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.

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10 Tips For Traveling Introverts

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Tour Buses in London

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

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

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

1. Bring a book:

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

2. Bring headphones and plan an awesome play list:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Bring a journal:

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

6. Plan out as much of your trip beforehand: 

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

7. Bring a camera:

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

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

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

9. Force yourself to hang out with people: 

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

10. Get out of your comfort zone:

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

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