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! 

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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.

14 Ways I Save Money And Travel More: Part II

A while back I wrote about how I save money so I can afford to travel, and since y’all loved it, I’m back with ROUND 2!

I’m definitely not any kind of millionaire, and I don’t have a limitless incomes, so traveling has to be a very intentional priority for me. I don’t budget because I don’t like spending money (believe me, I love spending money) but because there are some things that are just more important to me. It goes like this:

My income + Saving on everything I buy = MORE $$ FOR PLANE TICKETS (yay!)

Disclaimer: My life is my own and these tips don’t/won’t necessarily work for everyone or every lifestyle…duh.

1. Rewards Programs 

Check out the reward programs for the things you already use. Have a credit or debit card? You probably have rewards or perks. If you go to the movies a lot, like I do, then you should check out their rewards programs as well. I also make sure to always get punch cards and things like that from smaller shops because the fact is, they usually don’t expire, and I’ve got a whole lot of free food/drinks for spending money I’d already be spending.

2. Mailing Lists 

So, call me old fashioned, but I actually use the U.S. mail system. This is how I get birthday specials, coupons for artsy sh*t and also how I keep up with the art world around Seattle. You’d probably be surprised how many mailing lists you’re missing out on, and what they’ll send you. (On another note, don’t forget to sign up for email lists)

3. Get High Off Learning

Can I just tell you how much I love taking free learning/educational courses? Not only does it give me a ton to talk about with people, but it also nourishes my mind when I’d probably be out doing something stupid because I’m “bored.” My favorite go-to is Khan Academy, but there are actually a ton out there. A quick Google search can usually find you a million and one to choose from.
*Fun fact: I got my last job because I self taught myself techniques from online courses.

4. No Alcohol Or Coffee

Here’s a fun fact: I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. There are a couple reasons for this, including (but not limited to) the fact that alcohol makes me pass out on the first sip and coffee puts me to sleep (#ADHD) but this also allows me to save a whole ton of money. If I do need to hang out in a coffee shop, or get some caffeine, I usually stick with tea. As for alcohol, I just lie and always say I’m the designated driver.

5. Car Sharing

I’m a huge advocate for public transportation, but I also use car sharing services like Car2Go and ReachNow. Both of these services allow me to use a vehicle when I’m in a hurry, or when I need to transport things like groceries. Overall, it takes such a huge load off my mind to know there’s an independent way for me to get around that’s WAY cheaper than Uber (Car2Go starts at $.35/minute).

6. I Have Roommates

I actually hate the idea of living alone, so this one’s easier for me. As we all know, Seattle’s a pretty expensive city. So to help with the cost, I live with three other awesome women in a house. Some people have issues with this, but as long as student loans rule the universe I think it’s a great way to save money while being able to afford city living. Especially when moving home to your parent’s basement isn’t an option.

7. Cook At Home Date Nights

I really love to cook, but I absolutely hate cooking for one. Seriously, I’ll eat a bowl of cereal for dinner, rather than cook myself a solo meal. That being said, date nights are a great time to step into the kitchen and get yo’ pizza on. The best part of cooking with someone you care about is that it’s inexpensive fun, there’s a tasty end result, and you get to make fun of them, you get to encourage the other person’s cooking efforts.

8. L-I-B-R-A-R-Y

I actually almost broke this rule recently, because I really wanted a book and almost cracked and bought it from Amazon. But then it came from the library, and I reminded myself why I keep things in my Amazon cart rather than allowing my impulsive self buy all the things. Books are my weakness, I’m not gonna lie.

9. Blow Money On Some Things

Here’s the deal. I don’t hoard money. I save money for things that I want (even if that’s for retirement, that’s still something I want…down the road). I do, however, have a list of things that are important to me (plane tickets, shoes, art supplies) so I have a rule: When those more expensive things are available at a great price, I throw down on them. This actually ends up saving me more money because when I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself, which means I’m more likely to save.

Don’t live a completely miserable life in order to save money. It’s about being smarter, not living in a blackhole of misery.

10. Stare At Your Finances

Grab a glass of grape juice ’cause shit’s about to get real (sorry mom). Every now and then you’re going to need to take a deep breathe and look over your finances. It’s not fun. Believe me, I know. But if you’re keeping careful track of what you’re spending I promise it will get less painful as time goes by. Some people recommend apps and spreadsheets for this, but honestly I just go through my bank statements. The truth will set you free.

11. Pay MORE For Student Loans

Here’s a fun fact: By paying more on student loans you’re actually paying less on your loans. Your mind is blown, I know. I usually pay an extra 25% on each of my loan payments because as “little” as that sounds, it actually really adds up over the 10 year span of time. See if you can pull a little more money in that direction. If you end up with a chunk of change from some random life, that’s also a great time to make sure it goes toward paying off, rather than partying.

12. Buy Refurbished Electronics…On Holidays

I love Black Friday. Not because I go stand in lines at 3am, but because that’s the time when I purchase my electronics—it’s when I bought my action camera, DSLR, and tablet. Why? Because it makes sense.

If you’re research the electronics you want to purchase, then you know exactly what you’re in the market for, right? Now all you have to do is find the online shop with the biggest sale. Also, whenever you can, try to buy refurbished!

13. Buy Essentials When They’re On Sale, Not When You Need Them

Again, this does not mean hoarding like a squirrel. But there are some things that you’re going to use, because it’s a part of your daily routine. For instance, yesterday I bought makeup removal wipes in bulk. Am I going to use 100 makeup wipes in the next week? No. But I do use them on a daily basis, so I know that if I buy them when they’re $3/pack, instead of $8/pack, I’m ultimately saving money. Have a mental or physical list of the things that you continually use (for me it’s usually toiletries, cleaning and bathroom supplies) can save you a whole lot down the line.

14. Download App Alerts 

A lot of the time people think I’m texting when I’m checking my phone, but usually I’m looking at some kind of alert. No, not from Snapchat (because I hate it…story for another time). I sign up for a few different store apps that send me special promotional deals and alerts when there are coupons or cheap prices for things. This is anything from art supplies to plane tickets to groceries. If there’s somewhere you shop a lot—download the app!

What about you guys? What are your favorite ways to save money? Leave yours in the comment section below! 

Six Tips To Slay At Thrifting

I was born in the aisle of a thrift shop. Okay, that’s a lie. But I had to get your attention, because today I’m talking about my absolute favorite thing in the world: thrifting.

If you know me from my non-internet life then you probably know that I thrift shop a lot. You probably also know that I’m really good at it.

Thrifting is a culture I was introduced to back when I was a wee lass. I remember thrifting with my mom, and spending absolute hours (felt like years) in the thrift store. Thrift stores were wonderous places where me and my siblings were allowed to roam free. My favorite sections? Books, shoes and craft supplies. Even as a kid I didn’t have much of an interest in toys. I wanted to MAKE things.

As a travel blogger, thrifting is a very necessary part of the lifestyle that I’ve chosen to lead. If I’m funneling my money toward plane tickets, it can’t be flying out of my purse for designer handbags. Thrifting is a lifestyle that enables me to live my best life. And today I’m going to be giving you six of my personal tips on how to thrift shop like a pro.

1. Hydrate, Eat and Pee First

For the love of all that is sacred in this world: Eat before you go shopping. Take care of your basic needs before you even think of stepping foot in a thrift shop. Most stores will have a bathroom for you, but to be perfectly honest not even that’s guaranteed. If I had a dollar for every thrifting trip that’s been ruined because someone who was with me needed to pee or got hungry/thirsty, I would be a very very rich woman. Thrifting is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t walk in and out in 10 minutes. Prep before you go (sometimes I even bring snacks and a water bottle with me in my purse).

2.  Choose Your Thrift Shop Wisely

There are three kinds of thrift shops I look for.

  1. Thrift shops in well-off areas (thrift shops are donation based, yo—do the math).
  2. Thrift shops that are run by charities (usually these are super cheap compared to chains like Goodwill or Value Village).
  3. Buy, Sell, Trade Shops and Consignment (this is where I buy designer items)

Which type of thrift shop you choose to go to really has to do with what you’re trying to achieve. I really like having statement pieces in my wardrobe that are well made (leather boots, leather jackets, leather purses…okay, so I like leather—what of it?) so shopping at #3 type shops is important, but I usually only go into these once every two or three months. #1 shops are my weekly trips because these are where I can find cool vintage pieces that people who don’t value their dead relations give away for free. One woman’s trash is another lady’s treasure. #2 spots are where I shop for furniture and other home items because big things you want cheap, if at all possible. You can also sometimes find other cool nuggets for really cheap at these (like when I found a pair of Frye boots for $20).

Favorite find — List price: $328 | I paid: $20

3. Know Your Brands

Here’s the deal: Unless you rely solely on vintage clothing (which you might—more power to you) you probably have certain brands in your closet that you’ve bought recently from a normal store. Remember those brands. Take a moment to jot them down. If you don’t have clothing that you love in your closet, then go to your favorite store (whether you can afford it or not) and try stuff on! Does it fit? Great, note the tags and brand. While you’re in a thrift store trying new things can be great, but also knowing what works for you will allow you to make smarter decisions when purchasing.

NOTE: I will admit that I have a bit of an advantage here because I worked at a two different consignment shops in the past, but get to know the feel and look of well made clothing and it will take you far!

4. Sale Days are the Best Days

Fun fact: Thrift stores have sales too.

How do you get to know about these sales? A lot of chain stores have email lists that you can subscribe to for updates on when they have sales, but smaller stores will have sales often just based off of how long an item has been in the store. You can’t always ask an employee outright what will be going on sale, soon, but you can pay attention to patterns (for example, if things that have been there one month are now on sale). There are also often sales based off of item categories (ex. all dresses, shoes). Check stores for calendars of sales dates, or check on their website.

5. Shop in Chunks

Here’s a really big insider tip: I never (ever ever ever) shop an entire store at once (unless it’s like the tiniest shop in the world). Why? Because that is just asking for exhaustion to set in, and this is supposed to be fun, remember!? What I usually do is hit my favorite sections (books, candles, shoes and fabric). Obviously, some days, I go in knowing that I need a pair of jeans or a dress for a party, so I’ll look at those specific sections in addition to my regular ones, but like I said, I’m not trying to pass out from exhaustion. How long do I shop for? I usually shoot for around 1-2 hours.

6. Don’t be Disappointed if You Don’t Find Anything

The beauty of thrift shopping is that you never know what you’re going to find. This also means that you never know if you’re going to find something. Do yourself a favor and don’t pressure yourself into finding that amazing piece the first time you ever visit a shop. Have fun with the experience, and realize that sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the hunt.

*Extra pro tip for introverts: Shop with headphones in and your favorite relaxing music playing. 

Tea Talk 4: Claudia Graf | Lifestyle Blogger & Photographer

Claudia and I are both part of this completely awesome Facebook group called Female Travel Bloggers, and I immediately knew I needed to reach out to her when I saw her adventures on her blog. Supporting, encouraging and highlighting other women who travel blog is such a huge priority for me, so collaborating with her for this Tea Talk was amazing.

Claudia started her blog A World Full Of Fairytales after a 6 week adventure in California, and she’s been photographing and writing her way around the world, ever since.

What started your passion for traveling? 

I went on a road trip in 2016 from San Francisco to Los Angeles what is one of the best road trips in the world. On my way from San Francisco to LA, I visited Carmel, Monterrey, Big Sur, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara. The beauty of the California coast hit me like a bolt out of the blue, and I fell in love with the magic of exploration.

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

Be fast when it comes to booking of flights, cars and hotels. It’s always hard for me to decide on times and places. I never know how long I want to stay somewhere. Unfortunately prices can rise after days or weeks of research. If I had been faster now and then, I definitely could have saved some money.

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

It sounds like a cliche but it’s the lifestyle credo ’Don’t worry, be happy’. During a vacation in Argentina and Chile I met and stayed with different local people. All of them were very relaxed and spontaneous. Nobody cared about time, nothing was stressful. That can be annoying (e.g. when you have to catch your flight ;-)), but overall I loved it.

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

Every woman should ask herself a few questions: Would I like to spend a whole day on my own? Would I like to go out for breakfast or dinner on my own? Would I like to go to the movies on my own? If everything is a yes, go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable, travel with a friend and plan a short solo trip for two, three or up to five days during that vacation. That’s a good way to find out, if you would love to be a solo traveler.

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

Sometimes, I despaired while reading too many hotel or Airbnb reviews. I mean, reviews are great and I appreciate them. However, it can be exhausting. Now, I try to check reviews only for a few requirements like cleanliness, friendly host or hotel staff. In the end, I rely on my gut instinct.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo? 

The best part is that you meet and get to know a lot of new people and friends. I made so many new contacts during my solo trips in the last year and have made new friends in LA, New York, Dubai, Italy, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. For me there is no worse part, I love it 100%.

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

I have much less fear in general when it comes to areas of a city and crazy people. 

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

I love flying. It’s calm, you can watch movies or listen to music. You don’t have to do anything else and nobody can call you. However, a road trip is still the best way to explore a country. You can stop wherever and whenever you want to and you see so much more.

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

I should have started earlier to travel the world. It really changed my life and mind. It gave me the conviction that everything is possible and I started my travel blog and Instagram account.

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

Oh, that’s hard. I have so many places on my list and almost everyday I add a new destination. I would love to do a trip with the Trans-Sibirian Railway from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. That trip must be an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing? 

I want to go to Iceland to visit blue lagoons, do horse riding and visit Reykjavik. A lot of people told me that this is an amazing city.

Looking for more travel inspiration? You can also follow Claudia on her adventures on her blog, or at any of the links below! 

Peace Like A River: April Travel Inspiration

Where in the world has Emilee been?

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

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

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

So what’s up next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Gregory Jade 50 Pack – Women’s

A lot can get lost in translation while I’m traveling. For instance, when I’m traveling you get to see the beautiful sites through the lens of my DSLR, but you usually won’t see the 30lb pack strapped to my back.

Well that’s all about to change. I’m starting this series on the gear that gets me around the world. Because a) I love sharing what actually works and b) you deserve to know what’s out there! This week I’m starting with one of the most important things when backpacking: your pack.

When I first started backpacking I bought one of the cheapest packs I could find. This wasn’t because I didn’t want a nicer pack (duh.), it was because I was broke as a joke and just needed to get out there. I didn’t care about comfort, or if I my spine would scream at me the whole time I was wearing it. What mattered was that I had something I could throw my stuff in.

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Old backpack, meet new backpack. This was right before I switched all of my patches over to my new pack (right).

Things aren’t quite the same, now. I have a full time job, and I’m no spring chicken. It was time for me to invest in a pack that would allow my back/body to breathe, while allowing my essentials to be easily accessible. Last year the answer came with the Gregory Jade 50 pack *insert heavenly music*.

The Jade pack is amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to purchase it, even though it meant saying goodbye to my other pack that had been with me for three years, through thick and thin (and living in France, which is a whole ‘nother story).

Want to see it in action? Click below:

So what’s so great about my new pack? Well the “LTS suspension” which is a fancy way of saying air can reach your back while you’re sweating like a sinner in church. Because that’s a huge reality, and not one that gets caught on the the other side of my Nikon. Carrying 30 lbs on your back makes you sweat. Like a lot.

The great news is that it isn’t as much of a problem with this Gregory pack because the back portion of the pack is shaped to support your back, while giving you the proper aeration.

This pack also has a multitude of pockets. Like, so many. In fact, there were so many that I didn’t even use some. Which is huge, because I usually stuff every possible tiny pocket. This pack also has an expandable front bucket pocket, which you can see in the photo and side and bottom compression, which is perfect for when you’re losing weight (#snacks) or gaining weight (#souvenirs).

One of my favorite features is that the zippers are welded, so they’re actually water proof. Which means if it rains (which it will) there isn’t water seeping into your pack. Glory.

The pack is also just incredibly comfy, which is saying a lot for having pounds and pounds of living supplies on your back. The handles are padded, and the fit system includes a pretty great harness, so that you don’t feel like you’re going to fall backwards…or down to the earth’s core.

In short, this pack is everything a pack should be. It’s intuitive, organized and easy to love. I’m not going to lie, I was reluctant to move on from my last pack…but this one won me over.

Cheers to the next adventure.

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See those flag pins on the top? Those lasted all of two plane trips before I had to take them off.

 

Tea Talk 2: Madison McGhee | Travel Videographer

Madison and I met through a Facebook travel community of women called Girls Love Travel. I knew I had to learn more about her travel adventures when saw some of her beautiful videos on Youtube. A West Virginia native she uses video to tell the stories of her travels and of the people she meets along the way. As a story teller in a different sense, I loved seeing another awesome woman traveller taking on the world one travel at a time!

What started your passion for traveling?

I think I’ve always had this inherent desire to see new places and meet new people. As a kid, I was never satisfied with the status quo and couldn’t wait to go to college. I grew up in a fairly small town and I think that had a lot to do with it. I knew everyone and had been everywhere. There was no sense of adventure or newness. Everything was the same. I went to university seven hours away from home and after meeting people from different places and doing some domestic travel with friends during our breaks from school, I knew I had to see more of the world.

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

Pack light. My friends reading this will laugh. I am the worst at this, but it really is so important. Not only is it inconvenient to carry around a 50-pound suitcase, but also it can be a pain at airports. You do not need the extra pair of shoes or your entire makeup bag.

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What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

The locals in Australia are really laid back. It’s partly why I love the culture so much – everyone is super chill. They walk around barefoot a lot and I especially noticed how strange it was that people go barefoot in supermarkets. In the United States, that’s not normal. So as simple as that sounds, was really a shock for me. Now I find myself slipping my shoes off when I drive or taking the trash out barefoot.

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

Plan and be prepared and be smart, obviously. But go!

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

Somewhere along the railway from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary all of my camera equipment was stolen on the train. As a filmmaker over 1,500 miles from home in a foreign country, I felt completely hopeless. It was heartbreaking. It was the biggest challenge I have ever faced while challenging. I learned to travel smart. I keep an eye on my stuff and have found the right suitcases, backpacks, camera bags, etc. that allow me pack efficiently and compactly.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Worst: You’re by yourself. You can only share your experience with words and photos rather than share the actual moment with someone you love. Sometimes that’s hard, and other times it’s really cool to share something with yourself or a total stranger.

Best: You find out so much about yourself. I found this incredible sense of independence by traveling by myself. I learned how to live with a carefree spirit and it’s carried over into my day-to-day life.

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What’s one fear that you’ve overcome, while traveling? 

I overcame my fear of being alone. I used to hate it so much – being alone. As an extrovert, I never thought being alone would be my thing. But I’ve slowly become so comfortable with being myself. I think that has come in part with growing more comfortable with who I am. Because I love myself, I love being by myself. Now I have no idea what I was so afraid of.

What is your favorite way to travel and why?

I think all offer a unique way of seeing things and their own level of convenience. Planes are fast and becoming relatively inexpensive. Trains offer the beautiful scenery – places that you’d only see by taking the train. And then there’s that feeling you get driving down a long road with the sea out the window, the windows rolled down, and your favorite song playing. That’s a beautiful way to travel, too.

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

It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do in 10 years. In fact, it’s normal. Pursue what you love and if that passion changes, let it, and pursue your new passion. Never “half-ass” anything. And always be kind to everyone you meet. There’s a soul inside of everyone.

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

There are so many places. I would really like to hike the Patagonia or Mt. Kilimanjaro. I haven’t done much “adventure” travel and that’s something I want to start doing more of.

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing? 

I’m planning a few trips that I’m really excited about. I’ll be filming all of them – of course. I’d like to do a Canadian road trip to see the national parks because they’re all free in 2017. I’d also like to see more the United States. Cuba is also on my 2017 list. I’m really excited about the opportunity to see more of the world and meet so many new people.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself? 

Travel has completely changed my life – and my career. I am humbled by everything life has thrown my way and am thoroughly looking forward to what is next.

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Follow Madison along on her adventures on her website, Snapchat or at any of the links below! 

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Tea Talk is a bi-monthly series that is published on the 1st and 15th of each month. Join me again on March 1st for our next feature! – Emilee

Tea Talk 1: Jessica | Travel Blogger, Artist

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Welcome to the very first “Tea Talk”! I’m so excited to introduce you, twice a month, to inspirational women who share my passion for travel. From artists to bloggers to moms to videographers, these posts are meant to highlight the lives of women who dared to strike out and explore the world around them. If you feel inspired, share this post with your friends!

First up: Jessica.

Jessica and I met while working at a childcare center a couple years ago and found common ground around the issues of feminism, social justice and teaching kids the rules of consent. Having worked in childcare for the past 4 years, I’ve always found it interesting how many childcare workers are simultaneously world travelers (whether they know it yet, or not). Last year Jessica set out on a solo adventure around southeast Asia. An epic journey that left her with buckets of stories to tell, and me without her as a roommate (#shameonyou). But now that she’s back, I couldn’t be more proud of her exploits, and adventures. Be sure to check out her blog where you can find stories, travel tips and art!

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What started your passion for traveling?

I have always been a huge book nerd ever since I can remember, and it wasn’t until high school that I really started thinking, “Hey, I could actually visit some of these places one day.” The more I read, the more the wanderlust started to take hold. I began reading more biographies and memoirs and dreaming about place outside of Washington State. I just knew I needed to see as much of the world as I can.

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

Give yourself freedom. In that, I mean don’t schedule everything out to a T. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and if you budget in a little flexibility, it usually ends up being okay. Or, you may get to a place that you absolutely love and want to stay longer than planned. If you get so wrapped up in the little pieces, you are more likely to be disappointed when things don’t go exactly “right”.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

This is probably less of a cultural habit and more of a “travel habit” but I care a lot less about how I look now. After trekking around in all kinds of weather, meeting strangers you are not likely to see again, it is easy to forget about makeup, smooth hair, and put-together outfits. Now I hardly ever wear makeup at all (my last trip I didn’t bring any with me) and I let my curly hair go free.

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

Trust yourself. I think one of the biggest things holding women back from traveling solo is fear: fear of getting hurt, getting lost, or worse. In reality, those things can happen in any part of the world. What makes the difference is that you are going to a new place, so it’s expected that you will feel less confident and prepared than you usually do back home. If you carry yourself with pride and trust in your own strength and abilities, you won’t have time to be scared and paranoid. Solo travel is such a great experience because this can be a great way for women to realize their strengths and how capable they are.

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

When I traveled solo for the first time, I tried to make friends with as many people as I could right away. I think it was my own insecurity about being alone and unprepared. I quickly got a reminder that I am not that person – I am an introvert who likes her “Me Time”. I met great people along the way, but I couldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I started feeling burned out from trying to be a socialite party animal fashionista. I decided to stick with a few people I got close to and skip the daily bar crawls.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Best: the freedom to do what you want, where, when, and how you want. I like being my own boss lady.

Worst: Getting tired and/or sick without your mommy or best friend to take care of you L

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

On my last trip I tried rock climbing for the first time. I am TERRIFIED of heights. I just sucked it up and did it. Now I love it.

What is your favorite way to travel and why?

I love traveling by boat. I think it is because I grew up on two islands and have always lived closed to the ocean. I love being on the sea. It’s is calming and usually not as crowed at a bus or a plane.

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

Be patient. Good things will come.

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

Morocco

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing?

The next country I am likely going to is Nepal. Otherwise, I hope to go on a longer backpacking trip through South America once I save up enough money. For now, I have a few connections in Nepal and really want to explore more of Asia.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?

When I was in high school I planned on taking my first trip to Thailand, but was unable to because my grandma passed away (she was going to pay for the trip). I went on my first trip to Thailand in memory of her.20170127_092943
Want to learn more about Jessica’s adventures? Hop over to her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram!
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Tea Talk: Coming February 1st, 2017

tea-talk-2When I first started backpacking I noticed something: all the people I knew who solo backpacked, were men. I knew girls who had studied abroad, or visited friends and family internationally…but I didn’t know any women who had solo backpacked. Why?

Once I bought my plane ticket I started to get a better idea.

There was, and is, quite a double standard when it comes to men and women traveling. The world is filled with endless possibilities for men, but for women? It’s a place filled with unimaginable terrors.

Three years ago I decided to stop listening to doubters, and followed the almost unbearable tugging of my heart. I bought a plane ticket on my birthday and explored England, Ireland and Scotland. It was the trip of a lifetime.

I didn’t know it then, but there are others like me. Women who throw their belongings in a backpack and buy a plane ticket to anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes we feel hidden. Sometimes we feel invisible.

We are a community of travelers living, learning, loving around the world. We are breaking down stereotypes and perceptions, and building foundations for a better world.

Join me, starting this February, as I uncover the mystery that is the female solo backpacker. This should be good…

Coming February 1st, 2017.

(Pst! This post isn’t over, yet! If you have someone you think should be interviewed, or you’re a travel girl who would like to be considered, shoot me a message at morehouseemilee@gmail.com or comment in the section, below!.)