5 Myths About Traveling Alone

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As I’m starting to plan out my next adventure with two of my friends, I’ve been being reminded of how different it is to plan out things with a group vs. being a solo traveller. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is the reaction people have when I tell them that I’m flying overseas…with my friends.
The moment I say I’m traveling with two other girls there are smiles, story swapping and all kinds of laughter and fun. Since I’m human and therefore not exactly anti-acceptance I’ve gone along with it for a while, but being the solo traveller that I naturally am, it has started to bother me. Why is it so much more societally acceptable for a woman to travel with a couple of friends than for her to travel by herself? Do we still, subconsciously, live within a world where a woman needs to be “chaperoned” in order to safely traverse the world around her?

Of course you should all know my feelings on the matter. But as an added bonus, I thought I would debunk some myths that people told me about traveling as a woman, based off of my personal experience.

Travel Myths1. You won’t have any friends to talk or share memories with:  I’m am a pretty hard core introvert. I’m not the most outgoing person in general, but something kicks into gear when I travel. There’s something beautiful about having thousands of people around you who you don’t know, and may never see. For me, it’s so freeing, and it’s one of my favorite things to make friends with the people I meet along the way. Whether it’s meeting people in hostels, people I’m staying with or just people I meet on the road – I have some of the coolest stories based just off of the people I’ve met and adventured with. Would I have been as outgoing if I was traveling with other people? Honesty? I don’t think so.

2.  You’ll get lost and never be able to find your way back. When I travel, I don’t have an iPhone that works outside of Wifi, I don’t have any special GPS or anything magical that makes me able to travel flawlessly. Sometimes I get lost, and sometimes I get to make new friends just by asking for directions. Those are some of the beautiful aspects of travel, though! And you would be surprised how much you learn about map reading when it’s your only way of getting around! I know – sounds like something our parents did, but traveling without any kind of help has always worked beautifully for me (no horror stories to tell). If you’re really bothered, you can always pay a small amount of money for a personal GPS, as well.

3. It’s dangerous. Here’s some news – life is dangerous. And if you live cowering in a corner, you’ll never experience some of the most beautiful moments. I live by a mantra: Don’t be scared, be prepared. Research, research, research! Know about the country and culture – know about the people and the places you’re going to. The safest I’ve ever felt is having plans (even if I throw them out in the end). This is also a great opportunity to make friends when you travel! Having people know you, is a great way to make sure you have a contact if something does happen.

4. You won’t get as much out of the experience: Like I said, I’ve been on some pretty epic adventures in my time. I’ve never regretted traveling alone, and while I would never discourage traveling with friends, I would definitely say don’t wait to travel just because you can’t find people to go with. I waited two years for people to go with me on a backpacking trip and I regret that SO MUCH – as soon as I actually bought my ticket and went on my trip it was amazing to see how many of my friends started getting interested in traveling more. Be a leader! Take a step forward and embrace the adventures that are waiting for you!

5. Something will go wrong/you’ll die: It always amazes me how many people told me of how my travel adventures would result in my untimely death. Obviously, I’m not dead yet. And the thing about this myth is that life is never guaranteed to us, no matter how carefully we live it. If I die while traveling, I will die doing something I love with every ounce of my being (not a bad way to go). And statistically speaking, travel adventures are a lot less likely to land you in the morgue than the general public seems to believe. While I do, of course support being informed, careful and vigilant when traveling, I also encourage not allowing the unfounded fear of others (especially if they aren’t speaking from any personal experience) to dictate how you live your life.

Plane Ticket, December 2015: And The Winner Is….

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Today I’m challenging myself to write a blog post during my lunch break. It has been way too long since I’ve really updated you all on my travel life, but never worry – there is a trip in the works!

As you all know, I’m quite the solo traveler. I love to travel alone, and I think I may always, BUT there is a time and a place for changing one’s habits. This time the time is December 24th, and the place is – of course, IRELAND.

That’s right, I’m heading back to my favorite Island and this time I’m bringing my crew of two – two of my very close friends, with me! I’m so excited for this upcoming adventure for so many reasons.

  1. I get to show them all of my favorite spots in Ireland, London (and maybe even elsewhere – who knows!?)
  2. I get to introduce my two lives – European and American together and my friends in the UK/Ireland will get to meet my two best friends!
  3. It’s going to be awesome. Honestly. I’m so excited.

The plane tickets have already been bought and now all that’s left is for us to wait a few months! I honestly could not think of anything more perfect than spending Christmas in London and New Years in Dublin.

Honestly, when I found out this adventure was even a possibility my heart felt like it started to beat for the first time in three months. The past months have been such a whirlwind of crazy. I’ve had two jobs and three houses to live in and I’m finally ready, I feel, for things to settle where they are for a bit of time.

It was icing on the cake for me to find out I would be spending the Christmas holiday season with some of my favorites!

Have any suggestions for where we should go!? Message me with your favorite spots in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London and we’ll try to make it over!

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures from Ireland – I’m so excited to go back!

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See you soon, Ireland!

Outlander

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If you’ve talked to me lately I’ve probably told you about my latest obsession, the STARZ TV series, and best selling book, “Outlander”. Set in the Scottish highlands, it would have probably been my favorite by default, since Scotland (and Ireland) are my favorite places on earth (excluding Seattle, of course). But there was something more than kilt wearing men, to die for accents and highland music that reached out to me when I was watching, and later reading, this story. I think, in a way, I identify with feisty, hot headed and strong willed main character, Claire.

Outlander_Cast_Claire_420x560Outlander_Cast_Jamie_420x560_v2In case you haven’t heard yet: Outlander is the tale of an English woman (Claire) who is thrown back in time, from her own slightly post WWII era, and finds herself in 18th century Scotland. Complete with a handsome (GINGER) stranger, political unrest and a stubborn independent female lead, my attention was grabbed the instant I turned this show on. Have I ever mentioned how there’s a shameful lack of redheads in France?

Anyway, back to Claire: Here she is, a strong minded “in control” woman, and suddenly she’s thrown out of her comfort zone, out of her “normal” and into a setting that is extremely uncomfortable (although I don’t feel TOO bad for her having to look at Sam Heughan in every scene). Her surroundings are different, the culture is different and even the language is different (the Scots speak Gaelic about half of the time – Claire doesn’t).

In a lot of ways, this is one of the best ways I have to describe my life right now. If you want to know what it feels like, watch the show (you won’t regret it). But all in all it’s pretty difficult to describe life, because life is presently pretty difficult.

Being thrown into a family that’s not your own is awkward, but it’s not the hardest part of being an au pair in a different country. There are language barriers, there are cultural barriers, there are driving barriers (learning to drive stick shift – pray for me.) and there’s a kind of surreal isolation that is constantly threatening to pull you under, if you let it.

Much like being a nanny, taking care of a family with children means that you primarily spend time with those children. In my case, with kids who don’t speak any English, it’s more difficult to make connections, and since the parents only speak broken English I can go days without having an English conversation. It’s kind of cool, but it’s also kind of sad.

Who would have thought the thing I’d miss the most would be my native tongue?

The good news is, I’m starting to make a couple of friends, and as time goes by I’ll make more, I’m sure. I’m starting to take French lessons with some other au pairs in the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited to be able to hang out with more people my age. It’s also nice to be able to speak English with them without multiple charade-esc interpretations.

I’m also finding ways to be creative about my new foreign surroundings. Like cooking and exploring the different French food markets. I’ve also learned that Ebay and Etsy are my best friends, since there are no stores to shop at in this town that sell a lot of things that I thought to be “standard” before moving here.

There are just a lot of things that I took for granted and assumed would be in France that just are not. Or are here, but are in a completely different contexts or priced for the rich and famous. I tried to buy some basic white thread for my sewing machine, yesterday. 7 euro. AKA $9 for a spool of thread. Insanity. It’s actually cheaper for me to order my supplies from the UK and have them mailed here!

But, that’s part of the exchange, and I do absolutely love seeing all of the old architecture and historical places. Something I love about living in Europe is that every building, every street and every place has a story. Not that places in the US don’t, but here there are great battles and tales of kings and queens that are connected with places I get to walk. It’s kind of surreal.

Tomorrow I’m going to spend the weekend in Orleans, which is a larger city near me. I went there last weekend and it was such a beautiful city that I decided I HAD to go back! I ‘m going to be Couchsurfing, and I could not be more excited for my first Couchsurfing adventure in France.

I think it will be good for me to have some time to be alone with my art supplies, also. The worst problem about being an artist is that, in order to create, you have to isolate yourself (mentally or physically) from your surrounding environment. But that’s how beautiful things are made, so often and I’m excited to be able to free my creativity this weekend.

Until later!

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Red, White and Blue

French, American and British Flags flying high this weekend.
French, American and British Flags flying high this weekend.

I love being in Europe, again, to recognize the American soldiers who fought and died to assist in the liberation of the globally oppressed, during WWII. We, as Americans, don’t really celebrate the victories, only the end of the war – which I’ve always thought was a pity.

But, walking around the French streets today, and seeing American flags flying in recognition of US assistance in the Liberation of Paris, was awe inspiring. Proud to be an American, today. But even more proud of the men and women who fought (and still fight) to bring peace to their fellow humans in distress.

Read more about the celebrations: http://www.le70e.fr/en/liberation-territory/liberation-paris

10 Tips For Traveling Introverts

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On an introvert scale of 1-10 I would probably rate myself at an 8. If I could, I would probably only say 10 words (to strangers) per year. It’s not that I’m shy, per say, it’s just ridiculously important for me to have internal processing time (aka to be left alone).

That being said, how do I travel and keep from being ridiculously drained when I get back? Well, first off, no matter who you are, you’re probably going to be a little exhausted; it’s natural because you’re traveling around different people and places.

But there area some things I’ve learned, that help me stay charged while traveling. So, here are some tips for making an introvert’s journey a little bit less painful:

1. Bring a book:

It’s the oldest and best solution for down time, awkward moments and for escaping crazies. I always try to bring one ridiculously long book with me while traveling. If you’re backpacking, it might be a better idea to bring a Kindle or something lighter, but regardless, I highly encourage books. Not only do they give you a sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished, but they’re great for whipping out to avoid eye contact with random strangers.

2. Bring headphones and plan an awesome play list:

Before every trip I go on I make a playlist of some of my favorite music. Listening to music while I’m on trains, planes and buses is not only calming, but also allowed me to make memories that I now remember, every time I hear those songs.

3. Find a quiet spot in the city you’re staying in:

Every place has their tourist locations, and their not so tourist locations. I would say, look for the non tourist ones. They’ll be less crowded, probably quieter and allow you to sit with your thoughts. These also can turn out to be the most beautiful spots in the city.

4. Don’t feel bad about taking “alone days” to explore:

Sometimes I feel like it’s rude for me to go out and explore on  my own, if I’m staying with a host. This is generally not the case, but it can feel awkward if you don’t have clear communication with them. I would probably not advise disappearing before anyone wakes up (unless you talk to them beforehand) because that could be seen as rude. But a great idea is to have them make you a list of places you should visit, so they’re still involved in your exploration of their city.

5. Bring a journal:

I cannot emphasize this one enough. BRING A JOURNAL. And not just some falling apart notebook (if you really want to, you can, I guess) but bring something you’re going to be excited to whip out and write in. Something that’s you. Personally, I always go for a new journal each time I travel, that way I don’t lose other trip memories if I lose it. I prefer blank page journals because then I can sketch, draw, tape things in or generally do whatever I want, rather than having the restrictions of lined paper.

6. Plan out as much of your trip beforehand: 

Here’s the thing – the more you know, the less you have to ask. If you’re not huge on running up to strangers to ask for directions, make sure you have maps, apps and directions to and from where you want to go. It will also just save you time.

7. Bring a camera:

When I have my camera around my neck, I feel invincible. I have no idea why it happens, but I feel so much more confident about exploring, and talking to people, if I have my Nikon around my neck. This is also great for having your camera ready for taking pictures at any and every moment of your trip. I always suggest taking more pictures, rather than less. You can always delete pictures, but you can’t go back to that moment, once you’re home.

8. Don’t only plan on staying in major cities: 

Major cities can be exhausting. I had dreamed about going to London my entire life, but once I got there, I realized it was so much bigger than I had thought. Not that I didn’t love it, because I did.  I was just exhausted after I left, just from the sheer volume of people that were constantly around. I was definitely glad I had spent some time in smaller cities, as well, so I could fully enjoy myself.

9. Force yourself to hang out with people: 

Back to London, again. The first day I arrived there I stepped off the train, after 8 hours of riding down from Scotland, and straight onto another train to take me to a Cuban Salsa dance club. Was I exhausted? Yes. Did I want to curl up and have three days of silence before I hung out with people again? Yes. But I forced myself to interact with people because I realized that I wasn’t going to, necessarily, have this opportunity again. And you know what? I loved it! While there are some times it’s good to relax, I would always suggest trying to push yourself out the door for opportunities you might not have again.

10. Get out of your comfort zone:

The thing about traveling is that it’s SUPPOSED to stretch you. I don’t believe there are any truly great traveling experiences where people haven’t been taken out of their comfort zones and pushed to try something new. Whether that means trying some traditional food ( I highly suggest Haagis), or taking some dance lessons native to that place, make sure you’re pushing yourself to make memories worth looking back and loving.

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The Truth About Mindy and Me

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Glasgow, Scotland

Yesterday I started watching a TV show called The Mindy Project. It’s been on TV for a couple of seasons, so I thought I would give it a test run. I absolutely LOVE it.

In one of the first episodes Mindy, the slightly dysfunctional and all too relatable leading lady set on self-reform, says:

“It’s so weird being my own role model.”

And I stopped in my tracks. In fact, I opened Photoshop right then and there and designed and printed off the quote so I could put it on my wall. The more I thought about the quote, the more I started to analyze why it resonated with me so much. What was so powerful about this kind of declaration?

Well, first off, a leading lady who is self-empowered, successful (both academically and in her career), and is a woman of color, said it. Second, I think it was the first time I had my personal outlook clearly articulated in one sentence.

You’ve probably all heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I happen to agree with this wholeheartedly.

Personally, I’ve always had a huge struggle with comparison. I’m hugely competitive, and I like to win. Always. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but what I’ve had to work on (specifically during the past couple of years) is reminding myself that to be constantly comparing myself actually distracts me, and never empowers me.

Gathering inspiration from someone is one thing. But staring at their lives and thinking, “What the hell? How come she gets to do that and I don’t!?” or “Why is their life so perfect when I can’t seem to get anything together!?” is destructive.

As a Christian, I don’t believe anyone was created without a God given purpose. We are made to succeed and empower each other. Maybe that success means making people smile every day as a street performer. Maybe that means working to represent ethical commerce on Wall Street. Who knows? But I don’t think anyone is without a calling.

I’ve said it before, but the past couple of years were rough. It wasn’t until a breaking point last September when I finally decided to start living my life with myself as the primary author. And one of the best reinforcements of my decision was my backpacking trip.

Having weeks of alone time can give you clarity that is hard to beat. I think it was then that I really began recognizing that, if I was going to be living on this earth for the next 70 years, I was going to have to start making my own decisions.

No more looking around at what other people were doing. No more seeing pictures on Facebook and thinking, “Really!? What have I accomplished that can even half compare to THAT?” No more unhealthy comparison.

With the teen girls I nanny, I really try to talk smart about body image and loving yourself in all capacities. I remember being that age, and how hard it was to find someone to tell me it was okay to be smart AND beautiful AND confident. It always seemed like you had to choose between the three.

This week, we were talking about body image and how nobody’s perfect, specifically in regards to Instagram. It’s hard, because in social media people only post the good pictures of themselves. Leaving my teen girls comparing themselves to a standard of everyone’s “perfections” and nobody’s real selves.

We’ve had some really awesome talks about how important it is to focus on succeeding to our own standards (eating healthy, staying active and taking pride in our bodies) rather than looking at posts and trying to fit into other people’s molds.

It’s definitely a challenge. But instead of looking at other people’s lives, let’s take a second and look at our own. What do I have to celebrate? What have I achieved? I don’t care if it’s as “insignificant” as making it through middle school. That is an achievement!

The only person I should be comparing myself to is myself. I am my own biggest competition. My own role model. Let’s gather inspiration from others, instead of projecting negativity rooted in insecurities. Because tearing other people down (even just mentally) is only going to leave us bitter and angry – I speak from experience.

There is so much freedom in being able to embrace our own success. To look back on our own lives and saying, “Wow, look how far I’ve come! Remember when I used to be afraid to ask out random strangers? Now I ask people out all the time!

Ok, that’s a weird example. But, you get the point! Let’s start celebrating our selves and start looking at how we can be our own role models. Our dreams have power! Let’s not let someone else’s tabloid keep us from writing our own New York Times Best Seller.

Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4: 25

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Life Hacking My Way To Paris

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I love Monopoly. There are several reasons, such as a desire for world domination, a completely unnecessarily competitive nature and an overbearing Slytherin mindset. But mostly, I like it because it gives you a lifetime worth of money and resources to strategically manipulate in a game lasting a few hours (or longer if you marathon it like me and my siblings did growing up).

I’ve always loved the idea of taking money and finding ways to stretch it beyond what people think it’s capable of – which is probably why I always win Monopoly. If you know my mom, you know where I get this mindset. So, of course, when it came to buying my plane ticket, it was no different.

A couple of months ago I was looking up plane tickets to Paris. I honestly couldn’t believe how much they were. The cheapest were around $1500 – one way.

Knowing that, as an Au Pair, I wouldn’t have a lot of cash flow piling in my bank account (AKA I need to save money, now), I decided that something had to be done. There was no way in hell I was letting $1500 slip through my fingers just to GET TO the country I wanted to live in. So I started researching.

I stumbled across this article on Pintrest that talks about ways to life hack your way around the world; how to travel without paying, or with paying reduced amounts.

I’ve never really looked into life hacking or finding ways around the travel scene, before. I kind of always thought, “Well, that’s the price, so that’s what I have to pay.” False.

After looking up what I would be needing, in regards to travel, I put together a grand scheme.

The next week, I walked into my local Chase bank early one morning (people are nicer in the morning, and they can help you one-on-one because they’re not as busy), and after asking for personal help, and looking up options, I decided on getting my first credit card – joy to the world.

In general, I really hate the idea of credit cards. I don’t like not paying my debts (how Lannister of me) and spending money that’s not mine just doesn’t feel right. I understand why they exist – I just don’t like them.

This time, though, I got a card called the Chase Preferred Sapphire, which allowed me to earn $500 toward my plane ticket as long as I spent $2000 on it during the first three months.

Now, normally, I don’t spend that much money just hanging out with friends (and things like rent and student loans – my main costs – can’t be paid with a credit card) but I did realize, when I got the card, that it was right before tax return season.

Note: As a nanny, I don’t pay my taxes throughout the year but, instead, all at once in Feb/Mar/Apr. 

You’ve probably guessed what I did. Charged that bad boy with my taxes and came out just over $2,000 ($14 over, to be precise). I immediately paid this off, but having spent the initial amount, I still got the voucher.

Then I thought, “Great, I’ve knocked my $1500 down to $1000, but I still think I can do more!”

So I started to look up flights.

Having traveled to the UK before, I knew that Ireland loves people to travel through there, and Dublin will drop its prices drastically in order to get your business. So, I decided to fly into Dublin, and then from there get a smaller plane to Paris.

Side note: I also just LOVE the Dublin airport because they are the most laid back people ever… and I may have really wanted an excuse to hear Irish accents, again. 

Ticket from Seattle to Dublin (after using my $500 voucher) – $448.

Looking up tickets to Paris was a bit harder, but that was because I very specifically wanted to find one that went to Orly airport (the most southern airport in Paris, and more popular – aka more expensive), since that’s where my au pair family said they could pick me up. I settled with a ticket for $200, with a 2 hour layover in Heathrow – another favorite airport (British accents FTW).

Grand total? *drum roll*

$648.

Having saved somewhere around $1000, I feel pretty happy with my plane ticket purchase, and that I have more money in my bank account and a ticket to Paris on my nightstand.

I’ll probably continue life hacking, since this process has the potential to be ridiculously expensive, but so far so good! Have you guys found any awesome life hacks out there while traveling? Send me a comment!

À bientôt!

I've got a golden ticket!
I’ve got a golden ticket!

Homesick For Somewhere

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about not being here. Some may call it wanderlust, some may call it daydreaming, but I just CANNOT shake the feeling of needing to go somewhere. Not necessarily France, not necessarily anywhere particularly, but just the need to go.

In a weird way, I feel like I’ve outgrown my life, and appropriately, for my Slytherin (nerd alert!) nature, I need to shed my skin. I’ve always been a daydreamer. I stare out windows dreaming about places probably more often than I ought to. But the truth of the matter is, I’m homesick. Not in a depression way (although, PTD – or Post Travel Depression, is a real thing) but just in a wistful wonderment kind of way. In a way that makes you get goosebumps when you feel like an adventure is on the horizon.

Where have I been homesick for? Well, right now, it’s Scotland. Or, to be more specific, Scottish sheep farms. I don’t know why, but taking trains and buses along the coast of Scotland brought me more joy than is probably normal. I remember traveling in a bus, passing by old stone ruins – sheep dotted across fields of every color green, and thinking, “You know what, if I won the Lottery today, I would buy a Scottish sheep farm, paint all day every day and never look back.” Because, honestly, that’s what I would do with millions of dollars. Buy a farm, change my identity, and run away to Scotland with my paintbrushes. Standard.

But, in the meantime, to combat the devilish voice in my head telling me to pack everything up and run away, there are some tricks of the trade that I thought I’d pass on for the chronic travel nostalgic like me.

1. Never Travel.

Just kidding. Duh, you should travel! But the way you travel can really make or break your post traveling experience. When I travel, I make sure it’s never to run away from things. Because, no matter how much you wish, you’re probably going to have to come back at some point. It’s in my nature to want to throw all of my belongings in a suitcase and run away the moment something bad happens in my life, but I really try hard to only travel if I have all of my ‘ducks in a row’ on the home front. That way, I’m not dreading coming back the entire time I’m away. And it also gives me the motivation to keep a happy home life, in order to be in a healthy mental and spiritual place to travel beyond it.

2. Send Yourself Post Cards: 

This is something I’ve done for a while. First off, if you’re backpacking, it’s a good way to get yourself a souvenir without having to lug something around in your pack. Second, you get proof that you actually went somewhere, instead of owning something someone could find in a thrift shop where you’re from. Last, I just love writing – and writing myself is weirdly fun. Snail mail isn’t given enough credit.There’s something magical and priceless about finding a note from a place you loved in your mailbox when you get back home.

3. Write About It:

Blog or journal about your experiences! I love finding just the right journal to keep with me while I’m traveling. I generally go for the ones without lines on the paper, so I can sketch, paint or tape in little extra bits I find around when I’m traveling. Blogging is also a fun way to keep a day by day account of where you’re traveling, if you have access to a computer.

4.  Tell Your Friends: 

Sharing your knowledge is one of the best things you can do for travel nostalgia. There’s something about sharing stories and inspiration with those around you that not only builds you up, but helps the rest of your friends to get on the train with traveling as well. Inspiration goes a long way. One of the only reasons I’ve had the guts to travel in the past is that some of my friends did it before me. Sitting down to coffee, and hearing one of your peers talk about their experiences, really makes you want to go out and make your own memories!

5. Start Planning Your Next Adventure:

No matter how often I travel, the minute I get back I start planning my next trip. Not necessarily in the way of  buying a plane ticket as soon as I touch ground, but I really love having maps, dream boards, Pinterest inspiration boards and thoughts stashed away for where I want to go next. Before I went to the UK I had  (still have) a giant map of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales taped to the back of my bedroom door. I guess that could be partially blamed for my nostalgia every night before I go to bed, but I also like looking at it and remembering all of the great adventures I had.

Bon Voyage!

Me and my mom adventuring per usual
Me and my mom adventuring per usual

 

5 Things I Never Thought Would Be Useful To My Life

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It’s kind of funny how life prepares you for things you don’t have any idea will happen. Sometimes it makes sense, when you have a clear goal of where you want to go next (ex. taking swimming lessons to prepare to beat Michael Phelps in the next Olympic games) but, more often, we periodically find ourselves in somewhat odd chapters that make no immediate sense to our life stories.

I’ve always thought it was funny how things fall into place, and yesterday I was thinking about how many perfect situations I have experienced in order to prepare me for my now future, when I had no idea it was going to be happening before a couple of months ago. So, here they are: Five seemingly useless parts of my life…

1. College Grades:

When I set out to do something, I generally work my hardest at it. I don’t really see a point of pursuing something you’re going to give half an effort to, and I don’t ever want that kind of repertoire. In college it was pretty hard to “care” about grades and how I did in my classes. I lived in dorms where people ran around screaming and went on awesome 2am adventures. I’m not gonna lie, it looked appealing, and sometimes I wanted to go ice blocking at 3am, too. But, I had to remind myself why I was at college – to learn. And now, the grades which didn’t seem to matter (the general consensus seemed to be “as long as I graduate…”) are being submitted to the French government for approval. Am I glad I paid a little more attention? Yes. Yes, I am.  (Also, it’s required to have your BA or an equivalent education in order to work as an Au Pair in France, so I’m really glad I have my degree in general.)

2. Backpacking:

When I took my backpacking trip around the UK I was just looking to get away and go on an adventure. I wasn’t trying to get a book deal, or trying to inspire the world – I just needed to get away. Although, it was an amazing trip, my motives were purely self motivating. Now looking back, however, I see that if I hadn’t taken the leap of faith in traveling to Europe by myself, I would never have had the guts to move to another country. Moving to France seemed so much more attainable because I had already travelled (almost) that distance, alone, before.

3. Working With ESL Kids:

Two of my five nanny children were adopted from Africa shortly after I started working with the family. While the oldest had pretty much mastered English when they arrived, the younger one still has some trouble with verb confusion and possessive nouns. But he’s learning quick! And being able to be there to help and guide them, while they master a language, has given me skills which I can use when I’m working with teaching English to the kids I’ll be a nanny to in France.

4. Taking A Random Foreign Language And Continuing To Practice It After High School:

Everybody is forced to take a few years of a foreign language, but most of us don’t remember anything after our academic requirements are filled. Honestly, why should we?  But my brother told me something after I had taken my last required French class that stuck with me. He told me to never stop practicing; to watch French movies or read French books, every now and then, so I didn’t lose what I had learned. And he was right! I would never have retained the amount of vocabulary I have now unless I had, every now and then, continued learning. (Also just taking French in the first place, and not allowing myself to be peer pressured into taking Spanish, which I never liked — refer to this blog post)

5. Being A Nanny:

Unlike many people who are nannies, I never had any desire to work with kids. The opportunity definitely picked me, more so than I picked it. When I first started nannying I had no idea how much it would stretch me as a person, teach me to love, and inspire me to become a better person. For a long time I saw it as a stumbling block on the road to my career success. But it’s only now, when I look back, that I see how important it was for me to experience nannying before I moved on to whatever the next chapter of my life will be.

Me being a nanny/Darth Vader
Me being a nanny/Darth Vader

La Prochaine Aventure//The Next Adventure

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Traveling is addictive. Before I even step on a plane I have plans for a hundred more places I want to visit. It is my firm belief that everyone should have a bucket list, so here are some of the top places I want to visit before I drop dead.

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1. Morocco: “Here’s Looking at you kid.” I’ve wanted to go to Morocco for as long as I can remember and not only because Casablanca is my second favorite movie of all time. I absolutely love the mixture that is represented within Morocco. It’s basically a mixture of three of my favorite cultures: French, African and Arabic.

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2. Camino de Santiago (France/Spain): I’m so excited to do this! This trip is one of the few that I’m insistent on doing with someone, however, which is the main reason it’s being saved (although, I can’t wait!).

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3. Norway: This fits under the category of “Places I’m ethnically from”. I’m a big believer that knowledge is power, and the best way to know yourself is by exploring your heritage. I’m going to try to get this and Denmark checked off my list of places I’ve been while I’m living in France.

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4. Denmark: Same as above, this is my heritage and I’m extremely excited to get to explore this beautiful country.  

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5. Egypt: Honestly, I think Egypt is one of the most interesting places on the planet. I’m a HUGE history nerd, so going to this country is an absolute must for me. I won’t go into details about how obsessed I was growing up, just that I may or may not have dressed up as Cleopatra more than 5 times in my life.

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6. Germany: I’m part German, so I really want to go visit Germany. This trip will also probably be with someone, because it’s not a country that I’m at all familiar with, but I think it’s going to be amazing.

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7. Ghana: Two of the five kids I nanny are from Ghana, and I would love to see the country that has become so close to my heart while looking after them! I’ve fallen in love with Ghanaian culture by being surrounded by two amazing boys who have stolen my heart. I can’t wait until I get to adventure to their home country, someday.

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8. Italy: One word: Calcio. 

Another word for translation: Football.

And one more for Americans: Soccer.

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9. South Africa: Is it wrong to want to go somewhere just because of the accents? No? Good. Because that’s one of the main reasons I want to go to South Africa. I have a friend from South Africa and I absolutely love just listening to her talk, which probably is weird for her, but South African accents are my absolute favorite (right next to Irish and Scottish).

latvia_flag10.Latvia: The only country in Eastern Europe, I’ve wanted to go here for a while now. I think the country is so beautiful, and Latvian is one of my favorite languages to listen to (even though I can’t understand one word of what they’re saying).

Also: This is one of my new favorite songs. So beautiful.