The Process: Finding Yourself In The Pursuit Of Perfect

Lately I’ve been talking with some friends about the importance of process.

Let’s be honest, as Millenials we’re pretty used to instant gratification. We enjoy products we never see created, from places we’ve never been, made by people we’ll never meet.

It’s not our fault—we were born into this world. But it can become really dangerous when we start to believe that things are born into existence without any type of struggle.  

When people approach me asking why traveling is “so easy” for me, I have to sometimes stop and wonder. Should I talk more about the horror stories that have happened while I’ve traveled? It’s so easy to see the results of my adventures, without seeing the very real blood, buckets of sweat, and actual tears it takes to get those pretty Instagram photos.

But nobody wants to hear about the struggle of being robbed, or losing your credit card, or being sexually harassed in a city. Nobody wants to hear about getting horribly lost or running out of money.

But, here’s the thing: All of that mess? It’s real. The struggle is real (I can’t believe I just worked that into an actual blog post).

Here’s the good news: It’s an invaluable foundation to build dreams on. It teaches us balance, it teaches us discipline, and it teaches us how to sustain success when we reach it.

Reality check: It’s usually not a fun process.

But you NEED to go through those years of making terrible mistakes. Think of it like high school (or college, for me). Remember trying out those weird piercings and ridiculous outfits? THAT is what helped you learn. Without that process, how would you ever know what was you?

My biggest piece of advice: Don’t let people push you into one mold. Trying to fit will only break off the most valuable parts of who you are.

For me this looks something like:

  • Being okay with supporting local indie musicians, while knowing the words to every Taylor Swift song.
  • Rocking my Nikes while being able to catwalk in five inch heels.
  • Loving Legos, conventions, and comic books while ALSO loving pink, unicorns and glitter (let’s be real, sometimes those two coincide).
  • Refusing to allow people to tell me what I should like based off of my skin color.
  • Being just as proud of my African American heritage as I am of my Native American, Scandinavian, Irish and German.

I travel because I want to…because I NEED to, not because people tell me I should or shouldn’t go somewhere. And guess what? It hasn’t been all fairy dust and roses getting to the point where I can find that balance.

Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of this imaginary perfect. You are uniquely you, and you’re equipped for more than you know.

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When Your Life Doesn’t Look Like It “Should”

I have 112 unpublished blog drafts. That means 112 times I started writing, got frustrated and stopped. Yet, I am still a blogger.

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure, lately. A friend and I were talking about how in college you’re asked 101 times,”What’s your five year plan?” But after college? Nah. Nobody asks me that anymore. Life a decade after college is something halfway between eye-rolls that I don’t have 2.5 children and people gasp-asking how I do everything I do (Hint: I don’t have 2.5 children).

My life is couture, I’ll admit. It’s custom cut to fit me.

And as I sit here drinking copious amounts of tea, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve made my life what it is—the decisions that brought me to where I am. Once upon a time I was offered the white picket fence life, but instead I chose to travel.

And here’s a little insight into why:

 

Because doing what you’re “supposed” to do, just to keep up with societally imposed schedules (based off of age/ gender etc.) does not guarantee you any more success or happiness than waiting to be personally ready.

 

Live your life on your time. When you’re ready to travel, travel. When you’re ready to get married, get married. When you’re ready to adopt a dog, adopt a dog. But please please don’t do these things to make your life look “right.”

My life right now is nothing like what I thought it would be. In fact, according to my child self, I’ve failed spectacularly (still not the lead singer of a band). But, you know what?

That’s okay.

My little under-developed freshman SPU self wouldn’t have even been able to imagine the wild adventures I’d go on. She wouldn’t have had a clue how many amazing people I’d meet, or how many bucket list items I’d check off. She wouldn’t know that I’d be able to build a life where I did what I loved…and got paid to do it.

Easy isn’t the answer.

Amidst the stress and crazy, I really really love my life, and I’m really f*cking happy (sorry, mom). I’m starting a new career at a beautifully brilliant company where I get to help women all over the world. I live in a beautiful 1928 vintage house, full of strong independent women, in one of the most beautiful cities. I get to geek out over things as much as I damn well please, and I write for a living. Let me repeat that so my child self can hear it back through the sound waves of time: “YOU GROW UP TO BE A PAID WRITER!”

Life doesn’t look like it “should,” but I’m okay with that. It’s not about predicting outcomes five years down the road. It’s about taking what life throws at you and creating beauty out of it. That’s what makes life this messy and magnificent thing.
Obviously there are times when things get absolutely frustrating. Curve balls get thrown. But being frustrated doesn’t mean you give up on building the life you want. It might mean you walk away from things for a bit, but it does not mean you stop.

 

I like to think about it this way: Growing up I always thought I was going to reach adulthood and be handed this telescope with which I could see my future. It would be clear, and entirely in focus. But, in fact, it’s so much more beautifully intricate than that.
My life is a kaleidoscope. There are shapes and colors and weird little speckle things that I haven’t even discovered, yet. Yes, my past plans for the future failed spectacularly, but they were replaced by experiences I literally could not have dreamed for myself. And that’s beautiful.

A group of friends used to say, “Yesterday’s ceiling is todays floor.” And I honestly believe that. The best is yet to come.

Now pardon me as I go buy tickets to a zombie ball. 

 

Why You Should Stop Waiting To Be Happy

When I was in fourth grade I learned the meaning of my name.
My little introvert self was at sleep-away camp, which I distinctly remember hating because I was constantly surrounded by other girls. Well…I loved camp, I just hated the giggly-socialness of pre-teen girls 24/7.

One day, while I was in the camp snack shack, I found a little bookmark that I fell in love with. On the front there was this magnificent floral design (let me tell you how much I love floral designs) and my name, on the top there was a pink braided string, and on the back there was a bible verse. The verse was Proverbs 30:31 and the definition said this:

Emily: “Diligent one.” One who strives. One who is eager to succeed. 

I was pretty happy to find out I was given a strong name. To this day I’m a huge fan of name meanings and giving kids names with a legacy they can grow into. I guess my mom did a pretty good job because I felt like someone had just told me I was actually Wonder Woman. I bought the bookmark from the little shop and kept it in various books for probably close to a decade. Ever since, I’ve done my best to live up to it.

One slight problem. Constantly striving is great for the short-term, but how do you make this into a sustainable lifestyle? How do you keep pressing forward to the next big thing, without having a mental breakdown?

Simple: Find balance.

Not simple: I’m not naturally gifted with the ability to enjoy life.

I know, I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense. But, bear with me. See, I’m a fighter. And while that’s great (sometimes), it also means I’m hot-headed and impulsive and I’ll take a swing even when life is trying to help me. It’s a family curse: mistaking turmoil, for authenticity.

I come from a very hard working family, and it’s a lot to live up to. We were raised being constantly reminded of our family name. It meant something. It still does. Most importantly, we were constantly reminded so we would aspire beyond the limitations of past generations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a blog post about not working hard, because I do and I advocate for others to do so as well. BUT. Lately, I’ve been challenged to learn another lesson: How to be kind to myself. Maybe this sounds too full of fluff for you, and maybe you’re like “What does this even have to do with a travel blog!?” but I think it’s really important that you all understand that the girl behind the keyboard is a mess under construction, as much as she is a world traveller and general bad-ass (your words, not mine).

I push myself really hard. And sometimes that’s great, because feeling like you’re moving forward is one of the best feelings in the world. But what if you’re moving forward in the wrong direction? Over the past six months I’ve had to make some really huge decisions and I’ve had to let some really important things in my life go. We’re talking foundation pillars being pulled out of the life I thought I was building. It was rough, and took a lot of tears and prayer to make the decisions.

But here’s the thing. As cliché as it might sound, letting go of those things has allowed my life to be filled with so much more substance. More laughter. More opportunities. More love. More books. More Art. More friendship. Just more.

I’ve always been the type of girl who likes to have a plan. But in the past six months I’ve been challenged to walk by faith, and faith alone. We’re talking, I had no back-up plan. Just the conviction of my heart and a million and a half prayers into my pillow at night. Something please work out. 

And it did. And I can honestly say I’m happier today than I’ve been for over two years. The future is looking bright, I’m regaining the use of my right arm (#crylaughsmile) and I have some absolutely awesome things to share with you guys in the near future.

We’re gonna be okay. Listen to that little voice that tells you what you really should be doing. Chase happiness, and most of all: be kind to yourself. I’ll be here to cheer you on.

Why My Blog Posts Came To A Screeching Stop

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything on my darling blog, and there’s a very practical reason for that. It has to do with a game of Marco Polo and a girl (me) who is entirely too competitive. Whilst playing said game with some kids, a few weeks back, I managed to dislocate my right shoulder. Like a champ (so I’m told) I popped the sucker back in, but my muscles were more than a little bit sore. Like it really flippin hurt, guys.

Needless to say, I’ve been laying around with a sling on, going to physical therapy and visiting the doctor more times than I would like. Have I ever told y’all how much I hate going to the doctor?

Anyway, I’ve only been able to start typing the past few days, and honestly right now my arm is hurting from even just writing this. But I wanted to let you all know that I’m alive. My mind is swirling with ideas for all types of new blog posts, and I can’t wait to get writing again! Not being able to write my mind has been pure torture. BUT here are some things I HAVE been able to do while my right arm has been on sabbatical:

  • Getting really good at using my left hand for things. I’m naturally left handed/slightly ambidextrous and lemme tell you, it’s never worked more in my favor.
  • Started watching new shows like Mad Men. I’m obsessed! I can’t believe I’ve never watched this show, before!
  • Going to the Scottish Highland Games for year #2. It was so much fun! I can’t wait to go back next year.
  • Daydreaming of cosplay ideas for when I can once again use both of my arms. I have more ideas than I can count!

    One of my cosplay ideas for next year’s ECCC 🙂
  • Reading books and getting caught up on all things literary.
  • Working with kids while trying not to re-injure my shoulder. It hasn’t been easy. But I must be doing something right because I got employee of the month!
  • Thrift shopping more selectively. ‘Cause hey, I can only use one arm to hold stuff.
  • Winning a contest with Schwinn bikes for best “throwback” cosplay with my bike the day after I stopped using my sling. Woot! Here’s a peek of the pic.
  • Being a little bored, but making it work. I LOVE working, and writing and making things. It’s been really hard to take some downtime. It almost killed me to take sick leave time off from work, and I had it all covered! But now that I’m getting better I’m really excited to get things rolling again.

What have you guys been up to? Anything summer-y and fantastic? Comment below! 

10 Awesome Happenings From 2017…So Far

The last 6 months have been a sham. In today’s world it’s pretty easy to write a list of 10 terrible things that happened recently… in fact, you can probably write up 10 terrible things that have happened this week #America. But, in the spirit of being my opposite self (known pessimist) I’m going to encourage us to focus on the positive.

I think it can be really easy to focus on all of the not-so-great things in the world, and while I am not advocating for ignoring those (at all!) I am offering a 5 minute read break of some pretty cool things that have happened, but that can easily be overlooked. But don’t let it stop with me! I want to hear all the beautiful things that have happened in your lives, as well. In the spirit of celebration, share yours in the comments!

1. The apocalypse didn’t happen

Okay, so this one might seem a bit extreme. But, yo. Shit went down in January, and I think we can all agree on that (sorry for the swearing, mom). But can I just say something, really quick? I’m proud of you guys. I’m proud of my allies who post signs in their yards saying that they support people who look different from themselves. I’m proud of the people who don’t stand around ignoring homophobia or xenophobic remarks on public transportation. I’m proud of the women who take their daughters to protests with signs that say, “WE ARE HERE. WE ARE WATCHING. WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” I’m proud of my science friends who march for knowledge. I’m proud of my friends who sat in airports and said, “No. Fear will not rule how we treat our neighbors.” I’m proud of you guys.

2. I found out what I want to be when I grow up

This is the year when I finally figured it out. I know what I want to be when I grow up! And no, it’s not a brain surgeon—sorry mom. I graduated in 2010 with a Degree in Journalism and literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, other than have people stop asking me what my five year plan was.

I gave myself five years to do whatever the hell I wanted. I traveled the world, lived in another country and in different states. I worked for a non-profit, I took more internships than I can count. I was a nanny. Giving myself time to grow was one of the best gifts I think I could have ever given myself, and it works! I finally figured something out. Stay tuned for more details!

3. I took a trip to Europe 

Every year, since I started solo backpacking, I’ve tried to take a trip back to to Europe. Why Europe? Because it’s my heart. I don’t know how to describe it, really. But when I’m there (almost regardless of the country) I feel like I’m at home. Since 2013 I’m kept my promise to myself and this year I went to Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Belgium! I’m so excited because I’m actually going to get to go TWICE this year, which I do not take for granted, at all. What an insane and unimaginable gift. I’m so excited.

4. I went to a clothing exchange 

Hands up if you like clothes! As someone who has more than I probably should, and a Degree in Fashion Design, I’m a 100% clothing and shoe lover. This month I got the opportunity to meet up with some other stylish ladies, and we exchanged clothing and stories and laughs. The best part was that all the extra clothes got given to an awesome non-profit that helps out women coming out of domestic abuse situations!

5. I hosted a craft night…and it was f*cking awesome (sorry, mom)

Me and a friend tried to join a knitting group about a month ago and when we got to the damn coffee shop (sorry, mom) we found out that the group wasn’t meeting anymore. We had been waiting to go for weeks, so we were pretty upset to find out we couldn’t get our knit on.

Solution? Host a craft night at my house so we DEFINITELY have a place to create and geek out. AND IT WAS SO FUN. One of my passions in life is bringing together magnificent, strong, creative women and having them all meet and talk to each other. What an awesome event for us to get to craft and laugh and drink wine and just have a great time!

6. I’ve hung out with eight estranged friends

I’ve talked about this on here, before, but my New Years Resolution was to grab coffee with someone every month, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. So far we’re 5/5 and I already have a couple coffee hang times scheduled for June.

This has honestly been one of the coolest resolutions, because it is TOO easy to lose touch with awesome people who may even live close, but are just eternally busy. And I get it, we’re so busy with life that we don’t have time for relationships with people, anymore. But let’s swim against the tide and battle those loneliness statistics (looking at you, Seattle—we’re #5 on the list).

7. I went to an awesome birthday dinner for my Grandpa

My family is borderline insane. And the great part about saying that is that we all agree, so I don’t have to apologize. That being said, we still get together and we still celebrate the occasional event. This April, we had a glorious celebration for my Grandpa’s birthday, and it was the actually a lot of fun! Maybe we’re growing out of some of our crazy?

8. I had a sleepover with my friends

Yep. Like an old-school sleepover. The brainchild of my brilliant roommate, we built a blanket fort out of our living room, watched Knight’s Tale, and ate pizza. Of course we had all types of girl talk and tons of laughs as well. The best part? It was at my house, so I still got to go to sleep in my own bed. #adulting

9. I didn’t adopt a cat…but I did get a cat sitting job

In March I got out of a pretty long term/serious relationship and as all sane recent breakup-ees do, I immediately went on the hunt for a cat to distract me from all of my woes. Thank the universe that nobody let me get one (because practically speaking I am technically allergic to most of them…broken hearts make you do weird things). The GOOD news is that I got a job cat sitting, which is awesome because I get to play with cats, get paid, and I still can breathe at home! Win-win-win.

10. I took a personal finance class…and it was awesome

Call me crazy, but why is personal finance not a required class in college? I mean, no wonder this country has so many financial problems. Ask any millennial and all we know is that if we don’t pay the student loan gods we get in trouble. What about retirement? What about balancing a budget sheet? WHAT ABOUT TAXES!? Okay, so that last one is probably more important to me because I work at an accounting firm, but come on America, where are we supposed to figure this stuff out!?

Luckily there was a free personal finance class that was offered near me, and it was like four hours of empowerment. I highly recommend looking into your local community centers (or this one was at a church—shoutout to Quest) to see if you can take one. Believe me, it’s worth the time investment.

11. I have an art exhibit going up tomorrow! 

Bonus! I have an art exhibit going up at Irwin’s Bakery tomorrow and I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to have an exhibit for a while, and it’s so awesome that the dream bubbling around in my mind is actually becoming real. If you have a chance to stop by definitely do, if you can’t, you can check out more pics (and a video – woot!) on my Facebook page.

Pour One For The Homies: Confessions Of A “Good Kid”

I’ll admit it: Growing up, I was the goodie two shoes. I never really got in trouble, I didn’t experiment with illegal things or have dangerous friends. I got straight A’s and never missed a day of school.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess you could say I was a low-key, kind of “boring” kid. I was my high school class speaker, voted “most eligible bachelorette” in college (remind me why this was a thing, SPU?), and never touched alcohol until I was 21 (short-lived, since I stopped drinking at 22).

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the life of a traveler is definitely not a safe one. While on the road I’ve had some pretty scary, sketchy and downright dangerous stuff happen to me. But usually this blog only gets the fluff and smiles of the good days.

So, what turned this girl from yawn to yeeeeessssss? Here’s how it happened.

It all started back in 2013 when I met a boy. Yep. I know.
This boy was very very important to me, but ended up ripping my heart out and basically making me wish I was never alive…but that’s another story.

Anyway, after that experience I realized how much of my life had been about pleasing other people. This was also right about the time I had shaved hair, started getting tattoos and pierced my septum. Was I cool, yet?

But that wasn’t enough. I had wanted to travel to Ireland since I was a little kid. My grandpa is Irish, English and Scottish and I’d grown up associating a good story and a great (albeit corny) laugh with my Irish heritage.

I had basically all but planned the entire trip out in my mind. And I was ready to go. But remember that boy I mentioned earlier? Yeah, you guessed it—he talked me out of going. Not only talked me out, but flat out told me that if I did go he would break up with me. Nice guy, right?

So, naturally, the first thing I did after the *KABOOM* ending of that relationship was to buy a plane ticket. By myself. To Ireland and the UK.

Since that first trip I’ve learned a lot about myself, but one of the biggest things is how much fear held me back from doing a lot of things in my pre-23 year old life. To be clear, there were some benefits to that. I probably wouldn’t have graduated from college without the fear that my mom would kill me if I didn’t (Haha. It’s a joke, mom.).

But when it came down to it, what I wanted for my life, and who I wanted to be, was so dictated by the surrounding fear of not being accepted by those around me that I didn’t even realize I could make independent decisions to make myself happy. It sounds kind of sad, now, but I don’t think I ever considered the fact that I should/could pursue the things that made me happy—even if they didn’t make sense to other people.

To those of you who might be nodding your heads, this one’s for you:

I’ve learned so much more (and grown so much more) by failing royally. Like I mean big-time fails. I mean moving to another country and hating almost every minute of an experience most people dream about, F-A-I-L.

But you know, I smile when I think back on my failures because they’re a reflection of just how far I’ve pushed myself to grow.

What is fear holding you back from?

Maybe it’s travel related (if it is, call me) or maybe it’s just taking a risk to apply to that job, or move to a new place. Do it. Not because you’re going to have a 100% success rate, but because even if you fail you still gain so much. Believe me.

If your heart is pulling (or in my case, dragging) you a certain direction in life, follow it. And those people who threaten to leave or abandon or not support you? Get rid of them. I’m serious. Shake them off, and find your people and a community to support you. Even if it’s an online community or Facebook group or whatever, there are people out there who will support you. I will support you.

So be your crazy self. Take risks, and live your life as fully and completely you. Not because everyone else is taken, but because you are f*cking fabulous (sorry, mom), and why the hell would you want to be anyone else?

Peace Like A River: April Travel Inspiration

Where in the world has Emilee been?

Not an unusual question, since I’m usually traveling around the world. But lately I haven’t been on my blog, and there are a few reasons for that. March was a really crazy and kind of terrible month in my life. I had a lot of upsets, and a lot of plans got literally trampled in dirt and tears. But that’s part of life, isn’t it? And as much as it hurts, I know that I’m strong enough to press on, and to dig deeper.

I needed to take a couple of weeks away from my writing to recover, but behold — I’m back! And April is already proving to be a much (MUCH) better month.

For starters, I’ve started writing again, which is always a good sign. When I’m writing, I’m happy. If I’m not writing, there’s probably something wrong. April has brought all kinds of new opportunities for me to be able to partner with other creatives, which I’m so incredibly thankful for, and I love that the pieces keep coming together, in order for me to keep doing what I love.

So what’s up next?

April is going to be filled with copywriting projects, continuing my Etsy shop and working on paintings for the exhibit I’m getting ready to display in June (I’M SO EXCITED!). Oh, and continuing to work like a mad-woman. In the past I’ve apologized a lot for working so much, but there shall be no more of that nonsense. I love working, and I love where I work (all four jobs). And the thing is, if I love what I’m doing, how dare others condemn it. Can I get an amen!?
In other inspiration news I’ve been watching some cool shows, while working on my many projects. Here are my favorites at the moment:

Elementary: An American version of Sherlock Holmes, that actually isn’t that bad. It took me forever to start this show, because I was so worried it would be terrible, but I actually really like it.
Harlots (Viewer discretion advised): This show is a Hulu original, and all about bad ass women at the end of the 18th century. It has a (basically) all female cast and I love the politics of strong women who are so entirely bad-ass.
Mercy Street: Season 3 just ended, but I’m absolutely in love with this is an amazing Civil War era drama. Again, strong female characters who have strong character development (sarcastic *GASP*) and there’s just a really well rounded cast, overall.
The White Queen: This show is set during The War of the Roses, in England. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I’m also really excited because there’s a sequel, “The White Princess” coming out on April 16th!
Survivor:
 Yes, this show is still on. One of my friends mentioned it and then I thought, “Oh, I’ll just watch one episode” and I got hooked. #guiltypleasure

I’m also really excited for all of the amazing arts events Seattle has to offer in the month of April. I love living in a city that’s so passionate about art and music and theater. It really does feed my soul. This weekend I’m going to the Seattle Art Museum’s new exhibit, Seeing Nature, and I couldn’t be more excited. I literally always need a little more painting inspiration in my life.

I mean, LOOK. The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibit “Seeing Nature” looks so amazing!

I’ve also been reading a lot, lately. Over the past year I’ve bought about 20 books I want to read… and I’ve read approximately 3 of them. So, now’s the time to dive in and consume them ALL. My current read is called Uninvited and it’s a beautiful book written by Lysa TerKeurst. To be honest, the title of the book sounds depressing, but it’s actually about living intentionally with others in your life, establishing a strong self identity and overcoming obstacles. I’d highly recommend it.

And lastly I’m working on this project. It’s kind of an awesome New Years Resolution that’s been really hard for me, but has proved to be so incredibly inspiring. This year, rather than resolving against something I decided to resolve to do something: every month in 2017 I’ll meet up with one person to have coffee. Not a work date, not a group hangout session, but a one-on-one intentional sit down cup of tea/coffee. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.

The reality of the world that we live in is that we’re constantly on the go. Especially as Americans, we’re taught to keep running, running, running. But what about the people who get left behind? Not because you don’t want them in your life, but because you’re so busy chasing a career or the next adventure, or a marriage, or your children, that you completely forget to connect. Intentionally connect.

My New Years resolution was to intentionally connect with people in 2017.

I’m not going to lie, it was really hard the first couple of months. I have a really crazy schedule, and so do most people I know (because they’re complete bad-asses) but I’ve held true to my resolution. The crazy thing is, I barely made time in January, slid by in February, but in March (*dramatic pause*) I grabbed coffee with THREE people.

I’m basically a hermit, so this is a big deal.
The lesson I’m learning? We’re a very lonely society, and no amount of Netflix binge-watching is going to cure that. Once I started making time, I started noticing more opportunities, and (the best part) people started to reach out to me. It’s like once I let the universe know I was ready to let people in, it started to help me out.

It’s really hard for me to make myself leave my comfort zone/house and spend time with people (#introvertproblems) but you know what? I was wired for it. We, as humans, are wired for connection. And especially in today’s world, where things just seem to be perpetually going to shit (sorry, mom), it’s more important than I think we realize.

So, let’s take the challenge together. Who can you intentionally connect with? Who can you call, or write a letter to? Who can you grab coffee with?
Take the leap.
Oh, and leave a message in the comments to let me know how it went!

Going it Alone: A Letter To The Solo Exploress

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I wrote this letter about 3 years ago when I had just started to travel solo. I was still so uncertain of how big a role travel, and backpacking, would play in my life. To be honest, the letter is as much a letter to myself, as it is to other women travelers. Since 2013 I’ve backpacked around 10 more countries, taken numerous trips within the U.S. and I’m still madly in love with “getting out there.” But it hasn’t come without feelings of doubt, or skepticism from others. It felt appropriate, coming up on the 3 year anniversary of  my blog, to post this one again since it still rings so true, today.

Dear Exploress,

In your life there are going to be people who tell you what you “should” do. In most cases, it won’t be with negative intentions or purposeful neglect to your feelings. But, hands placed on your shoulders, concern built in their eyes – they will try. If and when these people find you, I want to give you one piece of advice:

Listen to them.

Listen, ponder, wonder and question every word that spills out of their unassuming mouths – riverbanks trying to contain the flow of your own untamable ambitions. Think about their words. Gnaw on them again and again until you truly understand the marrow of what it means to make your own decision. Then, throw them out. For they are of no further use to you.

As you plan and scheme and chart the direction of your own decision making, remember the words of those who doubted you. Remember the people who told you that you couldn’t or shouldn’t; every person who tried to pour into your mind their own doubts and limitations. And as you think on these, also remember that you are a conqueror, more than able, and born to be set apart.

Then, take a step. Fall with the freedom of knowing you have weighted the reasons, excuses and deliberations; and they have been found wanting. Walk forward and be guided by the northern star of your own intellect and courage. For, remember, castles are seldom built by staying in our own valleys; dare to dream of venturing to the highest hills.

Remember who you are: a woman fully competent, fully capable and stubborn to a fault. Plan. Plan like you’ve never planned before. Spend every minute researching the world you’re about to travel into, so that when you step outside your front door you can throw the guidebook to the side, and enjoy your experiences fully.

Make friends with everyone. And I mean everyone. Bus drivers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, baristas, post office workers, random people you meet in museums and that mom with a stroller at the bus stop. Keep your ears open, your mind clear and your possibilities endless.

Experience the culture. Don’t ever block yourself off in the comfort of a hotel room or the emptiness of an American chain restaurant. Eat the local food (I don’t care how gross it sounds), go dancing – always go dancing, look for events in local papers and billboards. No matter how tired you are, remember:  You only need 8 hours of sleep, and you have a TV at home. Get outside! Parks, museums, art galleries – go.

Write down everything and send yourself (home) postcards with notes of encouragement. Remember, you won’t be here forever, but the memories will. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, so when you’re feeling lost a week after getting back, you have a piece of mail to remind you that it was only one passport stamp, and there are many more adventures to come.

And last? Stop making excuses.

If you have the ability to hold a job, you have the ability to save money. If you have the ability to save money, no matter how long it takes, you have the ability to buy a ticket to somewhere and go on an adventure. Be smart with your traveling. Challenge yourself to save as much money beforehand so you don’t have to worry about it when you’re exploring.

You are a woman, not incapable. You are an Exploress, not unable. You have intellect, an open mind and a heart that loves – use them. And while you’re standing there, looking at something more beautiful than you could have imagined, meeting people who open your mind to more than you could have grasped before – breathe; deeply and slowly. Remind yourself, “In this moment, I am happy.” And then, as you start to walk toward the beauty that’s before you, remember all those people who told you it couldn’t be done – and smile.

This post was originally published on The Exploress blog September 27th, 2013

2016: The Year of Grit

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2016. I really wish that I could be one of those people who said that 2016 was great, despite the obvious turmoil, but it was actually a really hard year for me. One that has tested this ‘ole girls grit to the extreme. If I had to use an analogy for 2016 if would be me being a cage fighter with barely any training, locked in the pen with the world champ. I may have survived, but I definitely took a beating.

2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 were some of the most difficult years of my life, so I was expecting 2016 to get in shape, but life hasn’t quite got the memo. That being said, there were some highlights that were fun moments in my year, and I’d like to focus on those rather than dwell on the overall stress that 2016 has brought.

January

I went on a backpacking trip with two of my friends to England, Scotland and Ireland. It was a feat in itself because I had never travelled with multiple friends before. We ate some great food, learned some history and explored the limits of strong personalities under pressure. But we survived! And the end result was some awesome pics. During January I also got to go to San Francisco, which is one of my favorite US cities, and that trip was just a dream.

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This is us in Edinburgh, Scotland right next to the castle.

February

Deadpool came out, and we took advantage of that for our Valentines Days day, which ended up being awesome. February was also the 2 year anniversary of this blog, which is insane. I never thought I’d be able to keep something up this long when I first started it, but now I can’t imagine life without it. This month was also when I moved into my now house, which was such an amazing upgrade (literally God sent) from my former apartment location and situation. I also got to have high-tea with my grandma and I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” which changed a whole lot on my perspective as a creative. Apparently I have no pictures from this month, so here’s one from my January trip, in front of Shakespeare’s house.

 

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March

My little Irish Step Dancing obsessed child self would have been so envious of the fact that I have now seen (in person – not just VHS) Lord of the Dance. If you don’t know what it is, you can click here to see a clip. Basically it was my childhood obsession, and I was in love with Michael Flatley. I was a weird kid, what can I say? This was also the month when my long lost (moved to California) brother came home for a visit, which was such a surprise that I swore in front of my grandmother. Yep, that happened.

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April

This past year was my first ever Emerald City Comicon experience and I LOVED every minute of it. I did my first kind of serious cosplay effort, made some new friends and geeked out in the extreme. This was also the month and me and my boyfriend rented a cabin on Camano Island for a weekend and left the world behind. The place purposely didn’t have wifi and it was super nice to just get away from it all.

 

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Sometimes you need to take vacations a few hours from home.
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Me being a geek with other geeks at a Doctor Who fan meetup.

May

May was when I went to Colorado for the first time, and learned that I don’t like Colorado. Say what you will to try and convince me otherwise, but it’s just not the state for me. 2016 was the year I went twice and both times were just brutal on my respitory system. I did have some fun at the art museum, though. This was also the month that the EMP (now known as the MoPOP) hosted its Star Trek opening exhibit, where I met Spock! Okay, it was just a cosplayer, but I mean, that’s the closest I’m probably going to ever get…and it’s pretty darn close.

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June

In June I started working at the Boys and Girls Club again, and boy was that a good decision. I was working part time retail before I started up again, and while it was filling my wardrobe it was simultaneously sucking out my soul. I was so happy to join back with my BBGC family and get to work with all the kids, again. This was also the month for the Eurocup, which I watched obsessively and which I loved every minute of. France may not have won, but I was cheering for them every step along the way. June was pretty packed to be honest. There was a Sounders Game packed in there, and Pride weekend and then I went to my first JMSN concert, which was an experience in itself.

 

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Old school photo booth where we were definitely not ready for the first set so we had to do it again. But now these are some of my favorite pictures.

July 

During July we had a great party for the 4th and then we flew out to Colorado again to explore the mountains, go four wheeling and celebrate some birthdays! We got some pretty amazing photography shots and it was our first trip out of the state, together (next up – out of North America!). We also got to go to the Scottish Highland Games up north of Seattle, and that was one of the best days of this year. Oh man. I’ve never felt so proud to be Scottish, before. It was so amazing!


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August 

To celebrate our 1 year anniversary we hopped off the grid and went to Canada. This trip was a very welcome break from our day to day and we had the nicest Airbnb host ever. It was such a great way to celebrate a great relationship. We also went camping at Banks Lake in August, with a bunch of friends. Besides being eaten alive by mosquitos (he had 70 bites!) it was a super fun trip.

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We really need to get better about asking people to take pictures of us, as a couple.
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Jumping off rocks is not for me, but I’m all about the photography and sun bathing.

 

September 

I’m a firm believer in celebrating my birthday for the ENTIRE month of September. Don’t ask my why, but I love doing it, and I don’t plan on doing it any other way. This years birthday was such a good day and I loved being able to spend time with just the two of us. I didn’t really have a party, and I think I understand now why people don’t really do that as much, as they get older. My little introvert self is just not into it anymore. The hermit life for me (+1)!

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Right before we went out to my birthday dinner.

 

October 

I went to two conventions in October, one for Lego and one for Geek Girl Con. Both were fantastic and I’m so happy to be a part of the con community. Making friends at cons is such perfection because you already know you’re probably as geeky at the other person, so you don’t have to worry about geeking out over something too hard. This was also when I debuted my Rufio cosplay, which I’m pretty excited to wear to ECCC in 2017. It went over so much better than I could have imagined, and I’m so excited to dress up again in March!

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I dressed up so many times in October that by the time the 31st hit I was at the point of impromptu Minnie Mouse.

November 

James and I had an awesome photo shoot with Chelsea Bree Photography, just for fun. It was such a great experience and I’m still so in love with each of the photos. They are just so beautiful. November also hosted one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had. We kept it small and simple at our house and I don’t think I’ll ever do it any other way, again. I loved just being able to hang out with friends. The only one that it tied for first place was the time we had Thanksgiving in France.

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December 

We went the magical route and went to Harry Potter World. It was just the best. Even though it was smaller than we thought, we rode the rides a million times and waved our wands around like 9 year olds. This is also when my roommate tricked me into going onto a huge roller coaster ride…and let me tell you how much I hate Roller Coasters. Christmas was fantastic, we watched movies all day long and opened presents and visited my family. I love keeping holidays small, and I think that’s the way I’ll try to do it for the foreseeable future. It’s just so much more fun to just have a few friends, or even just the two of us.


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All in all 2016 kicked my butt. But I kicked back, and I have a feeling I’m going to be going into 2017 kicking, as well. Trying to reach goals, and really make a difference in your life is not an easy path, but if you’re willing to fight for it, it’s something you can achieve.

If there was one quote I would state for 2016 it’s this:

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Merry Christmas to all

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This past week has been complete mayhem.

Why?

Mainly because I kind of forgot about the whole gift giving side of Christmas, and therefore had to pack all of that ish into one week. For everyone. I know, I know, I did it to myself. But then, I did also contract a nasty cold that knocked me out for two days. Fun times.

That being said, I wanted to write up a quick posts saying Merry Christmas to all of you beautiful people who follow and comment and read my blog. Thank you for being here and for making this a part of your busy lives.

Christmas is all about being thankful for the blessings we have around us, and this blog and all of you are such a blessing to me. Writing is my heart and my soul, and travel is the breath I live by. Thank you for being along on the journey, and I for you all to have a peaceful and heart-filled Christmas, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing.

Last year I spent Christmas 2015 sleeping in Heathrow Airport, so this year I’m happy to say that I’ll be spending it cuddled up under a pile of blankets…in a house. I pushed my annual trip to Europe back a little this year, so I’ll be leaving mid January to go explore some more of the world (can’t wait!).

Until then (or whenever I have a spare minute to breathe/write) Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.