Gifts

Why I Don't Do Souvenirs

Plastic magnets and metal key chains are a nice momento, but I prefer great stories, lessons learned and fond memories any day.

Before I moved back to NYC for graduate school I planned a month long trip of seeing new cities and sleeping friends couches. The plan was to pack up my apartment, move all of my belongings into my much smaller place in the city and then live out of a suitcase until the first day of orientation when I would make it back New York. This was all fine in theory, but as I executed the plan I realized how much stuff I owned and the emotional weight of it all. I was responsible for so many things that it seemed to tie me down and complicate my life. I managed to move and enjoy my vacation, but that month of living out of one bag (despite even that being way over packed!) was a huge revelation to me... I don't need stuff to live the life that I want! And actually, stuff is hampering me from living the life that I want.

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It was in 2013 that I got into minimalism. I stopped accumulating things and began appreciating what I had more. I believe minimalism is on a spectrum and is different for each person. For me it was about living lighter and viewing money differently. I now see money as tool for freedom (freedom to travel amongst other things) and not just for more things. I began measuring the cost of things as a fraction of a plane ticket or how many gelatos in Italy that would be (one pair shoes began looking much more delicious when converted to gelato!). This was exciting because it's what matters to me, being a traveler and having the mental and physical space in my life to explore.

So in essence I decided to say yes to travel and no to all the things that cluttered my life or didn't fit into my values.

Now how does all of that relate to souvenirs!? Well I am so glad you asked! It goes back to minimalism and acting in line with my values. Prior to this mindset I would feel obligated to buy everyone I loved, worked with or even mentioned my trips to a token from where I went. Not only was this expensive but it was totally unnecessary. Typically I would bring home tons of tote bags, notebooks and other random objects that my gift recipients didn't need and although they appreciated it, probably didn't really want. Often times the souvenirs I would buy would be low quality knick knacks and I realized I was just cluttering their lives with things, exactly what I had decided to stop doing in my own life! When I thought about what I would prefer over "some thing" it was a time and conversation about life and lessons and the new cultures explored. And once I decided I would no longer feel obliged to get gifts for everyone I began to get time back on my travels and found myself getting a gift only when it truly reminded me of someone and I knew they would cherish it.

So I suppose all of that to say it’s not that I don’t get souvenirs at all… I just don’t make it a mandatory part of my trips anymore. No more last minute shopping on the way to the airport. And even for myself I rarely bring items home unless it is a particularly beautiful rock from a pebbled beach, a beautifully designed postcard, or a delicious bar of chocolate I couldn't find back home! 

If you are like me and feel that the ritual of souvenirs can be overrated but like to bring home tokens to share with family I have found bringing home edibles to share, sending a postcard from your destination or taking perfectly posed photos with fun stories to tell on your return is a more than adequate substitute! 

I'd love to know what you think! Do you enjoy buying and/or receiving souvenirs? Do you think I am totally missing the point of them? Or do you agree and think souvenirs is something you'd prefer to skip? I would truly love to know!

A Perfect Birthday

I turned 29 on Friday, and instead of going to work and celebrating later that night and throughout the weekend I decided to have a me day. It is my last birthday as a twenty-something after all! 

Over the past several years I have been getting to know myself. I have learned that I don't need or want a lot to be happy. I have learned to value experiences over things. I have learned the only irreplaceable things in life are people and the relationships they bring. This year I didn't want any gifts, anything I want or need I can get for myself and I don't need a special day to do so. I wanted a day where I could just be myself with no obligations or expectations and just reflect on what I want this next year of my life to mean. And that is just what I had.

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My day started with a 7am wake-up call from my cousin that I grew up beside as if we were sisters. After a lot of laughs, some seriousness, and a little heckling the rest of the birthday wishes began to come in. By 10 I had finally eaten, showered, taken another birthday call and arranged to spend the morning by the pool with a friend, Rhoda.

By the time Rhoda arrived I had already settled in poolside with 10 minutes of guided meditation and jotting down some things that had been swirling in my mind about this day. We spent the late morning and early afternoon talking about our lives and what we want. We tend to have the types of honest conversations people are afraid to have out loud and I really love it. 

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After grabbing lunch (and a cocktail) we headed to Brooklyn for yoga, naturally. Attending this class in the middle of the day in such a beautiful space made me appreciate all the things this city has to offer, and consider how I overlook those things when I am focused on my routine. And although I only made it through half of the routine (I blame the gin and 90F/100% humidity!), I was proud of myself for trying something new but also caring for myself and knowing when to stop.

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I quickly returned home after class to scrub the sweat and city off of me before a very special and romantic dinner with my love when my shower was delayed by a call from my Grandmother. My Grandma has always been the strongest guiding force for me and often a confidante. I was mildly relieved when she told me 29 isn't "that old" (ha.ha... very funny Grams), but in all seriousness her call was the perfect last birthday call of the day. She always encourages me and this time around she reminded me the importance of looking outside of myself and giving where I can.  

I suppose all of this to say that this birthday was so special to me because it highlighted all of the things I plan to work on this year:

  1. Continue creating more experiences and developing beautiful friendships
  2. Take better care of myself, love myself, and be gentle with myself
  3. Give more of me. Expand my capacity by sharing my time and anything else I have to give

Do you make birthday resolutions or goals? If so I would love to hear some of yours! 

xo

Travel Photography - How I Shoot

I love photography and ever since I started embracing a more minimal lifestyle I depend on my travel photos as souvenirs. Both my partner and I aren't big fans of bringing things back for ourselves or friends and family from trips (for a few reasons that I will get into in another post sometime soon!). Since photos will pretty much be the only tangible memory of my travels I take a lot of them and I put quite a bit of care into editing and storing them. Today I want to focus on my shooting "technique" if you can even call it that 😅! These are a few things I noticed about how I take my travel photos.

1. Look with the eyes first

Although I am all about getting a great picture and documenting every moment of a trip I try to make sure I am actually experiencing each moment. If the camera has been to my eye for too long or I get sucked into reviewing pictures while still on vacation that means I am not being present and I need to step back for the camera for a while. And if I don't catch myself, my partner has gotten really good at doing it for me. I'm all about creating real memories first, pictures second.

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2. Content

Now that I am enjoying my vacation there are a few things I like to have pictures of:

Landscapes

Part of the thrill of visiting new lands is a change of scenery. That's why I end of taking soo many pictures like the one below documenting all of the foreign beauty I see.

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Architecture

I love architecture and design. Part of what gives a destination charm are the buildings it has. Thats why I inevitable come home with a gigabyte of pictures like these...

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Food & Objects

I may be basic but I love taking pictures of my food. Food evokes some of the strongest memories because it takes you back to place using almost all of your senses. I love having pictures of delicious meals like these amazing traditional tacos I had in Coba below. Similarly I take picture of interesting objects I wouldn't find at home.

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Candid Portraits

Some of my favorite portraits are those taken when your subject is caught off guard. Candids have the power of recreating a moment and taking you back in time.

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3. Style

Most photographers have a definitive style that makes their work recognizable. Although I certainly haven't developed a real style (yet at least!) I do have a few specific ways I really enjoy shooting right now. 

Flat, straight on

The flat shot is one of my favorite photos to take. I usually have a specific subject in mind  (below my subjects are those gorgeous cacti) and shoot in such a way so that my camera lens is parallel to a wall (or floor) behind what I am shooting.

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Up close & minimal detailS

Sometimes you just need to get a little closer. Photos like those below highlight one item in detail with very little context. I take photos like this when shooting food, little objects or when I have taken a few wide photos of a place and want to capture more of its unique details.

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Wide & contextUAL

Other times it helps to take a step back. An wide photo has the potential to capture and entire setting including tons of information (and beauty!).

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4. EQUIPMENT

I honestly don't think equipment really matters that much. I have taken pictures with the front facing camera on an iPad before (I implore you not to do this) and although not the best quality I have photos form my trip to Paris I still hold dear! When traveling I alternate between my iPhone and my Sony mirrorless camera - on my last trip I had the 5s with which I took all of my instagram photos. Both of these devices are easy to operate, lightweight and produce very high quality images.

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I hope this little how to helps you take more photos you can cherish forever. Look out for part 2 on how I edit my pics coming soon!

See Part 2 on how I edit photos here

The Traveler's Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us and I am planning on giving gifts that encourage exploration. Here are my favorite items from this year that have either inspired or enhanced my travels:

Holiday Gifts for Explorers
Holiday Gifts for Explorers
  1. Passport Wallet, This is Ground $90
  2. Instant Camera, Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic $135
  3. Travel Planner, Moleskine Travel Journal $23
  4. Packing Cubes, Muji Packing Cubes $5-$15
  5. Comfortable and Compact Headphones, Urbanears In-ear Headphones $40
  6. Sunglasses for all seasons,Warby Parker Madison $100
  7. Subscription to a travel magazine, Afar, Conde Nast Traveller, Suitcase $12-$30
  8. Insulated Canteen, Klean Kanteen $35