Vacations are More than Relaxation

Long time no see, huh? For the last three weeks I was on vacation in Italy and Greece, and unlike in the past, I did not post while I was away. I even have some posts pre-written that were planned to be released while I was away but for some reason, I never felt the sense of urgency to actually post them while I was traveling. This time, I decided to treat this vacation as a vacation from all things – I did not work, I did not workout (apart from a couple runs), and I did not indulge my normal blogging schedule.

I was able to completely focus on my vacation and actually relax. I have kept such a rigid schedule the past couple years and I think I finally needed a vacation from all of my normal commitments, even the self-imposed ones. For the past year, I was consistently adding more and more commitments to my life whether they were social, self-improvement initiatives, or work-related. And after this trip, I realized that many of them are draining my life, more than adding to it.

Vacations, in general, are always great for me to take a step back and remind myself of what is actually important to me, but this time it was more than that. In a rare change of pace, this last trip was a trip more about the people than the places. I got to see one of my absolute best friends, as well as spend a Greece trip with my family like we used to. Spending so much quality time with people that are so important to me made me rethink my priorities a bit. I’m still working through this whole thought process but the basic idea is that I’d like to flip my thinking about how to plan my life.

I won’t go into it too much here because I still haven’t thought through it all, but the short story is that this vacation was more rejuvenating than most for my perspective and while I apologize for missing three Wednesdays, I don’t regret it at all. In fact, I’ve actually been thinking on going on a longer hiatus from my blog, and leaving it to someone else, but more on that later.

I’ve rambled a bit now, but this post only had one intention, and that was to explain my absence from the blogosphere to the few hundred of you that read my posts every week and to reiterate the point to our overworked populations that sometimes it’s ok to go completely off the grid and just feed your soul (although I definitely fed my stomach as well). I will return next week with some regular content, until then, let me know if you’d like more explanation on my change in perspectives and I’ll be happy to accommodate.

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Money – Must Be Funny

What? No ABBA fans here? Today I wanted to talk about something that I’ve mentioned surprisingly little on the blog for how much I love it in real life – money. That sweet, sweet green.

Now, I don’t want to talk budgeting because I really don’t have anything to add to that conversation. I have a budget, I keep track of all my expenses on a painstakingly detailed spreadsheet and there are millions of apps to help you out with budgets. Plus, my friend Rachal just released a comprehensive guide to creating your own budget on her blog, so if that’s your cup of tea, then begone to her blog post here.

What I want to cover is a concept called wealth building. I recently read an article discussing Jeff Bezos’s worth (founder of Amazon for those of you living under a rock), and the article put his worth at around $130 Billion. To put that in perspective for us peasants, $88,000 dollars to us feels like $1 to Jeff. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’d love to be able to throw around hundreds of thousands of dollars like it was coffee money.

However, there are only a couple of ways to really become wealthy. I’m not sitting on the next Amazon or Facebook idea at the moment, so the other major way I’ve been focusing on becoming wealthier is to make the money I do have work for me. I know it’s harder for my age bracket to feel like investing is a priority when the job market sucks so bad and rent is crazy, but the truth is – if you have Starbucks money, you have investing money.

I’m not going to go super in depth on investing strategies because 1. There’s a million of combinations, and 2. I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a strong investor just yet. But the point I’m trying to make is that so many of us are focused on saving ONLY. We want an emergency fund here, a future house fund there, but many people are only putting that money in an account for it to sit at the same value for years and years. A simple savings account usually has interest rates of less than one percent, and at our current young adult level, that means our money is literally only making a couple cents each year. The point of investing is so that the money that you’ve set aside makes money for you and you don’t even have to touch it.

Stay with me. Not all investing is making bets on the stock market, cryptocurrency, or being in real estate. There are simple accounts you can open with fiduciaries who will invest your money in a portfolio with a risk level you are comfortable with. A fiduciary is a firm that is required to act in their investors’ best interests.

So if you go ahead and start investing, you’ll probably make somewhere between a 2 and 10 percent return depending on your risk levels. Of course, you can get very lucky and make even more but even at 2% your money is going to grow way faster than just sitting in a savings account.

When I started investing, it was rather unrewarding. I didn’t have enough to dedicate to really see the difference, but now that I’m working with a few thousand dollars, those returns are starting to add up. And if we do the math, investing is the reason the rich get richer.  Let’s say they’ve got $100,000 sitting in investments. At 2% that is $2000 profit off of investments. If they’ve got $1,000,000 sitting there – that’s $20,000! And when you compound that interest, the number just grows and grows.

I’m going to stop with the math now since we all had to take basic accounting, but I take it I’ve made my point. The beauty of investing is that the money works on your behalf. There are risks with investing, of course, but they are surprisingly less drastic than the media and other authority figures have led us to believe. Just do some basic research.

One resource that was really good for getting started was Tony Robbins’ book Money: Master the Game. The first few chapters are a lot of motivational fluff, but if you really take notes and do some of the exercises, you’ll easily be able to build yourself a pretty comprehensive financial strategy.

The key to investing for me is to only invest money that I won’t miss too terribly. Obviously, as I dedicate more and more to my investment accounts, I would be livid if I lost ALL of it, but a 10% drop in the markets doesn’t phase me. Personally, I am in this for the long haul so any investments I make right now are with money I don’t need to live and wouldn’t miss if I couldn’t access it right away.

I have my simple savings fund set and my living expenses all worked out, and after all that I’m lucky enough to have quite a bit leftover to put into investments. One of my favorite investing ‘rules’ is to invest risky (risky here meaning more volatile investments, but with potentially higher rewards) while you’re young. Consequently, even if I lose every single cent of my investments, I’m young enough that I have time to rebuild. I also would make more money over my lifetime if I start young because of that whole compound interest rule we covered earlier. If I’m too risky when I’m older, it could be too late to recoup and I’d have to struggle for the rest of my retired life.

So while I might not ever reach Jeff Bezos levels of wealth, I think I’ll end up with more than enough if I stay on this track. Do some research for yourself, you might find that you like tacking zeros onto your bank account too 🙂

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Contrary to popular belief, millennials can have nice things like expensive toast AND have money for investments.

 

To Opine

This is going to be a short and sweet post since I’m currently sitting on my couch on a Sunday night stressing about all these work emails I just received, but dammit I committed to a post every Wednesday so I’ve gotta kick out this draft now.

Do me a quick favor and think about one of your most recent conversations. Did you talk about how you’ve been doing, and what you’ve been doing? Or maybe did it veer into likes/dislikes or maybe even heavier topics like current events? I basically covered every topic of conversation just now so unless you were having an intense philosophical interaction then your answer is yes. Chances are, you also shared an opinion at some point during that conversation. It may have been small like “Oh ew I could never eat that, cauliflower is disgusting,” or it might have been something heavier like “Lax gun laws in the United States are perpetuating a culture of violence and preventing accountability for violent actions.”

Sharing opinions is something that I have observed to be integral to United States culture in particular. Sure, people share their opinions in every other country as well, but the United States is obsessed with our first amendment, and thus our supposed right to say whatever we want, whenever we want.

Since I’ve had the opportunity to live in a couple different countries, I’ve noticed that no other culture is quite as aggressive about sharing their thoughts. You can get into a heated debate anywhere, but Americans seem fixated on their ability to share their opinion, ANY opinion, more so than others.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. In fact, people who don’t have strong opinions tend to bore me. PICK A SIDE PEOPLE. But that might just be my American showing. Personally, I immensely enjoy having conversations with people who have definite opinions because I have definite opinions.

Additionally, I would go so far as to say that nothing ever gets done by people who don’t have strong opinions. People in leadership positions often have polarizing personalities because they have strong ideas that maybe some people don’t agree with. Passive people rarely cause change. If you don’t even feel strongly enough about something to talk about it in normal conversation, you’re never going to shape the world to fit that ideal.

However, there is a limit to this opinion drenched, soapbox endemic that the American people love to court. Many people love to spout their opinion but don’t love to back it up. We’ve gotten lazy under the protection of free speech and we don’t bother to research and conduct our due diligence on our opinions.

In the end, I’m an American, and I am grateful for free speech. But I’m also grateful for the people in my life that taught me free speech is a responsibility and that I better know what I’m talking about.

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Waiting for your opinions

Steal the Little Things

I’ve realized over the past few years that I am a highly adaptable person. I’m not sure how I turned into this person since I distinctly remember being a nightmarish, stubborn goblin as a small child. But I have to believe this started early because I know I started to steal little things from people as early as age nine.

I don’t mean stealing material things (although my collection of different post-its was BOMB), I mean stealing little habits or tricks that I thought would make my life better. For example, the earliest memory I have of this is seeing a girl in one of my classes in fourth grade write a capital letter ‘E’. Up until that point, I had written it using one vertical line and then tacking on three horizontal lines one by one. But this girl (S/O to Emily Yuill) wrote hers as if it were a backwards three. I suppose this is also the cursive way to write it, but at that moment it seemed so fluid – one motion, smooth and unique. I decided I liked it, and I’ve written my E’s that way ever since.

Although that’s the earliest example I have, I can remember adapting all sorts of things – especially when it comes to ways of speaking and certain phrases. It’s been very helpful when I’m in a new environment to sound as alike to others as possible. I’ve become rather good at mimicking cadences of speaking and picking up common phrases in certain circles whether it’s a foreign country or a work environment. While this is helpful in my day to day life, I end up sounding quite strange when I’m speaking in a casually since my style has now become an amalgamation of many.

This also might be the reason I am obsessed with the daily routines of pretty much anyone. Those morning routine videos on youtube are like crack to me (a close second are packing videos). I am constantly searching for little tiny things that I think are more efficient or more helpful that I can add to my life. And it’s worked quite well for me, pretty much everything from my morning routine, speaking style, travel habits, and work behavior is a collection of tiny things I’ve noticed on others, adapted to myself.

I suppose this systematic collection of behaviors is basically what growing up is, but I’ve always been pretty aware of it. As soon as I see something I like, I immediately switch over to it to try it out. Not everything works though. For example, cold morning showers – HELL NO. I’ve tried a lot of things, sometimes too many things at once, and now I’ve amassed a whole swath of habits that I can trace back to a specific person, article, or video I’ve encountered.

This cultivation of activity is something that I’ve realized I love doing. I love looking for things that improve my life and recognizing them in others. Are there any behaviors you’ve adapted over the years? Think about it for a quick sec and see what things you do now that may have been appropriated from friends or family. You’d be surprised what you’ve collected.

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

Forgotten Talents

On Saturday I had the enormous pleasure of seeing the Calgary Philharmonic play the score to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Apart from my Harry Potter obsession, I realized I hadn’t been to the orchestra in a few years and I MISS IT. Not only do I miss watching the orchestra, I miss being a part of one. A little backstory here, I played viola as part of an orchestra for a little over a decade. And I was GOOD. Not great, but good enough to play in one of the most advanced orchestras my school had to offer. Unfortunately, I haven’t played much since high school and realizing that actually made me sad.

Back in high school, I had two “things,” if you will. Number one was swimming. I spent five hours everyday training and had at least one meet every week. Number two was orchestra. Being in the advanced orchestra meant I gave up at least half my lunch in addition to a normal school period for rehearsals. And of course, I practiced on my own in order to keep up. In between all that, I had my classes, and that’s how I went through school.

At the time, it was a lot. Training for swimming was exhausting and getting good at an instrument is an exercise in repetition that drove me nuts. But when I went to university, I stopped both of these activities cold. I told myself I wanted to focus on other pursuits like study abroad and internships and that since I didn’t want to become an Olympian or a professional musician it didn’t matter.

And it didn’t. I was perfectly happy swimming at my own pace for an hour workout rather than a 5 hour one and playing whatever struck my fancy on my viola rather than repeating the same four measure section over and over to wring it to absolute perfection. But after awhile, it did matter.

I hadn’t just done those activities in passing, they had been huge parts of my life for over a decade. I was really good at both of them, I had spent countless hours getting better, learning, improving, and then I just gave them up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’d change my decisions. I’m pretty happy with the trajectory my life took, but I do wish I had made an effort to include them at a bare minimum.

I miss competing at meets, I loved the adrenaline, I miss the feeling of winning,  and I miss cheering on my teammates.

I miss being part of an orchestra, creating a sound so big it fills the whole room. I miss joking with my stand partner, and honestly, I just miss playing.

I’ve replaced these things in my life now – I took up new sports, and now I write as a creative outlet rather than play music. But I miss my old commitments. I was glad to be rid of them when they were overwhelming, but nostalgia has come to haunt me and I think it’s about time I start swimming some laps and playing some music again.

Are there any talents you stopped, whether because of a life change or because they were too exhausting? Did you ever pick them back up? Let me know in the comments!

 

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I hope she doesn’t hate me for posting this throwback, but this was taken behind the scenes of one of my favorite concerts ❤

 

Stress Fest

I had some enlightened political post planned for today, but instead, I decided it was high time I got a little bit vulnerable with this blog.

The last few weeks I have been under incredible pressure. I have been ridiculously stressed before, but not since university, and even then I handled it in questionable ways.

To set the scene: I have been travelling for the last 6 weeks nonstop. I rolled on to a difficult to please client, with tons of time-sensitive work, and I fly out every Monday morning to see them and fly back late at night on Thursday evenings. When I return home, I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions between spending time with my boyfriend, my family, my friends, and my own personal hobbies like this blog.

Usually, I think of myself as pretty collected. The last few weeks…not so much. The tiniest comment from someone can send me into a full-blown depression spiral (suicidal thoughts, and all), and my anxiety levels are so through the roof that I’ve had a sobbing breakdown almost every Saturday for five weeks straight. We are talking on the floor of the bathroom ugly crying until I can barely breathe and my face is so puffy it looks like I had an allergic reaction to something. So you could say I’ve been rather high strung lately and it has not been pretty (it should be noted that my boyfriend has been extra great these past few weeks and deserves a shoutout).

Believe it or not though, I am actually handling the added stress much better than I have in the past and that’s because of one simple thing: I have not given up on my wellbeing.

In the past, when I’m under this much stress, my diet goes to shit (like gummy bears for dinner), my sleep takes a hit from staying up late trying to distract myself with shitty TV, and my workout schedule becomes just another chore. Although these behaviors felt like they were helping in the moment, ultimately they bit me in the ass HARD. My skin broke out, I was tired all the time, and I felt out of control.

Clearly, I’m no expert but my ONE tip on handling stress is to keep your wellbeing a priority. It is the one thing you can always control and the one thing that may just keep you sane as all the external craziness washes over you. Below, I’ve outlined what I do every single day to mitigate my stress and promote wellbeing. Not all of these will sound appealing to everyone, and maybe they don’t’ even apply to some of you. Everyone has their ‘things’ that help them feel healthy, whole, and in control. As long as you know what yours are and you make the effort to practice them no matter what, then you can’t really go wrong.

  1. You knew this was coming – I workout. 6 days a week, I make an effort to do something active. During the week, these are especially helpful because it helps me expel any negative energy that comes from a stressful day with the client. On Fridays and Saturdays, it is simply about feeling good about my body.
  2. Diet. This one has been harder to control lately as I’ve been travelling so much, but I’ve made a special effort to eat better while on the road. Eating lots of heavy, rich foods just makes me feel tired and slow. I notice a visible difference when I eat lighter, more nutrition dense meals for lunch and dinner. I also limit my desserts as those are usually my kryptonite.
  3. Meditation. This one is a new thing I’ve been doing since the start of 2018. I take ten minutes every day to go through a meditation exercise to regulate my breathing and practice controlling my perception of certain emotions. I use the Headspace app since I’m not practiced enough to guide myself through a meditation and the app has this calming male British voice to walk me through exercises which makes it much easier.
  4. Self Improvement – This takes many forms, but for me, I spend ten to fifteen minutes every single day practicing either my Greek or my Spanish (unfortunately Mandarin is getting left out because Duolingo doesn’t carry it). I also spend a half hour to an hour every day reading or writing. These are things that I’m doing for my own personal growth and that feel especially rewarding because I am doing them solely for my own improvement, not for anyone else.

It’s important to note that while these things help enormously in terms of keeping me feeling like I’m in control, I am still reduced to an insecure pile of tears every Saturday so there is still work to be done. And it’s also significant to note that it’s ok to be overwhelmed sometimes. It’s going to happen. The important thing is that you have an action plan to get on top and get going again.

 

 

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Me trying to channel Wonder Woman to cope with my stress PC: Kiki Moussetis (the queen of stress)

 

She’s the Brave One

It’s my sister’s birthday today! I’m sad I can’t be in Chicago to celebrate with her but it’s a Wednesday and we both have lives to live so we celebrated a little bit early. She turns twenty this year which means nothing so I’ve started planning for her twenty-first instead.

In any case, I had to, of course, write a little shout out post to her. I’ve written about my sister and my relationship with her a couple times before, and she’s even been a guest author on my blog so I’ll spare you all the repeats of content and focus in on one of my favorite things about her.

For those of you that don’t know, my sister suffers from a bit of social anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Sounds like a horrible combination to me, but she bears it like a champ for the most part. The crazy thing is that despite all of those emotional blocks, she is fearless.

First things first, she is studying to become a film director. Most parents I know would have a minor heart attack if their kid wanted to go into film because it’s just not a dependable career (this includes my dad who pleaded repeatedly with her to get a second major at first). Consequently, many kids would be talked out of such a path early on and go on to major in something boring to get a boring job that brings in good money (enter, me).

Not her though, she saw the special features on the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and said yep, this is the life for me. I’ve always been jealous of people who know exactly what they want to do, but she not only knows, she knows she has chosen a path that is very difficult to succeed on. She knows that to become a star director, there will be a lot of shitty jobs, long day, and bad pay. Or you know, she might submit a film to Sundance next year and become a breakout star at 21. It could happen.

She also never backs down. Ever.

Let’s compare us for a small moment. I have a pretty strong moral code. There are certain things that I just will not let fly and I will call people out on for the most part. However, I do have a threshold where I will flex my morals for my own personal gain. My sister does not. At least not one that I’ve seen. She will defend her views and others with every breath she’s got and no amount of personal gain could make her budge on that.

Her empathy for others is tied to directly to this moral code since she strongly believes that everyone should have equal opportunity and that people with more should help people with less. One of her common habits is eating lunch out in between classes, but if she passes someone on the street begging for food, you can bet she just gave her whole, recently purchased, lunch to that person and would go hungry that day instead. Most people I know would never do that. (Maybe I’m just friends with selfish people haha).

Furthermore, while she sometimes has trouble standing up for herself depending on the scenario, she almost never has trouble standing up for others. She refuses to let people be judged based on their demographics and will absolutely not stand for discrimination. So help anyone who tries to patronize or marginalize a group in conversation. She will RUIN you.

But in the end, it’s not about her witty insults or fiery conversation, it’s about the fact that she is willing to go to the ends of the earth to achieve what she believes in. Doesn’t matter if it’s her passion for film or her passion for others. Most people are like me, we compromise our ideals if there is something in it for us. We obviously have our limits, but we are much quicker to give up abstract beliefs when there is a reward. My sister is not. She will not flex, bend, or break.

There are tons of things I love about my sister – She can always be counted on to sing showtunes with me, she can calm me down literally within seconds, she’s the best writing teacher I’ve ever had, the best debate partner, she has fearless style – and so on. Of course, she also has flaws, but lacking conviction is not one of them and that is perhaps my favorite thing about her.

Happy birthday Kiki! I’m stocking up on sangria for next year!

 

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PC: Our loving mother

 

 

My Mom Knows the Words to Every Disney Song

I know I’ve jumped the gun a bit since Mother’s Day is still a week and a half away but next Wednesday is already reserved for another special post so I’ll just have to talk about how great my mom is a little sooner.

The idea of motherhood is still something I find unbelievable. Not only do mothers grow and support a tiny creature with their own body, they then have to extricate it painfully from their body, and then, of course, support it for the next eighteen years give or take a few. And while western countries are slowly becoming more progressive in terms of divvying up childcare responsibilities, in most parts of the world, mothers do most of the child-rearing work, especially at the beginning. Motherhood requires such selflessness, patience, and nurturing. Therefore, I find it extremely difficult to wrap my mind around this concept since I, on the other hand, can barely keep a damn cactus alive, much less a helpless little human.

Consequently, I believe mothers deserve an ENORMOUS shoutout. And of course, like most people who love their mothers, I think my mom is the BEST. Not only did she put up with, excuse me SHUT DOWN, all of my petty shit, she also made me resilient which might be one of my most important traits. Oh, and she also made me taller than average which I LOVE.

My mom is a very no-nonsense person on the surface. One of her favorite lines to feed me and my sister was “crying doesn’t solve anything”. Sounds harsh, but she’s right, isn’t she? I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen her breakdown, and if she decides to keep a straight face, she’s almost impossible to crack. One of the perks of being a swimmer was that she had to control her yelling since she knew I couldn’t hear her from the water. She doesn’t give in to puppy dog eyes, pouting, screaming, crying, or begging. I hardly got in trouble because all it took was one look from her to make me feel so guilty about whatever line I had toed, that I never did it again.

On the other hand, and she may kill me for outing her this way, she is a child at heart. Once you crack the surface even a little bit, she’s a total jokester. She’s the reason me and my sister know ALL the words to every Disney song, her sarcasm is off the charts, and she does enjoy the occasional harmless prank. She would tickle me and my sister mercilessly and would make up tons of ridiculous voices when she read us stories.

Despite all of the above traits, there are specific things that my mom did that really turned me into the person I am today. One of the most vivid memories I have is when I was probably about seven or eight and I remember my mom was in the upstairs bathroom getting ready and we were arguing about something – I have no idea what – when I told her I hated her. I remember being LIVID (or as livid as a seven-year-old can be) and shouting that at her. She calmly set down her makeup and walked straight past me down the stairs. I ran after her screaming my head off to tell me what she was doing. She made it all the way to the garage door, I was now crying, and I yelled, “where are you going?”. She turned and told me she was leaving. She said, if I hated her so much, she would leave so she didn’t cause me any more trouble. Oh boy did I backtrack after that. I was practically weeping and pleading that she didn’t go, and that I didn’t mean it. Because of that instance, as well as a few others, I always endeavour to mean what I say and say what I mean.

My mom is also a great study in small talk. I’m only now using some of her techniques, but she was always so great making small talk at the grocery store, with her colleagues, and at parties she didn’t even want to be at. I’ve always admired this about her, and now that I’m older, I realize how important this skill really is. She’s the kind of person that everybody feels comfortable with. I have no idea how she does it, but maybe I can figure it out sooner rather than later.

Probably my favorite characteristic about my mom is how open she always strived to be. For example, at the first signs of puberty, my mom handed me a bunch of books on the subject and told me to come to her with any questions. This technique made sense for me since I was a voracious reader. The part that was amazing though, was that she truly meant it. I was able to ask her anything. Sure, some questions were a little awkward, but she answered every single one and never made me feel judged for asking. And no matter what, she always made it clear that it was much more important to her that I was safe and happy than anything else. When I told her I was ready for sex, she took me to get birth control no questions asked. When I would go out with friends, she told me to call if I drank because she’d rather come pick me up than have me drive myself for fear of her finding out and getting in trouble.

This article is already getting too long, but I could go on about my mom FOREVER. She’s the reason I have such discipline to work out. Her eyes are the coolest shade of gray/blue/green. She makes killer baklava. She loves to watch animated movies with me and my sister. And she ALWAYS picks up the phone when I call her even though I’m the worst and only call her when I’m in transit. I can call her sobbing and she knows when to soothe me and when to tell me to buck up. She’ll stroke my hair so gently it makes me sleepy and when I’m in town she’s my ultimate gym buddy. Happy Early Mother’s Day Mom, I’ll see you tomorrow!

 

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Just me, rushing to try and be as cool as my mom. PC: Kiki Moussetis (for both photos)

 

 

 

 

Take a Walk on the Child Side

As of a few months ago, I am twenty-three years old. And even though this age still makes me (relatively) a very young person, I have also left my childhood behind. I work, am financially and emotionally independent, and like to think I contribute in some way to society.

However, even though my days of not paying my own bills are behind me, I don’t completely want to ever abandon the ways of my childhood.

Children, for the most part, have no fear, no judgement, and no pretenses. They also possess a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them until they are forced to focus by school or society. And THOSE are the traits, I’m looking to keep.

When I try new things, I don’t want the fear of failure to be what holds me back. For example, rock climbing has actually really helped with this. I watch the little kids go up these enormous, difficult walls like it’s nothing and part of their success comes down to the fact that they aren’t afraid. So I’ll tell myself – if they can do it, so can I.

The other major attribute has to do with wonder. I am naturally a bit of a cynic, but I would really hate to never be impressed by anything! When I travel, I want to be amazed and awed by great structures and incredible food. I see so many adults just pass things by with a “been there, done that” attitude and I NEVER want to let things pass me by.

The other part of this is the continued learning. Kids don’t know anything yet, consequently, they are learning all the time. Once you become an adult, you get good at a few things and it’s not necessary to learn all the time. But I’m convinced that’s how your brain dies. Dramatic, I know, but if you never learn anything new, your brain can never make new connections and you won’t continue to grow. It’s almost like you’re dying from boredom very slowly, and that sounds like the worst way to go.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that life can get more and more monotonous, but only if you let it. It’s really easy to slip into a routine, get really good at that routine, and never wander outside it. I’ve talked about this in a different post, but doing what I just described scares the absolute shit out of me. I am TERRIFIED of becoming complacent, and I believe part of avoiding it is to preserve some so-called ‘childish’ traits for as long as possible. Obviously, this also works as a great excuse to sing disney songs at the top of my lungs until my dying day.

 

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Me and my mama after my baptism. Don’t hang me for the quality, taking a photo of a photo is not the best.

 

 

Where is Your Passport?

I was going to write about my personal travel bucket list this week, but a few days ago a colleague brought an extremely troubling statistic to my attention. He told me that only 10% of Americans have valid passports. I was confounded by this and immediately looked it up. That’s way too low, right? Weel turns out that even though the number isn’t quite as dire as 10%, there are still only 41% of Americans that have valid passports. Not horrible, but definitely not great. That means that out of 325 million people nearly 170 million of them don’t have a passport and have thus probably never been outside the country.

I recognize that I may find this surprising because I grew up relatively privileged, with a passport since birth so that I could travel to Greece to visit my dad’s side of the family. I used to think that the people who didn’t travel simply didn’t because they were too scared or too unsure about how to plan or afford it. And while I do understand that there are financial and emotional burdens to undertake in getting a passport and in overseas travel, I also know that those obstacles only account for a fraction of the 170 million who don’t have passports. This number has to include people who don’t even have a base desire to go anywhere outside their home country and that is unimaginable for me.

Obviously, I am a travel nut. I love to see new places, experience new things, and explore different cultures. I think an inordinate amount about dropping everything to become a travel blogger and am constantly updating my bucket list (and by ‘updating’, I mean ‘adding to it’). It is incomprehensible to me that there are people out there who have no desire to see other places. Even my most homebody type friends have at least one far away place they’d love to see someday.

The reason I believe this is important to discuss because I learned some of my most important lessons about myself and about the world from travelling. Travelling to different places is an exercise in perseverance, and most importantly, in empathy. Depending on the place you’re going, there are certain obstacles to overcome: language, transportation, etc. which all enhance problem-solving and personal creativity by figuring out ways to survive that you wouldn’t normally have to use at home. However, the more important skill, in my opinion, is the practice of empathy. It is easy to sit at home, watch the news, and believe everything you see about the rest of the world. But it is quite another to actually travel to a place, and experience it for yourself.

For example, for many people, all they know about countries like Afghanistan are that they are war-torn terrorist hotbeds. But if you look at travel blogs and videos from people who have visited, they will rave about the food or the kindness of the people. I truly believe every single place on this planet has SOMETHING to offer and it’s a terrible waste that there are so many people out there who have no desire to experience something new.

I am probably at a loss with this concept because I don’t really know too many people who do not have a passport. I know I sound like a spoiled brat, but I honestly can’t imagine having never experienced anything outside my own country. If you or someone you know doesn’t’ have a passport,  I would love to know what their reasons are for not having one or for not travelling. Since nearly 60% of Americans don’t have one, there’s gotta be a reason, right?

 

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Me in Peru exactly a year ago where your passport is needed for everything as it’s your only form of ID