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Why Netflix And I Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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Can I just say: I love being back in the U.S. Will I always live here? Probably not. But at the moment I am having a pretty splendiferous time of it. Coming back to Seattle was not an easy decision. There were a handful of people who thought I should stay in Paris, and others who thought I was crazy for choosing to move back from Europe at all.

But in the true middle finger to the world approach I adopted from my time in France, I could care less what their opinions are.

Because, when it comes down to it, this is my life. My decisions. And I’m the only one calling the shots on which direction I go. I would definitely encourage those who feel like Paris is the Mecca for happiness to move there themselves. (It was not, and never could possibly be, for me.)

ANYWAY…Being back in the good ‘ole US of A has been so much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. It’s funny, but you don’t really even realize how many things you get used to when you’re living in another country. Like bananas.

French bananas DO NOT taste the same as the ones we get here (or fruit in general). And at first that really bothered me. But over the course of 10 months I guess I got used to it, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact…until I got back to the now watery tasting ones in Seattle.

Beyond the fruit revelations, I’ve also experienced so many levels of culture shock from being back. And as weird as it sounds, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is keeping up with English/English speakers!

While obviously I haven’t forgotten how to speak English, I do have quite a bit of difficulty (still, after 3 weeks!) of finding the correct words for sentences, or speaking conversationally. There are a couple of reasons that I think are to blame for this. On the one hand, I obviously didn’t speak English in France, unless I was with one of my friends or the family I lived with. But on the other hand, I just didn’t really speak that much in general! Now looking back on the past year, I’m realizing just how incredibly silent I became. It feels so odd to be able to express myself without checking my vocabulary for the simplest form of a word and I keep having these moments when I think “Wow! I can read/respond without thinking to that!”

Is forgetting you’re fluent in a language standard after living in a country where it isn’t primarily spoken? Maybe it’s just me.

While I was living in France, I also didn’t have a phone for pretty much the entirety of my time there, so having the ability to call/text/use my smartphone outside of a Wifi zone is the oddest feeling. To be absolutely honest, I still kind of get freaked out when I get a text or phone call.

And despite the general joy of being back in my hometown, there are some things that will NOT be being reintroduced into my life, one of which will be Netflix/Hulu. Both of these sites were absolute addictions prior to my moving…and I guess that makes sense – I love movies, and I always have. BUT the mindlessness and the numbing effect that comes as a package deal is not okay.

In fact, that is one of the biggest things I’m observing and trying to keep from slipping into while in the U.S. Numb distractions.

I never noticed before how much over stimulation there is in the United States. Let’s all take a step back for a second and observe a few: There are more TV shows than we could ever hope to watch (but you’re expected to keep up with all of them), there are more activities than you’ll ever have time to do (how do you not run, do yoga, rock climb and go on a 10 mile hike EVERY DAY!?), more food options than you could possibly choose from, and more technological (sorry, mom) shit than you could ever possibly need. For instance, my iPhone 4s is like six generations behind, and I’ve only been gone for a year!?

Clarification: it still works fine. It still calls, texts, connects to Wifi and my data plan and takes decent photos, and yet…since I’ve been here all I’ve heard about is the latest smartphones and people calling generations that came out two months ago ‘ancient.’

The craziest part is that in spite of all of these 5 million things to keep us occupied, every person I’ve talked to since I’ve been here hates their job, and is constantly trying to escape through said distractions. And don’t even get me started on how messed up the whole, by age 22 most of us are in more debt than we’ll be able to pay off for 20 years, thing.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Like I said, there are so many amazing things I love about the United States, also. But one of the biggest things I’ve had to start doing since being here is simply saying no. NO NO NO NO NO. I don’t want to engage in this frothing at the mouth competition to impress people I don’t like in order to create a life where I’m constantly plugging in to something to forget I hate it. NO!

Because if there’s one thing I DID learn about living in Europe, it’s that my true friends love me when I have absolutely nothing to give, nothing to share, no way to repay and nothing to contribute. I am loved as I am. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I don’t need to be running around trying to keep up with whatever the next trend to hit the streets is.

Because when it comes down to it, these are distractions from what I really want to do with my life. These are things that kept me, for many years, from really pursuing things I was passionate about. They are pop up signs, advertisements and shiny gadgets that will not make me happy. And while each, in itself, is not necessarily harmful, the amassed collection is turning us into a nation of ravenous hoarders (of wealth, of technology, of perfectly filtered Instagram photos), blind to how blessed we already are.

You Can Call Me A Seattleite

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Well, it has been far too long since I wrote a blog post, but mostly that’s because I’ve felt like I was becoming the walking dead, and not the cool Game Of Thrones kind. Switching countries always sounds much easier than it generally is. Switching continents adds a whole new level of crazy to the mix.

Today is the first time that I feel semi-conscious, so I think I should update all of you lovelies on what has been going on in my life.

On June 8th I hopped aboard a plane, leaving my house at 5am, because apparently that’s the only time frame I can ever seem to find flights. I was pretty happy to have a smooth trip from the house to the airport, but that ended quickly when I got a 113 euro charge for having to check my “over-weight” carry on. The problem with moving, though, is that you reach a point when if you get rid of anything else you’re going to start losing things you actually care about. So, I took the penalty and climbed aboard with Iceland Air.

I’ve never flown Iceland Air before, but I would definitely recommend it. The staff was great…although I might just have been overly happy to speak English to people. I ended up having a 9 hour layover in Reykjavik, which actually is a completely gorgeous (if completely empty) airport. And then it was off to Seattle. The movie selection on the plane was limited so I ended up watching Shawshank Redemption and Titanic, neither of which I’ve seen before.  The first movie made me want to stand up and cheer, the second made me want to punch the back of seat where it was playing. How was Titanic ever considered a “brilliant” love story/movie? I mean, come on.

Anyway.  I flew into Seattle on a beautiful 80 degree (FAHRENHEIT!!!) day that was clear and perfect and allowed me to see the mountains as I came in. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a landscape in my life. After a boring routine through security, I was off to my friends house, which I would love to tell you all about if I remembered anything other than falling asleep and waking up the next day and falling asleep and waking up the next day… until the last few days. Jet lag is rough.

But here I am, now! I’m officially a Seattle resident, again and despite there being more bumps in the road than I could have ever anticipated, I know that I am back where I belong.

This is also the part of this story where I tear up and tell you all how amazing my friends have been over this whole process. I literally don’t know what I would have done without them – there is no way I would be happy, healthy or housed. So thank you to each of you darlings who have supported and loved me on a level that has been so much more than I could have ever imagined, expected or deserved. Thank you for being my family when others have fallen short and for building me up when I’ve fallen down. Someday I hope I can repay you darlings for everything you have done. *cue tissues*

Pere Lachaise Cemetary

DSC_0774As a sort of “last adventure” I decided to go visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cemetery, it’s absolutely beautiful and known for having the graves of celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and Delacroix. But what really too my breath away were the tombs of people who I had no idea who they were. There were some absolutely beautiful sculptures and a serious lack of weeping angels. But overall I spent a good 3 hours there and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Oscar Wilde

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