Friday, April 29, 2011

Be Amazing!

A friend posted this video on her Facebook wall earlier today.

Watch it. It will blow your mind.

This isn't going to be one of my longer posts. Instead, it's going to be short and sweet.
To put it simply, this girl teaches us one very important thing: be amazing. Maybe you can't spider-man climb a wall and catch a baseball hit by Brent Johnson, but I know that you can do something amazing. And you need to do it--whatever it is. If you can sing, then sing loud and clear. If you can run marathons, then run with all of your might. If you can rock climb, then climb on. If you can grill a mean rack of barbeque pork ribs, then grill away, baby!

But whatever it is that you can do, always be sure to remember the second very important thing that this girl teaches us: be humble. You know what you can do is amazing. Others definitely know what you can do is amazing. So instead of bragging about it, just own it, live it, do it.

Go and be amazing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 1

I've decided to compile a list of things that make me happy. They might seem silly or pointless or just downright ridiculous at times--but give them a try. You never know... they might make you happy, too. And what is so bad about that? Exactly! Nothing!

This is the first installment--the first ten steps to happiness. Each installment with be ten more things, until I reach 100! Expect them every Thursday for the next ten weeks.

That way, you have ten things to be happy about every week for ten weeks! It's like hitting the lottery, smile-style. Cha-ching!

1.) When you make eye contact with someone, smile. The first couple times this might feel weird. It might feel creepy. But when you make eye contact with someone, even if it's a stranger, make it a habit to smile. Who knows? They just might smile back. And then you're both smiling, and life is good.

2.) Compliment yourself every morning. You know when you're standing in front of the mirror after waking up, you're brushing your teeth, your hair is a mess, and you're still a little groggy? Spit out the paste and compliment yourself. "Damn, girl! Those are some dazzling, pearly whites!" "Oh hey, cutie. You're lookin' fine this morning." "You're going to kick some butt in that meeting today." "What beautiful eyes you have!" All right, it's a little silly talking to mirror-you at 7 in the morning (or whenever in the morning), but give yourself an ego-boost in the AM. It'll set your mood for the day.

3.) Listen to a feel-good song. Personally, I have a feel-good playlist that I like to play for myself whenever I need a mood-booster, but even just having one go-to song to listen to in order to help you smile is good enough. I recommend When I'm Up by Great Big Sea, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, or Catch My Disease by Ben Lee.

4.) Eat something yummy. Whenever I'm feeling a little blue, if I eat something delicious it helps me to feel better. I'm not talking about bingeing on oreos or finishing an entire jumbo-bag of potato chips (although, I'll be the first to admit I've been there, done that). I'm talking about eating just enough of something that has good feelings attached to it. For me, it's peanut butter. It's hard for me to feel unhappy while eating a banana or an apple with some peanut butter on it, because it's just so damn tasty!

5.) Pick one place to call your own and decorate it. Whether it's in your room, kitchen, office, desk, or garden (or anywhere else for that matter), pick one place that you spend a lot of time in and decorate it with things that make you happy. Currently, the wall next to my bed in my apartment in Rome is covered with pictures of my family, friends and dogs in addition to a few of my all time favorite fortune-cookie fortunes, a message from my boyfriend, some birthday cards, and a few magazine clippings. These things remind me that I'm loved--and that makes me happy!

6.) Open a window. Everyone needs a little fresh air once in a while, and what better way to get it than opening your window, especially if it's a nice day. It brings in some warmth and breeze into any stuffy apartment or house, and then you can hear the goings-on of your neighborhood, as well. For me, when I open my window, I get to hear birds chirping, little Italian men greeting each other with "Ciao!" and "Buon giorno!" and mopeds zip by down the street. It reminds me of all the good things my neighborhood offers!

7.) Wear something fun. For me, I love big earrings. I have more pairs than I probably know what to do with, and I rarely go out without a big, dangly, bold pair in my ears. They're unique, and a great conversation starter. So wear something different, like a brightly colored pair of sneakers or a flashy patterned shirt or a glitzy handbag or a bold solid color tie. It doesn't matter what it is, but it will make people want to know about it and will more than likely gather you a few compliments.

8.) Blow Bubbles.  Remember when you were a kid and you'd get those little jars of bubble soap with bubble wands and you'd stand outside with your siblings and neighborhood friends blowing bubbles for who knows how long? I know I sure do. And it was a blast. I can't think of something I enjoyed more than blowing bubbles on summer days when I was ten years old. It was the bees knees. And I know that, eleven years later, I still get giddy whenever I see someone blowing bubbles. It makes me want to join in. So go to your local dollar store and buy some bubbles. I bet you'll have fun.

9.) Celebrate a ridiculous holiday with a group of friends. International Chicken Wing Day? Sounds delish! Leif Erikson Day? Yarrr! Cockroach Race Day? Ok... maybe not. But regardless of what you want to celebrate, there's probably a ridiculous holiday for it. And with a few good friends and some funny ideas, I'm sure you can think up a good time and be happy while celebrating. Check out some of the holidays here.

10.) Keep your room organized. Now, for clutter bugs like myself, this might seem like more of a chore than a way to stay happy. But I assure you, if you keep on top of your mess and continually put things where they belong instead of on your floor or desk, you'll be happier. Clutter amounts to stress, because then when you go to look for something you have to sift through piles before finding it (if you even manage to find it). So instead of letting it pile high until its unmanageable, be sure to put things where they belong every day. It makes cleaning easier, it means less stress, and it makes everything look nice! Cleanliness - Stress + Looking Nice = Happy!

What are some little things that make you happy? Share here and perhaps you'll be credited and see your suggestion in one of the future additions to 100 Steps Toward Happiness!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Take the Plunge

I've done my fair share of plunging into water these past couple weeks.

I've dipped into 38 degree C bath in the Szechenyi thermal bath house in Budapest, Hungary (hot, hot, HOT!)
I've jumped off the side of a small motor boat into the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Capri, Italy.
I've dived into the Adriatic Sea off a yacht in Brac, Croatia.
I've been drenched by freezing cold torrential rain in Prague, Czech Republic (okay, maybe not my own doing, but certainly still water...).
I've leapt into the Cetina River from a 3 story high cliff outside of Omis, Croatia (twice!).

And currently, the heavens just opened up and released its bath water upon the city of Rome. Thankfully, this time, I'm safe inside of my lovely little apartment listening to the pounding rain instead of standing in the midst of it.

Throughout all of my diving, dipping and plunging I've found that sometimes the water is hot and sometimes the water is cold and sometimes the water is just right (granted, I might have stolen this from Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but "bear" with me). Regardless the temperature of the water, I wanted to jump into it anyway.

It's about the experience, and this is what I often write about--the experience.

What if I had not jumping to the numbing Adriatic Sea and had stayed on the boat instead? Well, I wouldn't be able to say that I swam in the Adriatic even though I'd been to Capri. If I hadn't gone to a bathhouse in Budapest, I would have been missing a crucial part of the culture of the city. And if I'd not ignored my fear of jumping off a three story rock in Croatia? I wouldn't have had the adrenaline rush I got from the thrill of leaping into the crystal clear Cetina River of Croatia.

It might seem like such a small and insignificant thing in the grand scheme of traveling the world--but next time, take the plunge and jump into a body of water. It's invigorating, refreshing, and sometimes the best memory you have from a place!

When have you taken the plunge? Were you nervous to jump into water you knew was really cold or too hot? Were you unsure about cliff jumping or leaping off a boat? Did you ignore those feelings and dive in anyway?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Leave a Part of Yourself In Every City

You know how the saying goes: "I left my heart in San Francisco."

The same is true whenever you travel. You leave little bits and pieces of yourself in every place you go. It's hard not to--you get attached, you form relationships, you eat delicious, interesting or weird new foods that you can't get enough of, you do new things and you see places you've only ever seen pictures of previously.

I've definitely lefts parts of myself in every place I've visited. Croatia is lucky enough to have claimed my left foot next-to-pinky-toe toenail.

I bet you did not expect this post to go in the direction it just did.

Well, regardless of what you were expecting ("I left my heart in Croatia!"), I did, unfortunately, leave a more gross part of myself in Split, Croatia. Being the klutz that I am, I tend to not watch where I'm walking more often than I care to admit and then trip or fall over things just a little less often than not watching where I'm going (although, I will admit, the two go hand-in-hand).

So, Croatia wins this round. "How?" you might ask? On my way to dinner with three girl friends I walked into a chair. That's right: a chair. Once again I was not paying attention to where I was walking, and walked directly into the leg of a chair. At first I thought it was a standard stub-the-toe-and-wince kind of accident, only to look down and discover a less than enjoyable scene. Sucking it up, I told the girls we had to backtrack to my hostel so that I could perform emergency first-aid on my toe.

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't fun. But looking back, it makes for a good story.

My moral for you this time takes several forms, and you can decide which direction to take (kind of like those childhood books where you pick your own ending! So fun!): either wear close-toed shoes and continue to be clumsy, or begin to pay attention to where you place your feet so you can avoid the entire situation completely.

I'll be opting for the latter of the two in the future. I just can't give up my sandals!

Have you ever done something clumsy and literally left a part of yourself in a city?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Sandy Beaches

This week, I've found myself obsessed with SANDY BEACHES. 
While this may strike some as odd, to those of my friends and myself that just came back from Split, Croatia--this obsession it not odd.

Sandy beaches are great. Split, however (and Brac, an island off the coast of Split, for that matter) both have rocky beaches. My initial reaction to these rocky beaches was: "These aren't beaches..." However, they were. I was just not accustomed to such beaches because I grew up in South Jersey only a short hour drive from the Jersey Shore (not the fist-pumping, GTL kind... the family-friendly, boardwalk kind). The Jersey Shore is definitely all about their sandy beaches.

While Croatia is gorgeous (and I do mean GORGEOUS), it just wasn't my cup of tea in terms of beaches. I prefer my beaches sandy--and I see nothing wrong with that!

(Thanks to Keattikorn / for the photo.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Short, short, short hiatus!

I'm leaving for Split, Croatia in several hours! How exciting!

Unfortunately, I won't be traveling with my computer. So you'll all have to wait until Tuesday for an updating blog post (and new Obsession of the Week) because I failed at scheduling posts for the upcoming few days.

Enjoy your weekends! I know I will!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stay Calm. Don't Panic. Look for Solutions.

Sometimes, the most horrible things can happen when you're traveling. And by horrible, I do mean horrible.

However, that's the price you pay with travel. You risk that things will not go the way that you plan them to go, and that things will go wrong at any moment. And while most of the time, travel is exciting and rewarding, it's better to be prepared for when disaster strikes than not.

I have learned about disaster striking the hard way several times throughout my travels, and so here I hope to divulge some advice for if or when these things happen to you while traveling.

1.) Don't Panic. Just like in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy recommends, don't panic. This is rule number one for a reason. If you panic, that's when things get even worse. Panicking only leads from disaster to more disaster, because it means you aren't thinking straight and you are being progressive in finding a solution to whatever the problem should be.

How I learned this lesson: When I was in Costa Rica this past summer backpacking the country with my best friend from high school, someone broke into our hostel room while we slept and stole majority of anything with value from me and two other guests. I'm talking passports, cameras, wallets, credit cards, phones, IDs, ATM cards, money, iPods, purses, etc. This guy made out, literally, like a bandit, because he easily took off with probably $4,000 worth of items. Upon waking up that morning to catch an early bus to another part of the country, I discovered that my stuff was gone, and silently began panicking. My mind clouded up, and all I could do was cry and breathe entirely way too fast. However, I quickly found that that was not helping matters, calmed myself, and set to work in fixing the situation as best I could, which consisted of alerting the hostel owners, calling my mom on Skype to have her cancel my cards, submitting a theft report to my travel insurance company, and reporting the incident to the police (regardless of how unhelpful they were). No, it wasn't easy. No, it wasn't fun. But it was necessary to stay calm and reasonable so that I could do my best on solving the problems at hand. So don't panic. Just get to work in finding the best possible solutions.

2.) Buy a substantial amount of traveler's insurance. This one is important. Because if you do run into a problem, insurance will help cover whatever monetary costs you accrue. It may not cover everything, but it will help to cover at least some of the costs, which will help lessen the burden when disaster strikes. Oh, and be sure to get enough insurance. When it comes to insuring yourself, it's better to pay the extra $10 for the next level up in coverage than risk not having enough coverage.

How I learned this lesson: Again, the theft in Costa Rica helped me learn about the importance of not just having traveler's insurance, but having enough insurance to cover the damage. Unfortunately, I opted for a lower coverage plan when I purchased my insurance before Costa Rica. Instead of spending the big bucks and paying $60 for the high coverage, I went with the $47 lower coverage plan. And I regretted it less than a week into the trip because of the theft I mentioned above. Instead of getting a reimbursement check from Travelex, I received $500, which covered about a third of the items I had stolen from me. It was better than nothing, but I was still out $1,000. This was a hard lesson to learn.

3.) Theft proof yourself as much as humanly possible. There's no way to completely ensure that you will have nothing stolen from you while traveling. The fact of the matter is that you risk having your things stolen when you travel. Some countries are riskier than others. But no matter where you go, whether it's New York City and Los Angeles, Tokyo and Hong Kong, San Jose and Mexico City, Rome and Paris--they all have people looking to pick pocket you and steal your camera, money, phone, wallet, etc. But the best way to avoid getting something stolen is to either don't bring it with you when you travel, leave it in a secure place when you go out for the day (like a safe in your hostel, in your apartment/place of residence, locked in a closet, etc), or keep it in a safe place on your person if you do decide to bring it with you (like an inside zippered pocket in your purse or a breast pocket in your coat).

How I learned this lesson: No surprise here, but this also applies to the theft I experienced in Costa Rica. However, it also applies to just the other day here in Rome when I was riding a crowded bus into the city center with my small point and shoot camera in my front jeans pocket instead of in my purse where I usually keep it. This was a bad choice on my part, because after exiting the bus at my stop, I found that I had been pick-pocketed. I thought I was going to be able to make it 4 months in this city without having something stolen from me, but I was careless and let my guard down, and was once again reminded of why it is so incredibly important to never let your guard down and become careless with your belongings if you want to maintain possession of them, especially when riding crowded busses.

4.) Be cautious of the water and if you decide not to be, then have medicine ready. If you're like me, you would rather risk drinking the water when you travel than rely on purchasing bottled water every time you're thirsty and need a drink. While this is an extremely foolhardy way to live, bottled water is expensive, and I've found it's just much easier to just drink the tap water when I travel. This choice, however, is one that carries severe consequences with it. All sorts of nasty things happen when you drink unclean tap water, so if you choose to drink it anyway, make sure you have some kind of medication like Cipro with you to relieve your distress.

How I learned this lesson: When I was in Tanzania two summers ago I suddenly came down with a violent illness about a week and a half into the trip. I was unsure as to why I was getting so sick, only to realize that my choice to drink the tap water was paying its toll to my stomach. I had gotten sick of relying on the bottled water several days earlier, and began to brush m teeth with and drink small amounts of the tap water. It led to 12 excruciating hours which were relieved only after taking Cipro and sleeping for an extended amount of time. Since then, I have continued to drink the water when I've traveled to places like Costa Rica, Honduras and Argentina, but it is a conscientiously decided risk that I take because I know of the consequences and just how un-fun they truly are.

5.) Get your shots and take your meds. This one, I think, is self-explanatory. If you're going to be traveling to countries that have medical risks, like typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, TB, etc then please, please, please go prepared. This means scheduling a visit to your local travel clinic and getting your shots and prescriptions for malarial pills.

How I learned this lesson: Before I traveled to Tanzania with the group of students and advisors we all went to a travel clinic to get our shots. We needed to be guarded against typhoid, yellow fever, and Hep B. We also needed a prescriptions for Cipro (the all-mighty stomach guard!) and malaria medication. Thankfully, the shots guard you for about two years, so when I went to Honduras I scheduled my own visit to a travel clinic for my Hep A shot and to get more malaria medication and Cipro. When you travel to places that are in danger of these things, you need to get your shots. There's no way around this one. Just do it. It's much better to be safe than sorry. Plus, you don't want malaria. Malaria sucks.

6.) Be prepared to see something gruesome, especially if you're budget traveling in poorer parts of the world. You can't stay naive about the goings on in countries all around the world. Some cultures have certain practices that are pretty awful, disheartening and upsetting. Some people live extreme poverty. Some foods will make your stomach churn. It's part of what you experience when you travel, so it's better to be prepared to see or hear about these things than to be ignorant and then shocked if they do happen.

How I learned this lesson: While in Tanzania a group of students I was traveling with had the unpleasant experience of being shown a video of someone being stoned to death for stealing. The stoning had taken place around the corner from the school where they were working, and their bus driver had been present at the stoning and video taped the entire thing with his cell phone. They students had heard about what had happened from some of the boys at the school, but never expected to see it. Unfortunately, the bus driver showed two of the students the video he took, which I can only imagine must have been one of the most terrifying things they'd ever seen. This wasn't a movie like Hotel Rwanda where you could feel removed, even if the violence in the film was graphic. This video was real life, and had taken place only blocks away from the school. But however sad and upsetting it is, that kind of practice is part of the culture in Tanzania when someone steals and is caught by the public instead of the police.

I don't want these things to deter you from traveling, but I do want you to know that travel, while absolutely incredible most of the time, comes with its downfalls, as well. It's better to be prepared for these kinds of things than it is to be unaware about the dangers of traveling, especially in cities or poor areas. But if you're prepared, you're less likely to experience these problems, and will therefore have a much better time during your travels.

What are some things you've learned about traveling in order to avoid disaster? Share them here!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Technology: Affording the Traveling Soul Communication with Home

I have been away from home for almost three months at this point.

While it's been mostly good, it's also been filled with moments of tension, stress, challenge, anxiety, and hurt. Nothing is perfect, not even a semester abroad in the Eternal City (although, I will admit, it's pretty close). But the beauty of living in the 21st Century means that there is this amazing thing called technology that allows me to keep in touch with the people from home better than I would have in my mom's generation.

Do you see this picture here? This is a picture of some of my closest friends from La Salle, where I go to college back home in the United States. I lived with the girls last semester, and we lived next door to the boys--and while they are all absolutely ridiculous and crazy, I love them all with all of my heart.

The cool thing is, this picture wasn't taken before I left. It wasn't taken last year. It wasn't taken with one of their cameras and sent to me through facebook, e-mail, snail mail, or any kind of mail for that matter. It was taken when I was Skyping with them on my computer, and I quickly snapped a screen shot of them all to keep on my laptop whenever I needed to smile. And I find it absolutely incredible that I am able to do this kind of thing.

Think about it, communication is easier than it ever has been in the past. There is no reason to not keep in touch with your family and friends while you are away from home. What with Facebook, Skype, iChat, Blackberrys, iPhones, e-mail, instant message, G-mail Chat, blogs, and twitter, all in addition to snail mail we literally have no excuse.

So what are you waiting for? Send someone an e-mail, text or IM letting them know that you're thinking about them and hope they are well. It's so simple, quick and convenient--and you won't regret it!

What is your favorite thing about technology and what it allows you to do in today's society? How has it helped you keep in touch when you've been away from home? What is your preferred method of communication?

Obsession of the Week: Hamburgers

This week, I can't help but be obsessed with the HAMBURGER.

Having been away from home for three months in a country that believes in pasta, pastries, paninis and pizza it's hard NOT to be obsessed with a familiar food from home, such as the trusted hamburger.

So what did I do? I went to the local food market prepared with the translated word for hamburger in Italian--which, what do you know, happens to be hamburger. If only I had known this earlier!

I bought three patties, freshly ground before my very eyes from my favorite butcher, Emilio.
He handed them to me over the counter, and I walked away with probably the biggest smile on a person's face that he's ever seen. With a wave and a "Ciao!" I wandered home excited to eat the first of the three hamburgers that night for dinner.

Emilio did not let me down.
The hamburger was delicious, and I have since then devoured the other two, only to go back and buy two more from him.

I may be all hamburgered out for a little while after I finish these next two patties, but it will be well worth it. It's not that I don't appreciate all of the carbs, carbs, carbs--but sometimes, it's just nice to eat a hamburger!

(Thanks to Suat Eman/ for the photo.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

What to Do When Homesickness Strikes

It's tough being away from home.

Home is familiar. Home is comfortable. Home is where the heart is. But sometimes, you outgrow "home" and you want something more--and so you leave home for somewhere new, exciting, fun and... lonely?

Well, it doesn't have to be. Being away from home, whether for a week or for a year or for ten years, might be hard at times, but it doesn't have to be lonely and depressing--at least not 100% of the time. Sure, everyone gets homesick, but what happens when you can't shake the feelings and you dig yourself deeper and deeper into the hole of homesickness?

For me, homesickness has come in waves, and each time I've dealt with it differently. There are so many ways to deal with it. I've only discovered a handful and am still in the process of discovering more for when I am struck with future waves of homesickness. But, if you're like me, it's hard to come up with remedies for being homesick on the spot and in the moment of desperation. So here, I'll share some of my solutions in the hopes that next time you're hit with being homesick, you won't have to think on your feet right away and you can try a few of these first.

1.) Get out of bed (because I know that's where you most likely are if you're homesick), get a shower, and get out of your flat/apartment/townhouse/dorm room/etc. Yes, I know it's much easier to just stay in your pajamas and wallow all day long until you can go back to sleep in hopes of waking up the next morning cured. But the truth of the matter is, you'll just build up more feelings of loneliness and homesickness that way. Trust me, I know. There have been several days here in Rome (or back home at my university) where I've done exactly what I just told you not to do, and it has not helped. So now, when I begin to feel the symptoms of being homesick, I get up and get going. It gets me away from the doom and gloom of my bed and out into fresh air.

2.) Do something you've never done before. Have you been dying to check out that new museum exhibit, but no one ever seems to want to go with you? Have you heard about a new restaurant that has great food and you want to try it out? Have you wanted to take a walk around the nearby park that you just haven't had a chance to walk around yet? Then go do it. When you do something new, it might help you find something that you'll really love, it'll keep you from getting bored with routine, and it'll help you grow! Not to mention, it'll keep your mind off of being homesick, and by the time you get back to your place of residence, you'll have fun stories to tell your room mates and will be too preoccupied to be homesick.

3.) Talk to someone else who is with you who might be going through and feeling some of the same things. While it might seem backwards to talk about your homesickness (because then you are thinking about it instead of getting your mind off of it, right?) it can actually be beneficial. The other person, while also homesick, might have some great ideas to get rid of the homesickness that you hadn't thought of. Or they might help you put it into perspective. Or they might just commiserate with you until you've talked through it. Any of these things could help you to ease your feelings of homesickness.

4.) Go through all of the amazing pictures you've taken since being away from home. Not only will this make you smile at all the goofy, silly, challenging, and exciting things you did since being away from home, but you'll be too busy remembering all the fun you've had being away, you'll forget why you were even homesick to begin with. Not to mention, you'll look forward to all your future adventures while you're away from home, knowing that they'll continue to be amazing and adventurous.

5.) As a last result, call home. It's okay to do this. Sometimes, what you really need is to just talk with mom, or your brother or sister, or your boyfriend or best friend. And while it might also make you miss them more, it can also be alleviating to tell them how homesick you are and that you need them to tell you something happy. I've found that listening to other people tell me about their days helps me not to think about why I'm homesick in the first place. Listening to someone else talk about their routines, classes, meals, or daily goings-on might seem boring usually, but when you're homesick, it can actually be soothing to know that life is still the same back home and, while you are missing the people and comforts, not much is changing in your absence.

What are some of your remedies for homesickness? How have you learned to deal with missing the people, places and things from home? Has being away gotten easier the longer you've gone without going home?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Put Things in Perspective

When was the last time that something bad happened to you?

If you're like me, your answer might vary from, "Yesterday," to, "Last week." But it was sometime in the recent past.

Usually though, when we think of bad things that happen to us, they really aren't extravagantly devastating. Yet, we still tend to exaggerate and make the "bad things" into bigger deals than they actually are. But let's face it: the fact that I missed my bus, my zucchini went bad, or I lost an earring really isn't such a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Even the somewhat bigger problems, such as not doing well on an exam, getting into an argument with a friend, or having someone tell you that it's obvious you've put on "some weight" still aren't devastating problems.

All of these things happen, and instead of getting stressed out, worried, upset or angry it's better to take a few deep breaths, clear your head, and begin to put things into perspective. It's like the age old saying, let it roll off your back like water off a duck. Because a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, or ten years from now it won't matter. You missed the bus? Thank goodness another one will be along in a few minutes. You failed an exam? Know that you're still an intelligent person, that everyone has "those tests," and that you'll do better and study harder for the next one. You put on some weight and someone noticed? If you feel good about yourself, shrug it off. If you feel like, yes, you did put on some weight and you could afford to lose a few pounds, then do it and start eating healthy and running in the mornings.

We all have problems. Bad things will happen. But it's a matter of choice if we let them severely affect our happiness and the rest of our day (or week, or month, etc).

So next time something "bad" happens, decide how bad it really is, and put it into perspective. Because you, more than likely, still have many things to be thankful for, such as family, a home, vacations, food to eat, clothes to wear, an education, a job or a bed to sleep in at night. So focus on the good things instead, because the bad things are temporary--it's the good things that you'll have to wake up to tomorrow.

When was a time when you had a lot of "bad things" happen to you and you let it affect your mood and your day? When was a time you decided to put it into perspective and focus on the good things instead? How do you deal with the "bad things" when they happen?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

21 Things from 21 Years

Just over a month ago I turned 21. For us Americans, it's a big birthday. Not only have you entered into your third decade of life, but you can legally drink! Which is not the point of this post. Not even close, my friends. The point of this post is what I have learned over these past 21 years. Surely, I am not as experienced as someone twice my age or five times my age, but I have certainly learned a lot, and I will continue to do so.

My blog is about learning. It's about learning everything that I can from relationships, places, cultures, food, objects, history, structures and challenges. Without our experiences, we are nothing.

And so, from my experiences, I have learned the following:

1.) Never be afraid to say no. I cannot stress how important this lesson is. If you are tired, stressed, sick, run-down, annoyed or just plain old don't want to do something, then do not--I repeat: DO NOT--do it. Say no! It's as easy as this: "No." And don't provide excuses either. Simply say, "No, I'm sorry. I can't." Then move on. Believe it or not, people will understand, and they will respect you more than if you say yes and only half ass whatever it is you said yes to.

2.) At the same time, never be afraid to say yes, either. Yes is a beautiful word. It leads you to new people, places and things. If you say yes, even if you're afraid of failure or challenge or disappointment, you might just find out that wonderful, beautiful, new and exciting things await you. Yes led me to Rome. Yes led me to La Salle University. Yes led me to my relationships with my best friends and my boyfriend. Yes led me to many, many wonderful things, and I've never regretted a single one.

3.) If you know that someone is wrong when they are pretending to be right, correct them, but do it politely and tactfully. This lesson can get you far in life, because not only are you shedding light on a topic for others who might believe that the person in the wrong actually is right, but you are standing up for truth. Just be sure that you are respectful, honest, and know what you are talking about yourself before you speak up. Don't get defensive or accusatory or aggressive--just simply state what you need to state with a smile.

4.) Make new friends, but keep the old ones. Okay, so I stole this one from Girl Scouts, but it's a good lesson! What could be better than making new friends all throughout your life, but keeping in touch with your first friends, as well? Nothing! Which is why this is a lesson to be followed. Don't lose touch with the old friends just because you meet new people. While the new people might be exciting, there will be a point where they become your "old friends," too. And so the cycle continues. So keep the old friends while continuing to make new ones. That way, when you're 80, you'll have more friends than you know what to do with and at your funeral everyone will have something wonderful to say about you.

5.) Work hard, because it pays off. There is no way that I can stress this enough. If you work hard in everything that you do, it will benefit you more than you can imagine at some point. It won't be tomorrow, and it might not be ten years from now, but at some point it will hit you and you will say to yourself, "Wow, I'm really glad I worked as hard as I did." No one says, "Wow, I'm glad I put no effort into that," because if you put no effort in, you don't reap benefits. So work hard, and reap those benefits!

6.) Do something every day that makes you happy. This lesson is self-explanatory, I think. If something makes you happy, why not do it every day? You'll be a much happier person because of it, and we all want happiness. For me, I'm happiest taking photos as I walk around wherever I find myself. So go and do what makes you happy, and do it every day!

7.) Do something every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt said this, and she was a pretty intelligent lady. So take her advice. Because if you do something that scares you every day, eventually your fears will go away, and you will be able to live your life fearlessly and confidently. Or, at least, that's the goal. But even if you don't achieve that goal, do something that scares you anyway. It's about taking calculated risks. If you take these risks, you will truly experience everything you were meant to experience.

8.) Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Believe it or not, it's possible to be both stylish and comfortable at the same time. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. So, you know that gorgeous dress you tried on that scratched like wool and was so tight you couldn't sit down in it? Ditch it and go for the other gorgeous dress that not only made you look fabulous, but helped you rock out on the dance floor to your favorite song. Remember those hiking boots that had all the latest hiking boot technology, but made your feet feel like you couldn't walk thirteen steps in them let alone thirteen miles? Forget them, and opt for the hiking boots that are both functional and fitting so you can hike thirteen hundred miles and still feel like you just walked out your door.

9.) Get Wrecked. And no, I don't mean go out and get shit faced by drinking way too much alcohol at your favorite local pub. I mean, go volunteer somewhere and lose yourself in the experience. Provide your time, energy, and personality (and not just your money) to a good cause of your choice, and I promise you it will change your life. It won't be easy, but it will change your life.

10.) Sometimes you get the emotional shit kicked out of you. It happens. Stay strong. You will make mistakes. You will not know what to do. You will get hurt and damaged and broken. But life will go on. You will also pick yourself back up and fix things. You will own up to your mistakes. You will figure out what to do. You will mend and ease and correct yourself. It takes time, but I promise you it will happen.

11.) Complaining never works. So instead of complaining about something or someone you don't like, get productive and do something about the person or thing that's annoying to you. Instead of whining, make an effort to see the silver lining, and then focus on that silver lining. It's there. It's hard to see, but it is there.

12.) Eat your fruits and veggies, and drink lots of water. One of the best things I've learned from traveling is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. First off, they're healthy. Second off, they're delicious. And drink water. Water is the best thing for you to drink--way better than diet coke, grape juice or coffee.

13.) Stay confident, but not cocky. If you're confident, people will believe in you and trust you. People will want to spend time with you. People will want to do the things you're doing. People will not bother you as much as if you walked with your head down and your "tail between your legs." Don't be vulnerable, but don't be cocky either. Being overly confident is a recipe for disaster, but having just the right amount of confidence will get you far.

14.) It's okay to make mistakes, but own up to them. When you make a mistake, it's okay. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Without mistakes, we'd never learn anything. However, when you do make a mistake, make sure to also own up to it, apologize, and try to fix it (or let someone who knows what they're doing try to fix it). Owning up to your mistakes shows that you aren't above apologizing for being wrong and that you realize what you've done, even if your intentions were good.

15.) Write letters. Send postcards. Mail gifts. In a world where technology is king, and it's easy enough to send an e-mail, text message, facebook chat or IM. Those things take split seconds. And while it's perfect for quickly and efficiently keeping in touch with the people in your life, think of how you feel every time you get snail mail. It's probably one of the coolest feelings in the world, because it means that someone was thinking about you enough to actually write you out a letter or a postcard or send you a gift through the post man. It's a great feeling, so give someone else that feeling, and send something the old fashioned way!

16.) Listen to all kinds of music. Maybe you have your favorite music, and that's fine and good. But check out new music every once in a while. It's a great way to find new artists and bands to love, and you might just find a song with your new favorite lyrics, melody or beat.

17.) If you really want to live, get ready to get your hands dirty. This can be taken figuratively, but it might also need to be taken literally. Sometimes life requires you to get a little dirty, and if you aren't willing to get a little dirty, then you're sacrificing a really important part of your life--the part that requires a little elbow grease and some hard work in order to achieve something great.

18.) Get ready. Get out. Get active. Don't sit at home in your pajamas and slippers on the couch all day for no reason. While we all need vegetable days, making them a habit is the fast lane to gaining weight and depression. So instead, jump in the shower, put your clothes on, and get outside. Walk. Run. Bike. Skateboard. Roller blade. I don't care what you do, but get outside and get active. Even if you're just walking down the street to your local park or to your friends house. It'll make you feel better, and you'll create more last memories than if you were to sit on your ass watching TV for 14 hours straight.

19.) Eat breakfast. This one might seem like common sense, but it's amazing to me how many people do not eat breakfast. In fact, I used to be one of them. Unless my mother would bring me breakfast in the mornings, I never ate. And by 10AM I regretted it, because I was feeling tired, grumpy and slow. Now, I make it a point to always eat something, even if it is a just a banana or a granola bar and a glass of orange juice. Trust me, breakfast is magic. You'll feel much better throughout the day if you eat it.

20.) Let the little things go. I am severely guilty of not following this, and having to continually remind myself that the little things are just that--little things--and they won't matter in the long run. But at the time that the little things happen, they seem far worse than they actually are. And it's hard to let them go. However, I always try to take a step back and put things into perspective, and while it doesn't always work, it is a work in progress for me.

21.) Tell people, "I love you." This is probably the most important lesson I have learned. If you love someone, tell them and tell them as often as possible. And don't substitute, "luv u," "love ya," or "wuv youuu," for the actually three words: "I LOVE YOU." Because the former all mean something completely different. They mean you aren't willing to put in the commitment that "I love you" asks for, and they mean that you don't really, truly, whole-heartedly love that person. So make sure that next time you see someone you love, whether its your sister, father, friend, significant other, or grandparent, be sure to tell them: "I love you."

What is a lesson that you've learned that you would like to share?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Look for Beauty in Everything You Do

Even in the most run-down, beat-up, or turned-around places, people and things you can find beauty.

When I traveled to the Amalfi Coast this past weekend, it was easy to appreciate the beauty of such a breathtaking place. Capri is unlike anything I've ever seen in my life. Sorrento was full of art and crafts and lovely people. Pompeii was awe-inspiring with its ruins and artifacts. Mt. Vesuvius was in all of its glory on a beautiful, sunny, 75 degree weather day.

These kinds of things are obvious in their beauty. When you look at something like the cliffs of Capri, it's impossible not to catch your breath and take a photo in hopes of remembering its pure and magnificent beauty.

However, not everything is easy to look at and see beauty. Some things, when you look at them, are not what we would call "beautiful," "magnificent," "breathtaking," or "awe inspiring." But, despite not having beauty at face value, everything has beauty in its own way--and it takes looking at something twice, or beneath its surface, or at the inner meaning of the person, place or thing in order to really appreciate just how precious and beautiful he, she or it is.

For instance, there are hundreds of streets in Rome covered wall to wall in graffiti. When I first saw this, my reaction was one of aversion. I couldn't believe the amount of graffiti on the walls in a city that I had imagined being full of ancient ruins (which it is) and beautiful monuments (which it also is) and an endless amount of churches (which it also, also is...). However, it's also a city full of graffiti--and coming from Philadelphia, graffiti shouldn't come as a surprise to me--and yet, here, it did.

Over time, I've learned to discover the beauty within the graffiti covering the walls of this city. Because when it comes down to it, the graffiti is part of the culture here. Yes, it's illegal. Yes, it's destructive. Yes, it's a problem that needs to be addressed (in productive and not prohibitive ways, mind you). But it doesn't mean that it's ugly, necessarily. There is a lot of beauty in the graffiti in this city. There are messages and pictures and words--many political in their meanings--that are part of what Rome is as a city. People in this city place the graffiti on the walls for a reason--to express themselves--and there is beauty in that.

So, look for the beauty in the things that, at first, might not seem so beautiful. Look long and hard and deep for the beauty, because it's difficult to find... but when you do find it, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

What is something, somewhere or someone in which you've found beauty when you weren't expecting? What was it like finally seeing what you weren't expecting to see?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Live On the Edge

The world is a pretty incredible place. I've learned so much from my previous travels and current time abroad. I've also learned a lot from places back home in the States, though, too.

One of the most important things I've learned in my life is to live on the edge. Take life for everything it is worth, because it is far too short to do otherwise. When you live life on the edge, you get to suck the very marrow out of its bones. You get to experience things you would never otherwise experience.

Erica Jong wrote, "If you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
In Colossians 3:21 it says, "And whatsoever you do / do it heartily."
Katherine Mansfield said, "How can you hesitate? / Risk! Risk anything! / Care no more for the opinion of others, / for those voices. / Do the hardest thing on earth for you. / Act for yourself. / Face the Truth."
Kim Basinger stated, "When I am old I’m never going to say, 'I didn’t do this,' or, 'I regret that.' I’m going to say, 'I don’t regret a damn thing! I came, I went, and I did it all!'"
Paul Tillich remarked, "He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being."

These people were onto something!

If you want to live fully, you have to do as Frederico Fellini said to live, "You have to live spherically--in many directions."

There have been many times that I've risked things in my life. Big, physical things--like skydiving, rock climbing, bungee jumping, rappelling, ziplining, and parachuting. But I've risked in other ways, too. I've risked changing my major in college. I've risked putting myself out there for others, even if they've rejected me or disliked me or made fun of me. I've risked being honest with others, even if I knew it was going to be hard to say to them or hard for them to hear. I've risked opening up about my problems and feelings to complete strangers on retreats and on Outward Bound. I've risked living away in a foreign country for a semester. I've risked being lonely and traveling by myself. I've risked applying for scholarships, internships, and job positions even if I didn't think I was qualified or good enough or smart enough.

The point is, I've made it a point in my life to try to never say no to an opportunity when it presents itself. If I had said no to all of the experiences when I've risked something, I wouldn't be who I am today. Risk is what makes us who we are. It sets us apart from those who are too afraid of change, challenge or chance.

So next time you get a chance to risk something, and you can't help but think twice about it and wonder if it will be worth it, just go for it. Do something extraordinary. Do something wild. Do something creative. Do something dangerous or out of character or uncomfortable or something you might fail at. Do it anyway, despite the setbacks or fears you have about its outcome. You might just find that you grow in the process and that you end up a better person because of the risks you take.

Have you ever risked something, even if you were afraid of failure? Even if you did fail, did you learn something in the process? And if you did learn something, then can it really be considered failure? Have you risked something and had it turn out better than you could have imagined? Did you feel different afterward, and were you proud of yourself with what you'd achieved?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When You're All Alone...

Sometimes solo trips happen.

The bad news is: it gets a little lonely.
The good news is: well, everything else.

When you travel by yourself it gives you space to do all the things you can't do when you travel with someone else (or several someone elses... or a lot of someone elses). You can get up when you want, do the things you want to do, eat when you want to eat, spend money on what you want to spend money on, and meet people you wouldn't have otherwise met.

For instance, this past weekend I traveled to Budapest. I was supposed to meet a friend and spend the weekend with her, but unfortunately she messaged me about an hour before I was leaving for the airport to tell me that she had a 102 degree fever with the flu and wouldn't be able to fly out to meet me anymore. Although I was upset, I decided I wasn't going to be out the money for my flight or hostel, and left for the airport anyway.

I am so glad that I did.

I arrived at my hostel late on Thursday night (well, technically it was Friday morning around 1am) and immediately crashed. The next morning, I got up and asked the woman in reception about some things to do. She circled some things on my map, and told me which public transportation to take. I spent the morning hiking up to the Citadel on the Buda side of the city, the afternoon checking out all the major landmarks on the Pest side of the city like Parliament, St. Stephan's Basilica, the Synagog, the Opera House and all of the bridges, and the evening walking around and getting traditional beef stew with egg barley and some Hungarian beer at a local pub. It was such a great day, and I really enjoyed all the time I had to myself.

Saturday I went caving in three of the caves open to the public. I teamed up with a Finnish man who was also traveling alone, and spent the morning caving with him. It was nice to have the company, and it was also nice getting to meet someone new. In the afternoon, I was tired, and so I headed to one of the thermal bathhouses to soak in the heated pools and relax. It was so good to just sit in the pools and check out the sauna. I also ate the leftovers from my dinner the night before, and a falafel sandwich, both of which were delicious.

Sunday I woke up early because I had limited time before going to the airport to head back to Rome in the evening. I hopped on a free tour about Communism in Hungary and met a german couple who I enjoyed talking to in between stops on the tour. After the tour about Communism, I took another tour about the Pest side of the city and the Jewish quarters. On that tour I met a group of students who were studying in Croatia, but were from all over the world. I had a great time on tour with them. And finally, I ended up in the City Park to check out Heroes Square and the castle.

Basically, traveling alone was a great way for me to have some "me" time, to meet people from all over the world, and to learn some really cool stuff about Budapest.

My recommendation to you: travel (at least once in your life) alone. It's a whole new way to travel, and gives you a totally different perspective than traveling with friends or family or a tour group.

Have you ever traveled alone before? What was your favorite part of it? Did you meet new people or do something you wouldn't have done otherwise?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...