The Perfect Travel Bag | The Otto From R. Riveter

On Saturday I got back from a two week backpacking trip through Western Europe and Northern Africa and throughout that time I developed a love connection with my newest bag, The Otto, from R. Riveter. Now, I am an ambassador for R. Riveter, but they did not sponsor this post, nor did they pay me to say beautiful things about them. This is, plain and simple, my honest opinion on a bag I think that every travel blogger should own.

Over the past five years of traveling I’ve definitely developed a routine for what works best for me. I have my favorite adaptor, my favorite travel document carrier, and my favorite pack. But I’ve never been able to pin down my favorite travel bag (you know, the one that goes UNDER the seat when you fly). And believe me, I’ve tried to find something that works. If you know me, you know I go through clothes and accessories like my life depends on it, so this is probably the sixth or seventh bag I’ve tried. Luckily, I’ve finally found something I can count on. Here’s why:

Heathrow Airport | London, England

The leather handles are one of my favorite feature with this bag because not only does it come with hand straps, but it also comes with a cross-body strap. This is pretty essential because when I already have a 30 lb pack on my back, the last thing I want is to be carrying a cross-body bag with more stuff in it, and when I’m riding the metro during rush hour (without my pack) the last thing I want is to have to hold on to handles.

Stonehenge | England

When I travel I generally pack very minimal, in regards to clothing. I go for muted colors and a few accessories that can get me through photos without looking like I’ve been cut and pasted into each place. It’s really important to me, therefore, to have a bag that shows quality and simplicity at the same time. The Otto is the perfect balance of chic and also something people notice.

Windsor Castle | England

Size really does matter when it comes to having the perfect travel bag, and The Otto wins this category in spades. The elongated rectangular shape is perfect for putting books, tablets, and other necessities in and I found this so helpful during day trips where I had to have everything I would need for 11 hours in one bag.

Natural History Museum | London, England

When you’re buying  a bag you want it to fit into every part of your lifestyle, and that includes being able to transform as a beautiful day bag for work, to a travel accessory fit for Indiana Jones.

The real question, of course, is how much can you ACTUALLY fit in this thing? Well, for science, I decided to try it out. As you can see, there’s quite a lot that can go in, including (but not limited to) my tablet, a novel, my passport, a water bottle, chapstick, my travel organizer, currency from four different countries, napkins, snacks and postcards. Whew! But honestly, one of the best features of this bag is that it comes with a sturdy zipper to seal all of this madness away. Especially when it comes to stowing it under airplane seats (which I did seven times during this trip), it’s invaluable to know your valuables aren’t going to be sliding back to row 33 during take-off.

Casablanca, Morocco

The pockets are another beautiful, and functional, things about this bag. And let me tell you how much I love beauty and functionality. There are two pockets on the outside of the bag that hug the shape so if you put little items like bus tickets in them they’re not going to blow away. In addition there are two slot pockets on the inside (where I kept my keys, chapstick and other little bits and pieces) and a zipper pocket that stretches almost the length of the back of the bag. This zip pocket I actually used as a wallet for change while I was traveling because I never travel with an actual wallet (story for another time).

Girona, Spain

Stylish, dependable and made by military spouses, there really isn’t a way to lose on this bag. I’m so happy to have mine for this and for all of my future expeditions. It really is the perfect travel companion. Until next time!

Girona, Spain

Advertisements

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

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

What started your passion for traveling?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

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

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

 

Tea Talk 8: Jane Streicher | English Teacher (Seoul, Korea)

Jane and I have known each other pretty much our whole lives, and I love that we both have a passion for traveling. Something I’ve written about before is how homeschooling opens up your mind to being able to do things like live in other cultures, or travel the world, because it encourages that sense of constant curiosity. Jane and I both had that as kids, growing up, and I love seeing her adventures as she lives and works in Korea. I’m so honored to have such amazing women surrounding my life, and being able to share their stories with you all! Without further adieu, here’s Jane:

1. What started your passion for traveling?

I grew up going on family road trips every summer including camping for a week a few hours away on the coast or cross country trips to visit relatives in the midwest. Because of these trips, I learned to love going places and experiencing new things from a young age.

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

Stay with locals. One of my favorite things to do is to find an Airbnb or hostel run by locals and get their advice on where to go and what to eat. They will usually have secret spots that I could have never found without their insight.

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

One simple thing I do subconsciously now after living in Asia for four years, is taking my shoes off whenever I am inside a home. I remember in high school and college, I would wear boots inside all day long but now I feel so unsettled if I have my shoes on for more than a few minutes.

Another thing I have learned to appreciate is gift giving. It’s a simple way to show someone you care about them or respect them after taking a trip or visiting their home. Obviously this is done in the US too but I never truly saw its purpose until living in Asia.

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

Don’t over think things. Be open and flexible to what can happen. Make plans and be smart but also have an open mind so if/when things go wrong you can still have fun and enjoy yourself.

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

Always check times (especially if its military time). When I was leaving Vietnam last winter, I accidentally missed my flight completely by 12 hours because I thought my flight was in the afternoon when it was actually late at night. Luckily I could buy another flight for $100 but I now make sure to triple check all times.

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

Being alone. When I first moved to Vietnam in 2013, I preferred doing things with other people and felt a little bit intimidated going places alone. Over the years I was there, I learned to navigate going out alone and now I love going to coffee shops alone to read or work. My introverted side as defiantly become much more dominate as I have traveled and lived abroad.

Accepting help. As an American, I think it’s ingrained in me to want to do things without help from other people. Living in Vietnam and South Korea, there have been countless times when I have had to rely on my friends from those places to help me get simple things done like going to the doctor or fixing a flat tire on my motorbike.

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

Plane. There is always such an excitement I feel when taking a flight. I love the whole process and especially enjoy the meals (?! I know most people think they are gross.)

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

Money will come and go. So much of the time when traveling and living abroad, money can be a huge worry. I am still learning how to be smart about it but as an expat I think I have to expect times when money is tighter.

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

Japan! I am hoping to take a trip to see the cherry blossoms there next spring.

10. Let’s talk about your current adventure! What was your inspiration?

I was really curious about South Korean culture and learning the language. I had met lots of Koreans in Vietnam and decided it was time for a new challenge. Instead of wondering what life was like there, I wanted to experience it first hand.

11. What has been the best/toughest part?

One of the best parts is my job teaching English to kindergarteners and elementary students. I spend most of my work day with four and five year olds and they are so precious and curious. They make it fun to come to work!

I have also been loving all the food and places to discover here. There are so many tasty things to try and new coffee shops to go to! A tough thing is starting over and everything that comes with it – making new friends, learning a new language and new city.

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned?

Being uncomfortable is okay, especially when going through change.

I came to Seoul after living in Vietnam for three years. I loved my time in Da Nang and by the time I left last winter, I had a comfortable life with so many special friends and connections. I knew the city so well and everything was fairly easy and simple.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Seoul of all the cities in South Korea was because it scared me a little bit. It sounded so big and intimidating and I loved that idea. I wanted a new challenge of living in a highly developed city and learning a new language but what that meant didn’t fully sink in until I got here.

The last six months have been exciting and fun but also awkward and challenging. I have been able to study Korean with two amazing teachers and have also made friends and have a good job. But there have also been days where things aren’t perfect and feel uncomfortable.

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

I truly love to learn. I have always know this but over the last few years, it’s really hit me that I am a life long learner. In Vietnam, I was a part of a Christmas choir and also took a dance class. I had never done those things well but decided if I was interested I could do it.

14. Anything else you’d like to add?!

The experience of traveling and doing new things is always worth it, even if you have to budget or rearrange things!

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

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.

U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Richmond, Virginia

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

Fun fact: I’ve been to 43 U.S. States!

Another fun fact: I hardly ever talk about it.

I’m a big advocate of traveling within your own country, as much as you do internationally, so I’ve decided to do a mini-series on some of my favorite state capitals. First up? Richmond, Virginia.

Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful city. I visited back when I was a kid, and even then I remember loving it because of all the history. That’s one thing I wish we had more of on the West Coast. Of course, we have history, but it doesn’t go back as far as the Eastern United States. Here are just a few nuggets about Richmond, VA.

History

  • It’s the third capital city for Virginia, after Jamestown (been there!) and Williamsburg (been there!). Richmond became the capital in 1780.
  • Remember Patrick Henry? Well, his famous speech of, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” happened in Richmond!
  • There’s an epic statue that features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Andrew Lewis, John Marshall, George Mason, and Thomas Nelson Jr.
  • Thomas Jefferson designed the state capitol building! Cool, huh?
  • Pocahontas lived here! That’s right, the princess herself.
  • The first African American governor was from Richmond: Lawrence Douglas Wilder

When I was a kid, I used to be obsessed with colonial America, so I loved popping over to Williamsburg (less than an hour drive), when my family visited Richmond. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget Williamsburg. I still have an “E” shaped bar the ironsmith there made for me, on my wall… 16 years later.

Williamsburg was pretty much my favorite thing ever, after reading the Felicity American Girl Doll books.

Cool Things to Do

But enough about the past (but kinda still about the past)! There are tons of cool things to see in Richmond right now.

  • Hollywood Cemetery: I absolutely love cemeteries, and this one should not be missed. Not only does it host amazing architecture, but it also holds 22 Confederate generals, two U.S. Presidents, and six Virginia governors. It’s second only to Arlington National Cemetery in the number of visitors it receives.
  • Central Virginia Highland Games: I’m all about celebrating my Scottish heritage, and I just found out Richmond has Highland Games that are on another level! They include competitions in everything from harp playing to rugby and once upon a time they had a competition for who could keep a ferret in their pants the longest. True story.
  • Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: The botanical gardens in Richmond are on another level. The gardens stretch over 50 acres, and include a healing garden, a children’s garden, and more varieties of plants than you can count. It’s definitely a must-see.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Richmond, you could find an adorable Airbnb, or if you’re more in the hotel mood pop over to Hotel Planner Richmond to find amazing spots like Jefferson Hotel, which has hosted five U.S. Presidents (William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin D. Roosevelt)! Have a blast in Richmond!

2017 Blogger Recognition Award

I was pretty excited to recently find out I’d received the Blogger Recognition Award from a fellow blogger, Mandi, who pens the brilliant blog Big Tiny Steps. She’s newer to the blogging game, but how awesome for her to find time to encourage and acknowledge other bloggers she loves?! Thank you!

The requirement for this award is that I write up why I started my blog. If you’ve been following along the past few years, you’ll know that the reason I started this whole crazy ball of wax was because I accepted a job working as an au pair in France.

Throughout my pre-au pair experience I blogged about how anxious I was about moving to another country, and then that grew to the pride and struggles and joys and tears of living 5,000 miles from my home city. France was difficult, but having a platform to write down my hopes and fears, and all 7 million emotions I was feeling, made it so much easier. This also became a platform where I could rely on beautiful people to encourage and make me laugh, even on the bad days. It’s always been an interactive experience for me, and I love that. More than anything, travel is something I want to share with those around me. It’s not about me. It was never about me. It’s about sharing experiences so much bigger than myself with a global community.

2 Pieces of Advice:

1. It’s gonna hurt

It’s so hard to keep writing consistently, because life happens and shit (sorry mom) goes down, and you forget to write (or just don’t want to). Do it anyway. If you started a blog because your heart was screaming for you to write (which I’ve found is often the case) then it’s your obligation to yourself, and the universe, to put pen to paper…or fingers to type keys. Set up a schedule. For instance, when I first started off I blogged twice per week NO MATTER WHAT. It took me a while to figure out what day was best for my audience, but once I got the hang of it, things went better. I’d say it took me about 6 months to get “comfortable” about blogging consistently, and to be honest I still struggle with it, occasionally.

2. HAVE FUN!

Finished is better than done. Your blog posts do not need to be perfect. Not saying you should throw unedited work up on your blog, necessarily, but you don’t need to wait until you’re “ready” to post. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, like me, you’ll probably never reach that point. Just hit the publish button. More than likely people reading just really want to hear from you.

Nominations

Here are my nominations for blogs that I think exemplify this award, whether that be because I admire their bravery in what they write, love their style of writing/blogging, or just can’t wait to see what they post next!

  1. Samantha Deubel Photography
  2. Rise Up Mamas
  3. Samantha Farquharson
  4. Joy Filled Wander
  5. Traveling The World Solo
  6. Very Hungary Explorer
  7. Celeste Noche
  8. 22 Stars
  9. The Wandering Ginger
  10. The Bearded Genderqueer
  11. Katie Geluso
  12. Camino Casamel
  13. Life of Fairy Tales
  14. Mikayla Jane Travels
  15. Madison McGhee 

Now that you’ve been nominated— pay it forward, and spread the love to your favorite bloggers!

  • Include who nominated you and a link to their blog.
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
  • Write a story about how and why you started your blog.
  • Give new bloggers two pieces of advice.
  • Provide a comment on each nominees blog to tell them about the award with a link to this post.

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?

Tea Talk 5: Johanna Luz | Traveling Environmentalist

It’s been 9 years since I met Johanna at college. We were both assigned to the smallest dorm on campus, and the memories of that year are some that will stick with me the rest of my life. I remember when I first found out that she wore glasses every day not because she had a prescription, but just because she felt like it. How can you not admire someone with that level of dedication?

Johanna and her husband are currently on the trip of a lifetime, driving down from Oregon to South America while providing medical and environmental help/education in exchange for world knowledge about how to live a more sustainable life. They’re driving down in a veggie bus (aka a bus that runs on used kitchen oil), while simultaneously writing a book about their adventures, and it’s kind of the coolest thing ever. Their blog is an absolute inspiration and I would highly recommend hopping over for a read! But first, here’s an introduction to one of the coolest girls I’ve ever met:

What started your passion for traveling?

I think there was never a time when I wasn’t traveling, so for me it became more about figuring out how to continue to travel. My Mom is from Germany, my Dad is from Oregon, USA and I grew up in Venezuela. Since the age of 1, I was on an airplane flying to visit relatives in different places around the world.

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

There are many different ways of traveling. Sometimes people have a fixed idea that it requires a lot of money and privilege, and that therefore, it isn’t accessible to everyone. The more I travel, the more I run into people traveling in the most alternative ways. My husband and I recently made our way down Baja California, Mexico. We ran into bikers, hitchhikers, a family living in a school bus, buskers, and artists, all figuring out ways to travel long periods of time on low budgets. We, ourselves, converted our van to work with used vegetable oil fuel. We collect it for free from restaurants in the cities we travel through and in that way minimize our fuel expense on the road.

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

My husband. We met as teenagers but we re-connected when I backpacked through Guatemala years later. It was the beginning of a 2.5 year long distance relationship (Guatemala-Venezuela). I have picked up eating beans, eggs & tortillas every day, saying “chilero” (cool) and much more!

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

Do it. Period. I did my first extended solo trip when I was 19 through Spain and Portugal. It felt extremely liberating and powerful to rely 100% on myself in a place where I knew no one and where no one had a prototype of who I was. I felt truly free and that feeling is something I try to hold on to ever since.

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

I’m always trying to make sure I don’t fall into a tourist trap or get ripped off in an incredibly stupid way. When I was traveling through Central America in 2012, I crossed into Guatemala from Mexico by land without knowing the exchange rate (not something I recommend). After exchanging some money on the border, I hopped on a tuk tuk (3 wheeled vehicle) to go to the nearest bus terminal. I was charged 150 Quetzales for a 5min ride. Then I rode the bus for about 3 hours and was only charged 15 Quetzales. I realized at that moment the tuk tuk driver had overcharged me. I had paid him$20 instead of $0.50, which was the real price!

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

During many points of my life, I struggled with being timid and embarrassed about a lot of things about myself. When you travel, you don’t have a choice. You have to put yourself out there, ask people for directions, get to know strangers and look like a total lost foreigner. You also are constantly getting to know people and explaining who you are to others who have very little context about where you come from. Traveling and meeting people on the road has helped me get to know myself better and feel more confident with who I am in the world.

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

The road less traveled, whatever that may be. But usually, it’s not by plane. Right now I’m doing an extended trip with my husband called Camino Casamel. We are traveling in our van that we converted to work with used vegetable oil as fuel (Veggie Bus Diaries on Instagram). We began our trip in Oregon and are currently midway through Mexico, collecting used oil from restaurants along the way. We plan on making it to Panama and possibly further South.

Traveling this way has been a lifestyle choice, as we live in our van and have a purpose beyond visiting tourist attractions. We are also learning about natural medicinal practices from the different regions we visit. It’s been very enriching to travel slowly and connect in a deeper way with the people and places we visit.

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

I’ve always wanted to travel more extensively through South America. I grew up in Venezuela and have visited Colombia. I would like to see the rest of the continent and make it to Brazil, especially.

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

Our current trip is a huge project we began dreaming about a few years ago. We started by thinking about ways of connecting our passions and wanting to begin our lives together in a different way. Our project Camino Casamel (or Veggie Bus Diaries), came about after Aidan had graduated from Medical School in Guatemala and after I worked with community environmental projects in Caracas, Venezuela. Ancestral medicinal practices and more natural lifestyles are areas that drew us together. We decided to travel through different countries where we could learn more about this, using waste vegetable oil as a greener fuel option and living in our van so we could cut on traveling expenses.

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

Getting started was very difficult. We originally thought we were going to start our trip in Spring 2016 but we were delayed a year. We had mechanical issues, a difficult conversion to vegetable oil system, and needed a lot more time and money to prepare.

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

We both learned a lot the year we had to wait to begin our trip. At times, we didn’t even know if it was still going to be possible. I definitely learned that sometimes things don’t work out the way you anticipate. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Sometimes you will have to wait, sit back and re-evaluate. Then, do it again but better. And take your time. Rushing things often will set you back more.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve traveled and lived extensively in Latin America and have a few strong opinions about certain things I wanted to mention J Throughout the years, I’ve met a lot of travelers and been one myself. One thing that I think is EXTREMELY important is learning about the local context and history of the places you visit. Often, travelers from “developed countries” will visit Latin America with very little knowledge about how U.S. political intervention and foreign economic interests have shaped, damaged and are currently still harming the region. This is true not only for Latin America, but for most developing countries in the world.

I don’t say this to accuse or create guilt, but as a means to encourage travel a way of educating yourself about what is happing in the world and how your home country may be affecting lives overseas in ways you aren’t aware. I think this type of awareness also creates a deeper travel experience as you hear personal stories from the other side of history and learn things that aren’t included in classic text books.

For example, in Nicaragua there is the Museo de la Revolucion (Revolutionary Museum) in Leon, exhibiting a civil war the U.S. was directly involved in. Ex-guerrilla fighters give the tour. Our guide shared his personal experience of the war, of the friends and family he lost and how the country was destroyed. I remember the guide told us with a depth in his eyes, “There is absolutely nothing worse than war, avoid it by all costs.”

To follow along on Johanna’s adventures, you can check out her blog, purchase the book they’re writing or check out their Facebook page

The Truth About Interning At A Non-Profit

The year after I graduated from college I lived with eight people in a three bedroom apartment on the beach. True story. I was working for a non-profit called Krochet Kids International, which works to empower women in developing countries, such as Peru and Uganda, to rise above poverty through employment and financial/job training. The company is honestly just amazing, and you should definitely take a hop over to their site, if you haven’t heard of them before (or even if you have).

I’ve been thinking a lot about my time in Newport Beach, lately, and how much it turned me into the person I am today. It was one of those turning points in my life, that sent me down the path I’m on now, and I’ve really grateful for that opportunity. Here’s what I learned from my time there:

1. People Matter

When situations get crazy in your personal life, or in the world at large it can be easy to stop thinking about others, and start focusing more internally. I get it. We’re human and we want to protect ourselves. But building a turtle shell existence is not going to help or save you. What it will do is harden you to the things that are going on. Traveling is important to me, whether I’m taking a day trip or a weekend vacation because it introduces me to all types of people, traditions, cultures and places where I don’t “belong.” It makes me feel small.

Maybe it sounds crazy to want to feel this way, especially in America’s power and success obsessed culture, but hang with me for bit while I explain. When I lived in France I felt a lot of emotions, but one of the biggest ones that I remember was frustration. France is unique to western Europe in that a lot of people won’t speak English to you, if you try. So, if you don’t know the words for how to express yourself you’re just left standing stupid. Personally I think it’s healthy to feel stupid sometimes. It puts things in perspective. Moving back to the U.S. obviously I have a lot of advantages, being from here. I speak English, obviously, and I know the cultural do’s and don’ts of living here. But I’ll never forget how humiliating it was in France to not know the word for something. I’ll also never forget how grateful I was when someone stepped in to help me communicate. The word relief doesn’t even begin to explain.

When I’m here I reach back to those times, when I see someone struggling in a culture/country that’s clearly not the one they’re most familiar with. Why? Because people matter, and when it boils down to it, we’re all just trying to feel valued and accepted.

Coolest bosses ever?

2. I Am An Introvert…And That’s Okay

Living with 8 other people was insane. We had a tiny kitchen, a tiny living room and I shared a bedroom with three other people. Personal space was not a thing. To be honest, looking back, our accommodations were probably borderline, if not definitely, illegal somehow. But throughout that time I realized the importance I have for a quiet place, and quiet time. I spent time on the beach and in parks just simply sitting and journaling and reading. Those were things I always had the luxury of easily doing growing up, because I grew up in a house of very quiet/almost hermit-like people. But when I lived in California I had to very intentionally make time for the things that were important to me. I had to make time for me.

What did I learn from this? Well at the time, that I need my own space (hence never sharing a room with roommates again) but also that it’s not only okay for me to be introverted, it’s actually great! A lot of people misunderstand that introverts are “lonely” when they’re spending so much time alone, but that’s usually not the case. As an artist, and a writer I need that alone time in order to make and create things. Creating and building is how I feel fulfilled and happy. No need to worry about this hermit.

3. There’s Always A “C” Option

I have this chronic condition where I always want to “do the right thing”…to the point where sometimes I do the wrong thing because it’s the rules, and the rules must be right, right? Wrong.

After my internship in the OC I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. Would I continue to live in California? Would I move back home? I had panic attacks for a good month before one of my friends sat me down and reminded me that it wasn’t “Should I stay in California” vs. “Should I move home.” There were so many other options – one of them being “neither.” While this sounds so obvious, as I’m writing this, I remember being completely astounded at the time. It opened my mind to so many other possibilities for what the next step could be. To this day, when I’m comparing one thing against another I remember to consider option C – neither one.

4. It’s Not The Work – It’s The Team

Most entrepreneurs will tell you that they quit their day job of 40 weeks to pursue working for themselves for 80 hours a week, and are so much happier. Well, while I was working in California that really was the reality of the situation. While I wasn’t working for a business that I started, I was working for one that had a clear goal and mission to help other people. And let me tell you: we WORKED. We worked weekends and week days, and nights and early mornings and it was insane. I remember working alongside the founders at Krochet Kids as we worked so hard to build this brand to help others who most of us would actually never meet. I learned so much about honest hard work and how much a common goal can bond strangers together.

Most days I was flat out exhausted. But it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Because, when it comes down to it, how long you’re spending doing something is not what wears you out, it’s what it is that you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with.

5. Reach For The Stars

My internship with Krochet Kids International was not a spur of the moment idea. For three years I had dreamed of doing it, while I was in college. I loved the brand and everything that it stood for and I thought that working for such a passionately invested company was going to be the pinnacle of my existence. The only problem was…I was terrified to apply. Why? Because if I didn’t get it, that was it. That would be the end of the dream that I had held onto for so long. And what if I did get it? I would have to pack up/get rid of everything that I owned in order to move to another state and live/work with people I didn’t know.

Having now moved/lived/worked in France, it’s crazy to even think how scared I was of the potential to move a couple states away, but at the time it terrified me. It’s moments like this when you have to take a deep breath, and let your heart overtake your mind. Usually I’m not an advocate for heart over mind decisions (shout out to my overly analytical Scandinavian-American upbringing) but if you hear that little voice pressing you toward something so much that you’re thinking about it for three years? Honey, you need to do it.

Throughout so many of my travel decisions I’ve been so scared to fill out the applications, apply for the visas, board the planes, start life over, but each and every time I’ve seen my life blossom in ways I could have never imagined, before. Don’t be afraid to take the leap, you never know what adventures life could have in store.

The best. #interns