Monday, June 27, 2011

Interested in Studying Abroad?

I recently wrote an article for Go! Overseas, a travel organization for people looking to go abroad--whether to teach, volunteer, study or intern.

The article is linked up above.

Check it out!

Quote Corner

When I am old, I'm never going to say,
"I didn't do this,"
"I regret that."
I'm going to say,
"I don't regret a damn thing!
I came, I went, and I did it all!"

-Kim Basinger

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Sleep

I'll admit it. This week, I'm obsessed with SLEEP.

Honestly, the past two weeks I've been obsessed with it (since I missed last week!) And the reason is because I've been working late and staying up late and then sleeping in because of my work schedule. It makes for an interesting groggy lifestyle.

And while I know that I should still get up around 9am, even if I go to bed around 1am, I just can't seem to get myself to do it. I sleep until 10:30 or 11am because I'm exhausted from being at the restaurant I now work at so much. But it seems to be working okay for the most part.

So this week, sleep is the thing!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 7

Hello, hello, and happy Thursday!

There's only three weeks left of 100 Steps Toward Happiness. Unfortunately I missed last week because of a busy work schedule. Thankfully, we're back on board this week!

I hope you've enjoyed it so far, so read on for 10 more happy things!

61.) Borrowing a siblings clothing and feeling like you're wearing something new. Luckily, my younger sister and I are very close in size for most things we wear (minus shoes and pants...). So whenever either of us feels a little bored with our wardrobe, we never have to fear! Because there's another wardrobe with all "new" clothes in it right down the hall. With a "Please" and "Thank you!" we can look like we just went shopping without dropping a dime or leaving the second floor of the house when we're home during the summers and winters. And I know I always feel happier wearing something "new!"

62.)  Childhood teddy bears and baby blankets. We all have them, even if we don't like to admit it. I'll admit, not only do I have a teddy bear and a baby blanket, but I also have a variety of other stuffed friends that live in my room in my mom's house. And whenever I'm staying with her, I'm not afraid to say that I DO have one or two (or all) of them keep me company!

63.) Guacamole. Seriously. This stuff is just amazing. I love guac, and every time my friends and I get together, we almost always make it and eat it. We buy tortilla chips specifically for the guac we make. It's ridiculous, but great. And guac always makes me happy.

64.) 20% tips. Serving again reminds me that when people leave 20% tips (or other generous tips) it makes me very, very happy. It makes up for some of the other crappy tips that people leave. And even though you might make 10% on most bills, those few bills that people leave more--definitely brings a smile to my face and makes me happy to know I served them well and with a smile.

65.) Surprising someone at the end of their shift at work. This actually works both ways. The other week, my boyfriend surprised me at work after I got out on a Friday night. It was late, around 12:30AM, and I was beat from running around at the restaurant... but as I approached my car and saw him sitting in his car next to it I suddenly found myself smiling and the happiest I'd been all day. There's something about being surprised by someone you love after a long, hard day that makes it all better.

66.) Trading books. A friend of mine is going on a cross country train trip fairly soon, and he and I started talking about books we love. He recommended a few to me, and I recommended a few to him. And when he told me about his train trip, I told him I'd give him a few books to read. I could tell he really appreciated it, because there's nothing quite like a good book.

67.) Bear hugs. I love bear hugs. When someone scoops me up into their arms and squeezes tight, I feel safe, I feel warm, I feel happy. It's good to feel loved, and getting bear hugs is a way of feeling that.

68.) Teasing a cat. Cats are hilarious. They may not be seen as loyal or friendly like dogs, but cats have their own way of making me happy. They're curious. They're playful is a nonchalant kind of way. They're independent and do what they want. And I absolutely love when you take a feather on a string and drag it across the floor and have a cat pounce along after it. It's enough to bring a smile to my face.

69.) Making fishy faces at fish in a fish tank. Okay, so maybe it's a little ridiculous. But have you ever tried it? Because it's really fun. Fish, while dumb and not as exciting as cats or dogs or other pets, are still entertaining in their own way, because they will float there in the tank, staring at you, making fishy faces right back. After all, it's the only face they can make. I used to have fish and I did this all the time. And while I realize that makes me a bizarre individual, it was fun and I got a kick out of it.

70.) Playing peek-a-boo with a baby. The other night at the restaurant I work at, I had a family come in with a baby. The baby was so adorable, and kept looking around and smiling and baby-chatting. He was such a lively little fellow, and at one point, I couldn't help myself any longer. I played peek-a-boo with him and he giggled and cooed and loved it. It made my night, and the family appreciated that I was attentive to not only the adults and older kids at the table, but the baby, as well.

Share your thoughts on happy things in a comment below. It might show up next week on the list!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grieve and Move On

"You've always got two choices. One: You can swirl and twirl in gloom and doom forever. Or two: You can grieve and then face the future with newly sober eyes."
-Neil Pasricha

I recently watched a Ted Talk with Neil Pasricha about the 3 A's of Awesome.

You can watch it here.

Anyway. It got me thinking about the things in life that happen that we can't control and the things that hurt us and make us sad or upset or angry. But it also made me think about how life is still awesome, and that we can still be happy despite the terrible things that happen.

Just like Neil says: We can end up in gloom and doom forever, or we can choose to grieve and then move on and face what lies ahead. We can choose to leave what happened behind us, and look forward to the wonderful things in our lives.

There are a lot of things in life that I struggle with. Things that people know about, and things that people don't know about. And I'm certainly not the only one. We all harbor little things and secrets, and sometimes even big ones, that others in our lives don't know about because we choose to keep them hidden from others. But those people still love us, even if they don't know everything about us. The people in our lives are the reasons for moving forward. They help us grieve and then move on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Cool Videos with Music

Two videos that I've found in the last week that are really neat in their own ways.

The first makes me wish that I had thousands of bouncy balls and that I lived in SF.

The second is a pretty sweet light show and performance by Glitch Mob (who will be in Philadelphia in July and who I will be seeing live!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quote Corner

Write it on your heart that every day is the
day of the year.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: True Friendship Never Forgets

If this doesn't just melt your heart, I'd be surprised.

Sometimes, all we need in life, is to reunited with an old friend who we love very much and will never forget.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Obsession of the Week: Thunderstorms

I apologize for not posting this yesterday! But it's only a day late, and I'm still pretty obsessed with Thunderstorms.

A few nights ago, after a long heat wave of 90 degrees +, we had relief. A huge thunderstorm rolled over us and sent down lots, and lots, and LOTS of rain.

I was sitting in bed listening to some music when I saw the first flash of lightning and heard the first crack of thunder. And it wasn't the kind of thunder that was distant and soft... it was the kind of thunder that was directly above me and shook the house and was so loud it startled me. And not even ten seconds later I began to hear the patter of rain on our house. It started slow at first, and then it began to pick up. Soon, it was like sheets of water were falling down.

I quickly jumped out of bed and headed downstairs to go sit on our front porch. The temperature had dropped and the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down--and sitting there watching and listening to the storm felt great. More lightning, more thunder, and it seemed like everything was getting that rush of water it do desperately needed after several days of excessive heat.

It's pretty easy to enjoy the beautiful, warm, sunny days--but sometimes, it's nice to enjoy a thunderstorm, too.

Quote Corner

That it will never come again,
Is what makes life so sweet.

-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It Sucks to Get Stiffed

Anyone who's been in the restaurant business knows: it sucks to get stiffed.

When someone leaves your table after you've catered to their every need during a lunch or dinner, it's a pretty heartbreaking thing when you don't get the tip. It's hard because that's how you make your money. When it comes to the restaurant biz, tips are what make your night... and not getting one can really hurt.

Last night I started my first official shift at Bahama Breeze, a restaurant 10 minutes from my home. After going through training for two weeks, I'd finally passed my validation test and had my first server shift on Friday night. I was a little nervous because I've been out of the restaurant business for over 3 years now, but I was also excited because I remembered working as a server fondly, despite all the ridiculousness that comes with the job.

And then I remembered the part that sucks. Not getting a tip on a check. Unfortunately for me, it was a check that fairly large.

At first, I was pretty pissed. I'd made sure the table had what it needed. I'd gotten them their drinks and meals quickly. I'd connected with them and made sure they were happy. At least, I thought I did. But their $0.00 tip on their $50.00 check made me believe otherwise.

The reason for this rant is simple. Tip your servers. Because it's our work. We make $2.13 an hour, and without tips, we essentially make nothing. So tip your servers and tip them well. Sometimes we may screw up or make mistakes or not work up to your standards, but serving is a tough job--just as your job probably is tough on you. So next time you're out at a restaurant and think about tipping 10% or 15%, throw in a couple extra bucks and make it 18-20%. I promise you, your server will appreciate it and you'll have good karma for the night.

Do you have any horror stories from working in the restaurant business? Have you ever not been tipped?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 6

Welcome to another edition of 100 Steps!

This week, we're featuring all sorts of fun things from the summer time, like picking strawberries, feeding the ducks, and frozen slushies!

So read on, and enjoy!

51.) Nalgene water bottles. Why? Because they're awesome. Also, because they're good for the environment (no more pesky disposable water bottles!). Also, also, because if you buy one online, 10% of your purchase goes to help Japan after the horrible earthquake and tsunami they suffered back in March.

52.) Feeding the ducks. It's been a while since I have, but one of the best things in the world is feeding ducks stale bread. First, because stale bread is icky and ends up getting thrown out and wasted usually. Second, because ducks love stale bread and quack their thanks when you feed it to them!

53.) Picking strawberries. I got lost the other night in the depths of South Jersey only to stumble upon Johnson's Farm, a little local farm where you can "pick-your-own" fruit. Currently, strawberries are in season, and I saw a sign for their daily strawberry picking hayrides. Needless to say, I will be attending (and probably attempting to drag my boyfriend along with me) for some delicious, freshly picked strawberries!

54.) Catching lightning bugs in jars. The other night when I was leaving work, I saw my first lightning bug of the season. Granted, I probably should have seen one before the other night considering we've had summer weather for a few weeks now, but regardless, seeing it made me think back to how happy I was when I was a little kid catching lightning bugs in jars. And it also made me promise myself I would do that at some point in the near future!

55.) Icy cold drinks and frozen treats when it's really hot. I always feel instantly happier after being all sweaty and hot when I get to have a tall glass of ice cold water or a frozen slushy from a local water ice place. Nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than the delicious coldness after a day of 95 degree heat!

56.) Rolling down your windows and blasting your favorite song on a summer night. I love doing this. It makes me feel free and happy and in the mood for all the wonderful things summer has to offer. If I need to get into a good mood, I know this is one way to do it--and whether it's Ke$ha or Mumford and Sons (yes, I listen to Ke$ha) I know I can always count on feeling better after singing loudly along with my car radio.

57.) Eating outdoors. Summer BBQs are probably one of my favorite things in the world. There's nothing quite like a hamburger or hot dog with some good friends around in the balmy summer evenings. Plus, eating outdoors (whether in your backyard or on a restaurant patio) just feels right.

58.) The beach. The beach really needs no explanation. Here in Jersey, we call it "going down the shore," but whatever you call it, the beach is just fantastic. Sitting on the sand, playing in the waves, enjoying some iced tea, and throwing a frisbee around on the shore line is probably one of the happiest things about the summer time.

59.) Air conditioning. Everyone loves air conditioning when it's overwhelmingly hot outside and you can't seem to escape the humidity. Walking past a store front and feeling that blast of cold air, stepping into a house that has it going full force, or simply sitting in front of a window air conditioning after a long run all makes me feel better and much happier after a hot day of summer.

60.) Luaus. Summer seems to be the time to throw Hawaiian Luau parties. And you don't see me complaining, because they're a lot of fun! Amongst the Hawaiian leis, the island food, and the tiki torches you simply can't go wrong and have a frown.

Share some of the things that make you happy, no matter how silly, deep, relaxing or fun they may be! Your suggestions might just show up in next week's 100 Steps Toward Happiness!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Where in the Hell is Matt?

So, I'm sure if you're a fan of travel as much as I am, and if you troll YouTube as much as I do, you've already familiarized yourself with Matt.

Where in the hell is he, anyway?

No one ever really knows (or maybe they do, but I certainly don't). But regardless of where he is in the world, he's always dancing. I think that's why I like him so much. He dances. He travels. He dances while he travels. And he does it all while video recording himself to post online and share with the world.

If you ask me, he's pretty cool.




And while, sure, he tends to be doing the same silly dance in every video, in every country, in every city or town or village... he's living the dream. He's doing something he loves, and he's made a name for himself by dancing ridiculously every where he goes.

Not bad, if you ask me.

What do you think? Do you think making a name for yourself is worth looking a little silly sometimes?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quote Corner

If you do not breathe through writing,
if you do not cry out in writing,
or sing in writing,
then don't write,
because our culture has no use for it.

-Anais Nin

Sunday, June 5, 2011

50 Member Mark!

I'd like to send a big ol' THANK YOU out to all of you!

Today is quite exciting for me. I've reached 50 followers!

Three years ago when I started this blog, it was for a small group of people to virtually follow me in my travels (and by small, I mean my mom--shout out!). But since then, it's grown, particularly in the last handful of months during my semester abroad.

I want to just say that I think you're all awesome, and I love reading the posts and blogs that you all write. Everyone inspires me in different ways, and I feel pretty lucky to have met you all (even if it's just online through blogging).

This blog has transformed a lot since it's start, and I hope it will continue to grow and transform as I do, too. Throughout all my travels, I'm sure I'll continue to learn more (just as my title says) and I'm excited to have you along for the journey.

So again, thanks to all of you, my first 50 followers!

Obsession of the Week: Ultimate Frisbee

This week, I'm obsessed with Ultimate Frisbee.

Let me explain.

I've been playing the game for over 6 years now, and after a 4 month hiatus from it, I'm happy to be back to playing the most ultimate sport there is. There's nothing like throwing a flick, catching a hammer, or running at full speed to catch that huck that your team mate just let fly down the field in hopes of scoring a point.

The game is unlike any I've played, and I've played a lot of sports in my time.

I've played soccer, softball, and basketball. I've ridden horses and shot archery. I've bowled, swam and even sailed. I play mini-golf on occasion, and I like to hit some golf balls on a driving range every once in a while. I won't turn down kickball, dodgeball, or wiffle ball. I've run track, thrown shot put, and even jumped the long jump.

However, nothing compares to the companionship of being on an Ultimate Frisbee team.
I wouldn't give up the sport for anything!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Bed Bug Nightmare

While traveling in Croatia for 5 days over Easter weekend, I had my first encounter with the dreaded Bed Bug.

Thankfully, I was not the victim.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine was earlier in the semester in Germany at a hostel she had checked into. Despite checking for the little insects and finding none, she woke up the morning after checking in to find little groups of red bumps that itched like crazy. Sure enough, she had been bitten.

Unfortunately again, while in Croatia she found another crawling across her comforter in the evening. What she was thankful about, was the fact that she had found it before having another nasty night of bites from the bugs. She switched rooms in the hostel and had no more problems, but was obviously (and rightfully so) a little more than skeeved out.

The lesson we can learn here is that, while traveling, you must be vigilant in your search for the little critters. While they are visible to the human eye, they're really good at hiding. And that means you have to look hard despite being able to see them without a magnifying glass.

Be sure when you travel that you check for them. It's so important, especially if you don't want them hitching a ride on your suitcase, clothing and other personal items once you move on from the infested place.

Check the corners of the mattress that you're sleeping on. Check the seams of the mattress. Lift the sheets and check under them. Then check under the mattress. Inspect your comforter and any other blankets on the bed. And be sure to be thorough and do this every time you sleep in a new bed, no matter how clean the hostel, hotel, rented apartment or friend's place seems to be.

Because, let's face it, it's better safe than sorry when it comes to bed bugs.

Have you ever run into these nasty little bugs? Where were you and what did you do?

(Thanks to Salvatore Vuono / for the photo.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Suggestions for the Traveling Soul: Use TripAdvisor

I use TripAdvisor for as many things as possible when I travel.

If you don't already know about it (and use it!), you should totally become familiar with it! And here's why...

First off, it's a great way to find out where to go, what to do, and how to do it, especially if you're a little nervous about traveling to a place you know next to nothing (or, like me, absolutely nothing) about. I used trip advisor while traveling in Budapest by myself for 4 days back in early April. After having the two friends I was supposed to meet cancel on me, I decided to go anyway so that I wouldn't be out the cash for my flight and hostel. And TripAdvisor was awesome! I found free walking tours through it, a great place to eat, and some of the best things to see and do while in Budapest (such as going to the Szechenyi Baths and St. Stephen's Basilica).

Second, after you use it to help plan your trip, you get to contribute to the site. You can write reviews and comment on the things you did and saw, the places you stayed, and the restaurants you ate at. It's a great way to contribute to someone else's experience in the place you visited and got to learn about, just as others helped you with their comments and reviews.

I really love the internet and all it's been able to do for me in my travels.

I can honestly say, without it, I wouldn't have bungee jumped in Costa Rica, saved money by taking free tours in Budapest, or known about the ancient wall around Lucca in Italy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

100 Steps Toward Happiness: Part 5

I hope everyone's Thursday is going well.
Here is the next ten steps toward happiness!

We're halfway there!

41.) Set a goal and do it. You know that thing you've been wanting to do for so long? That thing you keep saying that you'll start tomorrow/next week/next month? Well, write down your goal. Write down a timeline for getting it done. And then do it. Instead of continuing to put it off until some undetermined point down the road, start today. There's no time like the present!

42.) Do something spontaneous. Whether it's calling up a friend at the last second because you want to go get ice cream or going to the park and finding some people who are kicking a soccer ball around and asking to join them; whether it's surprising your family with dinner set on the table when they all come home or sending a letter to your grandparents for no particular reason; whether it's getting in your car and driving into the city for a day of antique window shopping or heading out to the countryside for a little alone time at a garden center--just go and do. Sometimes, it's good to be spontaneous and give yourself a little personal time that wasn't structured into your busy schedule.

43.) Spend a day at the beach. Maybe you don't live near enough to a coast to get to the ocean, but I bet you can improvise and live close to some kind of body of water that you can swim in. Even if it means a pool in your Uncle's backyard, use your imagination and send yourself somewhere tropical while laying out by the pool side. I take to water like a fish, and I know that anytime I'm at the beach (or imagining I'm at one) I'm happy. Just remember the sunscreen!

44.) Make yourself a mix tape. I know, I know. No one uses cassettes anymore. But mix tape sounds better than mix CD. Regardless, whenever I know I'll be driving around in my car, or running or sitting on a bus with my iPod shuffle, I make myself a playlist of music that I'm really into at that time. That way, I can rock out in my car, on my run, or on that once-lonely bus ride. Music always seems to turn my mood around.

45.) Get some sidewalk chalk, find a good piece of sidewalk, and get creative. I know when I was little, sidewalk chalk was the best thing since sliced bread. Now that I'm in college, I still find myself loving sidewalk chalk. We use it around campus to advertise events and lectures on campus, and I love being part of the "Chalking Committee." Sure, I don't get to draw a hop-scotch or a rainbow, but it still lets me release my inner chalking child. And it's a great summer activity, too!

46.) Throw a theme party. Everyone loves a Hawaiian Luau. Everyone also loves a toga party. And everyone certainly loves an 80's/90's dance party. So why not invite your friends over for some snacks, drinks, and music for a night of merriment and fun? Throwing a party, while some work, is rewarding--because in the end you know that you were the reason everyone had such a good time!

47.) Snap some bubble wrap. Stressed? Anxious? Feeling upset? Grab some bubble wrap and snap away. It's kind of like an office supplies stress reliever. And it's even more fun when having a snapping contest with a sibling, friend, or co-worker to see who can snap all of their bubble wrap the fastest.

48.) Paint your fingernails or toenails some really funky colors. While you men out there might decide not to partake in number 48, I know that almost all women can agree. When your fingernails or toenails are painted colors you normally would never use, you can't help but smile a little every time you look at them. Or is this just me?

49.) Orange slices. Remember those days you played pee-wee T-ball or kiddie soccer? You were probably 6 or 7 years old, and barely could control your balance, but you ran around on a field, not really sure what you were doing. The only thing you truly looked forward to--were orange slices. Halftime would come. Breaks between innings would come. And you could eat an orange slice with your team mates and pals. To this very day, orange slices still make me happy because of those memories.

50.) Learn to let the little things go. I will be the first to admit that I am the absolute worst at this step. I take things personally way too often, and I tend to cry about the little things more than I would normally care to admit. It's a step toward happiness that I'm working on... and although it's not easy (these past two weeks have been full of me taking things too personally and letting the little things get to me way too much) I'm really trying to make a conscious effort to change my attitude about the little things.

Share your thoughts and ideas about what makes you happy and you may see them show up here next week!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sometimes, I'm a Little Epic

Now, I don't want to brag, but I've been known to seek out some pretty intense adrenaline rushes.

I recently visited Jimmie from Tales of a Traveling Texan, and discovered a somewhat silly, but also incredibly entertaining travel quiz. The concept is to answer a handful of questions to discover your "Travel Sign." I thought it was intriguing enough to take the quiz, and while most of the online quizzes I've taken in the past really have turned out to be silly, this one piqued my interest.

My result?


"Farbarian, Farbarian, where for art thou, Farbarian? Off on some epic quest, no doubt. Your name belies your need to wander. Along the spine of the granite peaks to the west and among the rolling hills to the east. Farbarian, you make your mother weep with your wild travel adventures. But, Mother Nature weeps with joy."

And you know what? It pretty much hit the nail on the head. I love adventure. I love challenge. I love doing things that will probably end in making a fool out of myself, because life is too short not to have a good laugh, even at my own expense. I love taking risks, and I love the rush or adrenaline I get when I jump out of a plane or zip line across a valley. There's nothing quite like that feeling of heightened awareness, and I tend to go to places that offer me an opportunity to do something crazy.

And as it says (and my mother would probably agree), "you make your mother weep with your wild travel adventures." She's told me before, go and do, but go and do before telling me where you're going and what you're doing--at least when it comes to jumping out of planes.

Take the quiz! What kind of traveler are you? Do you agree with the result?

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