Keep Moving Forward

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Yesterday I stood in a Safeway aisle, staring at toilet paper.

Normally I always buy the same brand, same size, same everything (I’m a creature of habit), but for the first time in years I had to stop and think. You see, I’m moving out of the country in 2 months – I don’t need 24 rolls of toilet paper. And, as I continued to shop through the store, this realization kept hitting me. I don’t need a huge container of laundry soap. I don’t need spices in bulk. I don’t need twelve rolls of paper towels…no, wait – I do need those (#artistproblems). It’s odd, but grocery shopping yesterday was the most slap-in-the-face realization I’ve had so far.

Although I’m getting closer and closer to my leave date, there hasn’t been a whole lot that’s finalized so far. I’m still mid process in getting my Visa, moving and packing up everything. But, even thought things aren’t 100%, I’m at the point where I have to pretend they are. I can’t buy bulk at the grocery store anymore. I can’t buy new clothes, unless I’m going to DIE without them. I have to get rid of stuff every moment I can. I have a giant “Get Rid Of” pile in my living room because there’s no way I can take everything I own with me…or even half of what I own with me.

The hardest thing right now is acting the part, even though I don’t know for certain that I have the role. See, I’m the type of person who likes certainty. I like order, I like knowing things are going to work out, and at exactly what date, time and location they will happen. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way life works – as much as I want to be in control of this situation, it’s just not going to happen. There’s no net, here. There isn’t a back up plan for if things fall through. And, honestly, that’s terrifying. I am a type A personality. I NEED everything on charts and graphs. I NEED to know everything’s going to work out. But I don’t.

They say that big risks reap big rewards, but risks can also produce epic sized failures. Realizing this is part of adulthood. As we get older we realize that grass isn’t going to be purple, no matter how many times we color it that way; just because we can imagine something, doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen.

BUT, the other half of adulthood is realizing that sometimes you have to stick your middle finger to that side of your brain (yes, I just told you to flip yourself off) and fight for that kid-like disregard for the factual and definite. Because, living despite the potential for failure is essential for succeeding, growing and moving forward in life.

And while risking big is something scary, uncertain, and periodically gives me nervous breakdowns, looking back over my life I’ve realized that I cannot remember a time when I’ve risked big and not been blown away by God’s faithfulness.

The last time I moved, even though it was only a couple of states away, I had no idea what was in store for me. I moved to accept a job in southern California with a non-profit called Krochet Kids International, and it ended up being one of the most impactful experiences of my life.

But, that being said, it also was nothing like I imagined. While living in California, I was so broke I remember looking in my bank account and laughing when I saw I had $7.11; the irony of having barely enough money to go into a 7-11 store, let alone buy anything substantial like groceries.

When I was in California I lived in a three bedroom, two bathroom and one main room apartment with eight other roommates – guys and girls. If you’ve ever had roommates, you can imagine how much drama took place amongst that many people in that small of a space. I honestly think if we had lived together for another month someone might have ended up dead seriously injured. But we figured it out. We survived that ant infested apartment… and I figured out someway to buy groceries.

I cried a lot when I lived in California. But I also grew a lot. No, I didn’t have the experience I expected from being a “good Christian” and volunteering. I didn’t frolic on beaches, greeted by dolphins amongst the Pacific Ocean waves (there were sharks, however). I didn’t sit under palm trees and tan – I started to hate palm trees about a week after being there (all I could think about were Washington evergreens).

Things were just about as off kilter as could be, and I really loathed to all eternity  didn’t like living in California. But that experience was essential for making me into the person I am now. Living in California changed me, because I stepped into the complete unknown and failed miserably.

Right now there are a lot of uncertainties in my life, and it’s really hard to try piecing everything together when I only have a sketch of what the final painting is supposed to be. But what I do know, what I draw from daily, is that I’ve never been failed in the past. God has never failed to see me through. He’s never left the role of comforter, guide and Father. And even though I can only see the next step of my journey, he sees the entire playing field. And I have to trust that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go color in some purple grass.

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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.

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10 Tips For Traveling Introverts

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Tour Buses in London

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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Audrey Hepburn

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

The Truth About Mindy and Me

Glasgow, Scotland
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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Dust From The Ground

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Glasgow, Scotland

What makes a life memorable? With today’s world of online clutter, award winners, inspirational people and political voices,  it’s hard to really know what impact even means, anymore.

But, a couple of days ago, I read an article about a girl who died when she was 22. She didn’t have any Nobel Peace Prizes or Olympic gold medals. What she did have, were friends who were willing to write her story after she was gone. And, as I scrolled through the piece, tears started to fill my eyes. After I was done reading, I had to stop and ask myself, “Why does this matter? I’ve never even met this person. So, why am I mourning?”

You make beautiful things out of dust.

These lyrics have been haunting me for a couple of days now. They come the band Gungor, but I don’t think I ever let them sink in, until today.

Before, when I listened to this song, I thought about the scientific realities. From dust we come, and to dust we will return.

But today, I let my heart speak for a moment. I started to think over the past couple of years. They weren’t great. With the exception of the last four months, I would go as far as to say they were probably the worst in my repertoire. Nothing seemed to work – ever. I felt like life kicked me again, and again and again, until I was broken down and bloody on the ground. Life was shit, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better. It was chaotic, it was unfair, it was overwhelming, and it was filled with pain, tears and sitting on my bed asking, “WHY?”

But now, looking back, I see that it was dust. Those things that happened, each pain filled moment, was merely dust preparing to be formed into beauty.

See, I serve a Creator who takes dirt and molds it into lives that matter. A God who raises up leaders out of the broken and the weak. When doubt fills my mind, and chaos is all I can see, I know that, through the storm, there is beauty waiting to be made. Beautiful things are rising up out of the ground.

I feel like doubt is one of the greatest killers of dreams. We doubt ourselves, so we make do with what we have, instead of pursuing what we’re called to. We look at ourselves and think, “There’s no way. I’m too [flawed, imperfect, scared, tired, messed up, broken, weak, insecure, unlovable, insignificant, unsure, inexperienced] to ever see this through. It’s not even worth trying.” And guess what? You’re right. You are. But, that’s not the point.

Regardless of beliefs, I think the creation story found in Genesis is beautiful. In it we’re told that God takes dust from the ground and forms it into man. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist – but this is significant. For every other living thing, God speaks them into existence. But for humankind, he takes them and forms them out of the dirt of the ground.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried making pottery, but let me tell you – it’s hard. Your hands get dirty, and your arms get tired. It takes hours and hours to make one pot. You sit there staring and carving, smoothing your surface and lovingly putting in each detail you desire.

We were worth God’s time. And that means something.

In life today we don’t get to see God physically making people out of dirt, but I almost wish we did. We don’t have a physical manifestation so, instead, we have to pay close attention to see the remaking of beauty from the dirt that life produces.

Because, when it comes down to it:

In order to truly understand love, you have to experience pain.

To truly appreciate the value of laughter, you have to know the heaviness of silence.

To relish the comfort of restful sleep, you have to know the anguish of tear filled nights.

It’s not that our lives are perfect which makes us matter, or important, or significant or able. It’s that our lives are poignant.

Why did that 22 year old’s life matter, when I read her story? Because, the words she left behind sparked curiosity and enlightenment in those she spoke to; she set her mind toward goals, and her hard work inspired others to do the same.

Her life wasn’t beautiful because it was spotless, it was beautiful because the ripple effects of her existence are still echoing through space and time. Her zeal for life, her passion for engaging fully with others; those were her legacy.

Those were the stories that continued to be told and retold and retold until they ended up on my laptop screen. She lived a life worth writing about.

And, even if it was through the testimony of others, she inspired me to remember that it’s not always about the prizes, the recognition and the success of our endeavors. Sometimes, beautiful things don’t come out of perfection – they come out of dust.

DID YOU KNOW?!?

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Did you guys know I am a writer/photographer for the website “The Exploress”? Check out some of my pieces and some of the other amazing stories about life, and traveling the world as a woman!

CLICK HERE to read more! 

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10 reasons I shouldn’t travel

10 reasons I shouldn't travel

Excuses are kind of like stuffed animals. They’re warm, fluffy and comforting. But sooner or later you should probably grow up and let them go.
A lot of the time, I find myself in situations where people will be telling me all the reasons they “can’t” travel, although they’d like to. And normally, it’s directed at me like I have some kind of immunity to those same problems. Well, I’m here to shout from the mountain tops that that’s simply not the case! And to prove it – here are, all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t travel (but do anyway).

1. I’m too young to travel: I’m in my early twenties, and I’ve been traveling since I was 4 years old. At every point in my life, the experience of traveling has been so different! No matter what age you are, the time is now! Don’t wait for endless tomorrow’s.

2. Traveling alone is dangerous: I used to have a professor that said “Don’t be scared, be prepared.” I’m really a huge advocate of preparing for situations that cause you to be nervous. There are dangers to being any place (even your hometown) at any time. Make sure you know how to stay safe ( take a self defense class, carry mace, don’t wear headphones when you’re alone at night) and you’ll be fine.

3. I’m a woman: So. What. I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you’re going to let your gender decide what you’re capable of in life, you’re going to be missing out on a shitload of experiences. Woman or man, you are capable. Strap on some boots and get out there!

4. I have student loans: I do. And they suck. I am one of the masses of higher education drones who went to college and could have probably paid cash for a house instead. Conquering this really just comes down to budgeting. Figure out how much you need to pay each month in order to pay your loans off and still put away some money for traveling. Inch by inch, it’s possible to be responsible AND travel!

5. I have a job: Haha, not true. I have FOUR jobs. And I still make time to travel! It is hard to get time off, but usually if you ask off well in advance, you can get your higher ups to work with you to some extent. One of my jobs is actually to write about traveling and that’s an even better solution! Be creative! Where there’s a will (and a hard worker) there’s a way!

6. My family doesn’t approve: My mother has a panic attack every time I travel. She made me watch “Taken” before I went to India, explicitly telling me that was what would happen to me. She worries because that’s her job as a mom, but when I make up my mind and start working toward something, I know she’ll ultimately support me. Strike out on your own, and find people who will support your dreams and ambitions!

7. I don’t know people where I’m going: Friends are just strangers you’ve already met. Everywhere you go there are tons of new friends to be made! Use websites such as Couchsurfer.net to meet people before you even touch down in the place you’re going!

8. I’m not a millionaire: Be smart with your money and it will reward you. Couchsurf, buy plane tickets last minute or way in advance, grocery shop instead of eating out, travel outside the tourist season. There are so many little ways you can save money. And if you budget to save money beforehand, you’ll find out that traveling is so much more accessible than you ever thought!

9. I look terrible in travel clothes: Ha. Ok, but really. I hate the whole tourist/travel clothes look. I like skinny jeans, not khakis, and I’d rather be dead than caught in one of those canvas wide brim hats. The great thing is: YOU CAN WEAR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT when you travel. I don’t wear traditional travel clothes when I travel. I like looking cute, and a quick trip to REI generally allows me to put together outfits that don’t scream, “I’M A TOURIST!” but still get the job done.

10. I have no organizational skills:
I truly believe everyone has an inner OCD diva in them, if they truly care about something. So, CARE. I hate putting together plans before hand, but facing the reality that it’s that, or sleeping in the streets, helps me focus on keeping paperwork organized and my trip running smoothly.

BONUS: I have no reason to travel: Shut up. Seriously. If you are a living, breathing, contributing human being to this planet (which you are) then you have a reason to travel. People who travel are able to interact with the world through a lens of understanding. They gain a better understanding of themselves and their own global impact, and they become a part of a global community that starts to care about issues beyond their front doors. So, get out there! The world awaits, and has some pretty awesome lessons to teach you about yourself!

The home of the great Sherlock Holmes 221B Baker Street London, England
The home of the great Sherlock Holmes
221B Baker Street London, England

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

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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 

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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.

3.     HOW I VIEW HOLIDAYS

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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.

4.     HOW I VIEW MYSELF AS AN ARTIST 

 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.”

5.     HOW I INTERACT WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

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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.

Five Reasons I Love Traveling Solo

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I’m a loner by nature and I love exploring the world in a way that I can fully soak in everything around me. Most of the time that means traveling alone. Not convinced? Here’s why:


1.  You can do Whatever You Want…Whenever You Want

I am unashamed to say that I’ve spent four hours sitting in a museum before. During that time I’m pretty sure I viewed ever single piece of art on all four stories, sat in on a mini lecture about Eleanor of Aquitaine and bought post cards of all of my favorite dead British people. It was glorious – nobody saying they needed to go to the bathroom, they were bored or that they were hungry.

2. You Get to Make New Friends Along the Way and Network

Even beyond Couchsurfing buddies, you can make friends on buses, planes and trains so much easier if you’re traveling alone. It allows you to talk to people who are actually from the places you travel, and to learn more about the culture around you by experiencing it through the eyes of the people who live there. I’ve met so many awesome people in hostels that I hung out with because I didn’t have the crutch of only talking with people I knew. I love the incentive to come out of my shell and have the opportunity to get to make connections with people all around the world!

3. People are More Helpful to a Single Person than Groups

As sad as it sounds, when you’re in a group you’re generally viewed as a nuisance/tourist. When you travel alone you’re a stranger people are much more likely to help with directions, advice etc. There’s something about traveling solitary that I’ve found makes getting help from people around you so much more accessible.

4. No Curfew/Wake up Time

Even if it’s not about having a “bed time”, usually if you’re in a group there’s some kind of mentality that you need to be tucked in at some point, or, at least, that someone needs to know where you are at all times. I love the freedom of being able to go out and not have to check in with anyone whether I want to stay out late or go to bed at 6pm (but, really, when I was in Dublin I slept for 14 hours once).

5.  You Can Try Random Things Sporadically

One of my favorite memories will always be meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, in London. While we were there, we found out about a concert that was going on in the city and just HAPPENED to have one of my absolute favorite artists, James Arthur, performing at it. I loved being able to just drop everything and go…because there wasn’t an “agenda” that I had to stick to or other plans that I needed to keep in mind.

All these things being said, there are a TON of reasons why it’s fun to travel with people as well. But, either way I think it’s important not to have a mentality that you “can’t” travel somewhere without having an entourage. Having a good time is completely up to you, no matter which situation you’re in!

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Me during my first solo backpacking trip. I was a tad bit excited to see James Arthur.