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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Top 5 questions I get asked about Paris:

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Living in such a tourist favorite city as Paris, I get a lot of friends who are visiting here and want to know what my perspective on the city is. For the sake of time management, and so I can help out as many people as possible with my faux Parisian opinions, I thought I would put together a post with the answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently. Ready!? Let’s go!

1. Where should I stay?

There are tons of options for where to stay during your time in Paris! My personal favorites would probably be to either find a hostel to stay in or to find a place on Airbnb because Couchsurfing requests don’t work as often in such a huge city. The hostel that I stayed in the first time I came to Paris (which I would definitely recommend) is the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau which is an affordable option for a city where money melts out of your pockets, if you’re not paying attention. This hostel had so many lovely memories for me. It was here that my friend and me met a couple of awesome backpackers who walked the streets of Paris with us, late at night. We had drinks at a café and talked about how different life was in each of our different countries (Brazil, Spain, USA and Romania). It was the quintessential Parisian moment and one of my favorite memories. The hostel itself is also just lovely and looks like a museum from the outside.

2. What should I see?

I think Paris does a great job with their most famous attractions, but if you want some personal suggestions I would say make sure you visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur church. That’s my favorite area in Paris because it’s where all of the artist stores are. This is also where you can find the “famous” square where you can buy original paintings from Parisian artists! One time I got my silhouette cut out from one a man there and I absolutely love it. 🙂
Another favorite spot is the Gardens at Luxembourg, especially if it’s sunny outside. These gardens are absolutely beautiful and such a great place to sit, have a picnic, walk or sketch. But fair warning, if it’s a sunny and nice day this is a very WELL KNOWN spot for Parisians so you most certainly will not be alone.
My best suggestion is to look up things you love, such as the movie Mulan Rouge, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, or Midnight in Paris and then go from there. There are just so many amazing settings  for stories that you can visit in real life. It’s amazing!

3. Should I stay away from anywhere in Paris?

I get a lot of questions asking what the “bad” parts of Paris are. The answer, of course, is not quite so simple. There are of course “bad” metro lines ( *cough* 13) that are a bit on the sketch line, but I would say to be aware no matter where you’re traveling in Paris.  1) Keep your valuables in zipped or buttoned pockets so people can’t slip their hands in and pick pocket you. 2) If you’re in a crowded space, and have a bag or purse, hold it over your shoulder and in front of you so it’s not hanging behind being gone through without your knowledge. 3) NEVER leave your bags unaccompanied 4) Don’t walk alone late at night down dark alley ways 5) If you feel like you’re in an area that’s less than serene keep your headphones out of your ears and keep aware of the people around you. The rules are pretty much the same for any big city – don’t be scared, be prepared.

4. How do I get around?

There are actually a few ways to get around, although the main ones that we use are the RER and the metro (sometimes other trains, but not as much for Paris proper). Paris actually has a pretty understandable system when it comes to metros and each line is color coded and numbered. If you ever need help when riding the metro feel free to ask the info places at the entrances to the stops (before you put your ticket in). They’re extremely helpful and have even been known to print directions for lost travelers or first time visitors to the city.

5. Do you have any favorite spots I should know about?

Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk up and down the Seine river. It’s the closest thing we have to an ocean, and I miss Puget Sound so very much. I also love that it will take you along many of the major attractions. The gardens of Paris are also just simply magnificent. If there’s one thing the French excel at it’s making things beautiful and elaborate, and their gardens are no exception – if you have the opportunity to step into one with a book to read – do it. The atmosphere is lovely and oh so French.

5 Favorite Hipster Spots To Travel To

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Being born and raised in the Northwestern United States, specifically the Seattle region means I’m no stranger to the word hipster. In fact, I’d say that word and I are long lasting friends. We’ve been through a lot together, including strange haircuts, overly artistic and moody experiments and a nose piercing and tattoo my mom would rather I didn’t talk about. That being said, when I travel I generally look for the hipster vibe in my days there. At first it wasn’t on purpose, then I tried NOT to find those little places that you’ve probably never heard of. But finally I faced it – I am a hipster, and I am okay with that. Maybe you are too – maybe we all are – but regardless, here are some of my favorite hole-in-the-wall-small-time-you’ve-probably-never-heard-of-them stops.

1. Stock Coffee Shop: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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This coffee shop is actually connected with the adjoining hotel and I absolutely fell in love with it during my time in Amsterdam. It’s not hard to see why! The staff was so incredibly nice, the food was amazing and even the tea was incredible. I was surprised how empty it was when I was there, but my hipster soul was glad of it. It’s no wonder I visited four times in two days!

2. Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop: Galway, Ireland

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Ok, so this is actually a pretty popular stop spot in Galway, BUT if you walk inside you’ll understand why it’s added to my list. The whole enormous space is stacked top to bottom with vintage books (and new!) and it has that “curl up and never leave” vibe that makes me want to grab my hipster glasses and take some epic Instagram photos – filtered to the highest degree possible.

3. Art Store:: Glasgow, Scotland

ArtStoreQueenStreet3_zpsdce05b50When in doubt, name your store exactly what it is. It’s a kind of ironic beauty that you really can’t compare. At this store I bought a 2″ x2″ canvas which I still haven’t painted anything on it, but I kind of love that I could buy canvases that were small enough to fit in my palm. The location of this store is also pretty hipster awesome because it’s right across the street from the Duke Of Wellington statue, which can often be found sporting his crown of a hot orange traffic cone. 

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4.   Dachkammer : Berlin, Germany

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Like being surrounded by a log cabin interior without leaving the busy city? Well, this is the spot for you! Not only was it dark, poetic and all lit up with candles and dimmed lights, but it was filled with a kind of 1920’s prohibition era spirit. Whether you’re looking for a place to read moody things, or to go for a late night drink (WARNING: No WiFi here – way too mainstream), this is definitely a top spot I love.

5. Cupan Tae: Galway, Ireland

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6151880684_32c576057aFor those days when marathoning Downton Abbey just isn’t enough, you have Cupan Tae to pull you through. Not only is this one of the cutest tea shops I’ve ever been in (or should I say “Tae shops”?) but the staff who works here is just absolutely the nicest. Not only did they charge my phone (I brought the wrong charger for Ireland) but they were attentive and the tea was sublime. A must stop shop for anyone looking for a delicious bite to eat, or a cup of tea to keep you going.

Honestly, this is all I think of when I say the words “Cup” and “Tea.”

Ten Things Nannying Taught Me

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Tomorrow will be my last Thursday as a nanny to the family I’ve been working with for over TWO YEARS. Next week will be my last week. Crazy, I never thought I could “commit” to a job that long, but it’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’ve grown so much over these past years. And while I’ve taught the kids I work with, they’ve taught me so much about myself, communicating with others, relationships, friendship, siblingship, love and selflessness. Here are some of my favorite lessons:

1. In every job that must be done, there is an element of funab2d309c23174c13e6ad5165dbcad3de3389eb77Something that I didn’t realize before becoming a nanny is that NO ONE LIKES CHORES. It’s not like you grow into an adult and *snap* you love washing dishes and cleaning your room/messes. No one likes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an opportunity for fun. I’ve learned to embrace the fun aspects of getting things done, such as getting kids to race with getting their pajamas on, “fish toss” their laundry away, and Disney music dance the dishes clean.

2. What you’re passionate about MATTERSsound-of-music-maria-and-guitarHave you ever stopped for a minute and realized how much we encourage children, as a society? We encourage them to do their best, work hard, dream, imagine, and run after things they love. Somehow, these are all lessons that we (often) lose when we grow up. Being a nanny encouraged me to start loving sports again, pursue being an artist as a profession, instead of just a pastime and be unafraid to plan for the future.  It’s absolutely amazing the rebounding ability of children. We all fail sometimes, but we all have to get up again and keep dreaming.

3. It’s ok to be a little kid, again

24nanny-600  Who said adults aren’t allowed to have fun, anymore. There’s something wholesome and amazingly refreshing about remembering how to have fun before it had to include going to clubs, drinking, smoking or trying to look “cool.” We all have that little part of us that likes the silly, the imaginative and the crazy. It’s ok to stop being serious and be a little weird sometimes.

4. Never underestimate the power of your wordsyou-is-kind-ymhjvrThe way we speak to others is something I know I took for granted before becoming a nanny. I had more of a “if you don’t like what I say, too bad” approach, and I think over time that hurt more than ever helped me. Being around kids, you can’t do that. You can’t cut down, demean or be “brutally honest” (although, they definitely will be to you). Instead you have to encourage, uplift and inspire with your words. Even if you’re saying something negative, you have to go about doing it in a way which is positive. Learning this skill has taught me more than four years of college and a communications degree. The way we talk matter, don’t let your words be aimless.

5. How to be a big sister

uktv-doctor-who-xmas-2012-10Some of the “kids” I nanny are in high school and that makes the whole process of “nannying” quite different than working with elementary age kids. They don’t need me to remind them to go to the bathroom, or to feed them. What they do need is someone to talk to, share clothes with, and watch trash TV with (just a little bit). Two of my girls really have become like little sisters to me. We watch the same TV shows, read the same books, talk about fashion, talk about boys, sex, tampons and every other embarrassing thing you can think about in high school. I get to encourage and uplift them, but more importantly I get to speak truth into their lives. I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of life experience. Whether your past is good or bad, you have something valuable to offer to the next generation.

6.  Gentle words can have just as much powersupernanny-pic-sm-348146256Learning how to “work with kids” meant something different to the past generations of my family. To put it nicely, it involved spankings and soap. But I’ve learned, after two years of working with kids that I have no option to discipline in that way, that there are so many other ways of connecting with children and teaching them how to communicate, respect others and take ownership for their actions. Of course, with every child there are different ways of discipline, but I SO love expanding my knowledge.

7. Sometimes you’re going to have to do embarrassing shit007TND_Scarlett_Johansson_013It’s true – you’re working with kids. What does this mean? Well, you’re going to probably be doing some embarrassing things like dressing up in weird costumes, letting them paint your face and dragging them on your legs as you walk in public. But, here’s the thing – who cares? Learning to chill out has been my biggest lesson from nannying. Because, the truth is, the only person whose opinion matters is your own and the kids (who are loving it – guaranteed).

8. Cherish the little things

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I’m pretty standoffish by nature. I don’t run up and give people hugs (in fact, I don’t really like hugs) and I’m not the type to call people sweetheart, or sit for three hours to listen about their day. But, over the past two years, I’ve learned that those little things like calling a kid “love” or giving them a huge hug when they come home from losing their soccer game ARE IMPORTANT. Despite my scandinavian background, I’ve learned so much more about valuing other people and really taking the time to cherish.

9. It’s not about you

jane-eyre-movie-jane-and-adele                              I’m a generation Y twenty-something. Every NY Times article and scientific research study tells me that I value instant gratification, self interest and ME ME ME. Which I think would have been a lot more accurate before I became a pseudo mother of five. When you have children running around you constantly, you have to start thinking about more than yourself. You have to have snacks always in your purse (NOT FOR YOU), extra water in your water bottle (ALSO, NOT FOR YOU), A GPS in your head (“Are we there, yet?”), a memory that holds all their birthdays (Forget one, and you’ve made “favorites”) and a mind that is completely not your own. You don’t think about you at the grocery store – you think about which kid likes spaghetti sauce, who hates blueberries, who’s allergic to eggs and who only eats tofu this month.

10. “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” grad.17333Being a nanny is so fulfilling, and at the same time heartbreaking because you know that it won’t be forever. You pour your everything into a family that, after you quit, you may never see again. But that’s the way it works. That’s what we’ve signed up for. Nothing is permanent except the love we leave behind, the memories we’ve made and the lives we’ve changed.

10 Tips For Traveling Introverts

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Tour Buses in London

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

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

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

1. Bring a book:

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

2. Bring headphones and plan an awesome play list:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Bring a journal:

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

6. Plan out as much of your trip beforehand: 

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

7. Bring a camera:

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

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

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

9. Force yourself to hang out with people: 

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

10. Get out of your comfort zone:

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

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