Lessons

Another Birthday

Monday I turned 32, and as my sweet godson pointed out, “wow, that’s old!”

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I actually spent my birthday in NC with my family, mostly my grandma, who recently got some unfortunate health news. Despite that she is still living her life with vitality and joy as always and that was the greatest gift for me to witness for my 32nd rotation on this planet. While there My family put together an epic bbq with so many delicious dishes and enough food to feed an army. I was also there for my grandmother the morning of my birthday when she had to put down her 19 year old dog suddenly after a couple of weeks of rapid decline. And then there were many grocery runs, cooking of meals, watching of HGTV shows, laughing at random things, and discussions of life that took place. All in all wonderful.

being home made me realize what a treasure it is to invest in time with the people you love. I mean we all know that, but this time I really felt that. It became even clearer that all the hard work I do is not for money, but for freedom to be with the people I want, when I want. That is the greatest luxury.

2018 Life Resolutions

2018 Life Resolutions

I love goal setting, and I am all for new years resolutions. I think they are a great way to keep moving forward and growing. I also think any day is a great day to set one, and the ringing in of the new year is the perfect inspiration to refresh any goals that may be on the back burner. So I will stop blabbering on and get down to what you're here for, my 2018 resolutions!

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Be Outraged and Resist

Trump has been in office for a week and the country is on fire. It started with limiting a woman's right to choose and an effort to start dismantling universal healthcare (see the reinstatement of the global gag rule), setting back climate change efforts and clamping down on science as a whole (see Keystone XL & Dakota Access pipelines and Federal science actions), and attacking immigrants on multiple fronts with a particular emphasis on Muslims (see the border wall and Muslim ban). I have been slow to accept our new reality. I tried to be cautiously optimistic the days before his inauguration, then I tried to avoid the news as my greatest fears were being realized, then I was just sad. Now I am really pissed off and ready to work. Trump and his hateful policies must go. So here is what I am doing and I encourage you to do to. And this isn't where I am stopping, if you have any suggestions of other actions we can take please leave them in the comments below so everyone who sees this post can take part too.

Let's be outraged. Let's resist. Let's take our country back.

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Make Your Voice Heard

Call your representatives, write letters, sign petitions, demonstrate in the streets if you have to! Our representatives are supposed to represent us and so it is our responsibility to make our positions known and continuously apply pressure on them. Use Common Cause's representative locator to find out who your reps are. And if you need a little extra help on what to say, check out this article for some tips about how to talk to your representative when you do call.

Organize

When President Obama told us in his farewell speech to organize I had no idea where to start. Luckily I have some incredible friends who did. We have begun by sharing good information and finding ways to do the above (reach out to our representatives). One friend has offered up her apartment on a weekly basis as a hub to create call scripts, make calls, write letters and keep information sharing. There is also an incredible guide and directory of how and where to get involved called the Indivisible Guide. Start with this and you'll be good.

Share Good Information

This requires staying informed and not propagating "alternative facts." Misinformation/fake news is a dangerous thing as we have already seen with this administration. We need to armor ourselves with the truth and be cynical with the media we consume. Also, good information is power. Articles like  what to do if ICE agents come to your door should be widely shared so that everyone has the knowledge they need. 

Donate

A little can go a very long way if we all chip in. I am personally giving to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood and Justice Democrats(at minimum). I will be cutting out my work lunches, extra coffees, and any other frivolous spending to give all that I can. This is an investment in a country I want to live in and society we can be proud of after all!

Stay Positive

If we stop believing in the power of the people and democracy there is not way we can win. So please take care of yourself and those directly in front of you first. Practice self care and go at your own pace. Do what you need to in order to feel like you (and not a hopeless shell of you), feel strong, and remain hopeful. We could be in for the long haul and everyone of us needs to be able to take some time for ourselves.

"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

-desmond tutu

That is all I have, again please add ideas to this list. I want to know what actions you are taking and how you are taking care of yourself. Now is the time more than ever to spread love, count our blessings and support one another to ensure this time does not become our new normal! 

XO

2016 Resolutions Report Card

Each year after the busyness of the holidays and just before diving into the new year I like to reflect on the year we are leaving behind. This year my reflections brought me back to the travel resolution I made last year. Looking back I am grading myself (in a way) on how well I stuck to my resolutions and if my sentiments changed about any of them.

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SEE MORE OF THE UNITED STATES 

I give myself an A. This year I made a very conscious effort to take more day trips and explore more of my city which led to discovering so many new gems in my own backyard. But in addition to that I was able to play tourist in both North Carolina and California for short weekend trips. I think this resolution is going to have to stick around and become a permanent habit!

PACK LIGHTER

A+ for sure. I have finally gotten my luggage down to a carryon alone for trips up to 2 weeks long! This even includes being able to pop my personal item in there if need be. I have also cut out the frenzied pre-vacation shopping and really utilized what I already own. I think in the new year I will start sharing more of my packing light techniques because it has revolutionized the way I travel!

DEDICATED TRAVEL SAVINGS 

A+ This was much easier than expected once I really committed to my budget. I think the next step in this for me will be to start a system for tracking my travel spending that allows me to compare trips over several years and better prepare for upcoming ones.

MAIL POSTCARDS BEFORE COMING HOME

W (for withdraw). So this year I skipped the whole postcard thing altogether. While visiting Tulum this summer sending postcards just wasn't a priority (nor was it at my domestic locales). Maybe postcard sending will become a thing of the past for me, but for now I will probably try again with this resolution this year! 

KEEP A TRAVEL JOURNAL

I give this one an A+. I document my travel experiences and thoughts here on the blog and have been pretty diligent doing so this year (yay!).

TAKE A FAMILY TRIP

A big fat F. Unfortunately, this year the timing just didn't align to take a family trip (meaning my nuclear family... brothers, sisters, parents), but I have definitely redetermined to make this happen next year!!!

After reviewing my goals for this year I am more focused on what I want to achieve for next. I have a feeling 2017 will be less action oriented and more internally driven. Look out for some 2017 resolutions in the coming days!

Read More About the Why Behind My 2016 Resolutions

New Year, Better Me!

5 Inspiring Travel Blogs

Last week I celebrated 1 year of blogging 🎉

When I started this blog I primarily wanted a place to share my ever increasing archive of photos and maybe share some of my motivations for traveling. But as I began writing over the past year I realized I have a lot more to say about the topic...

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Travel is very special to me. It’s not just the excitement of seeing a new place and getting out of the everyday routine, but it is a way for me to appreciate the world around me and learn more about myself. I frequently write about how I have become more aware of my values through going away, but through this blog I realized I can also keep developing those values by incorporating some of my travel habits and perspectives to my every day. A manifestation of that has been what I am calling my new hometown tourist mentality. I live in arguably the greatest city in the world (NYC) and although I have always appreciated that, this past year I have been far more proactive about seeing my surroundings. I feel like this is such a gift that my first year of blogging has given me.

Another gift I have discovered more recently is an entire community of like-minded travelers who inspire me. They offer such great advice and place-based inspiration. Plus when I am not traveling to a new land I can live vicariously through them! That's why in celebration of my blog I want to thank 5 bloggers (of the many) who I admire and, although they probably don't know it, truly motivate me to travel farther and deeper and continue growing here at See Soo Much. 

The Free Passport

Trisa Taro is the woman behind The Free Passport, originally from Hawaii but a NYC local her blog spans both the light and serious topics around travel. Visit The Free Passport for stunning photography and travel guides, or for thoughtful articles on issues that impact the way we travel. Some of my favorite posts include 3 Ways the U.S. Presidential Election Will Impact the Way You Travel,  Photo Diary: Hiking Cinque Terre, and Here's How You Can Turn 10 Days of PTO into 34 Days of Travel in 2016 (sounds interesting right!?)

website | instagram | twitter | facebook | pinterest

The Exploress

The Exploress and founder Nina Grace is all about empowering women to explore the globe while finding beauty in it all. The site just draws you into place you never knew should even be on your bucket list while simultaneously offering truly practical tips for travel. I really love their posts How to Travel Solo with Confidence, 10 Must Pack Tiny Essentials, and The Alaskan Frontier.

website | instagram | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Sea of Atlas

Sea of Atlas is actually a design studio created by the very talented and stylish Brittany Fabello. Her blog covers topics from lifestyle to business, but my absolutely favorite posts are their travel posts. I am smitten with the photography and absolutely love catching her in the travel act on instagram (can we stay insta-stories on fleek?). Be sure to check out A Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal and her entire Amalfi Coast series!

website | instagram | twitter | facebook | pinterest

The Travelling Light

I have followed The Travelling Light and author Katie McNoulty for quite a while and love the nonchalant and beautiful nature of her content. There is something so cool about everything she does, and now that I follow her insta-stories I am even more inspired! Explore her website by location, I am currently obsessing over her archive of Bali posts (when I am not stalking here current journey in India on social media!).

website | instagram | twitter | facebook | pinterest

We are travel girls

We Are Travel Girls (WATG) is a community of female travelers created by Becky van Dijk and Vanessa Rivers. The website is jammed packed with contributed travel tories and advice that serves as a non-stop source of inspiration. Be sure to read the post I contributed as well as follow WATG on instagram for some major wanderlust.

website | instagram | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Thank you to all of you incredible bloggers out there producing great content! I am so inspired by each one of you I encounter! 

Which travel blogs are really inspiring you right now or do you have a blog yourself? Leave them in the comments below, I would love to check them out!

What is Mindful Travel?

Mindfulness has become something of a hot topic. It is a key component of meditation and a lot of Buddhist practices aimed at changing the way you perceive the world. Essentially it is an awareness you develop of your feelings and environment that allows you to be present in the moment and accept the thoughts you may have about what you are experiencing whether positive or negative. In this Harvard Business Review article a leading researcher describes it as being more "sensitive to context and perspective" allowing a person to be more engaged with life. Most notably, the practice of mindfulness in daily life has been shown to result in happier, less stressed-out individuals, something I think it is safe to say everyone would like to be!

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Over the past five years I have been applying the principles of mindfulness to different aspects of my life, but it wasn't until recently that I began thinking of how it applies to the way I travel. On reflection I realize I have become more thoughtful of when I travel and my vacations have become more meaningful and memorable for me. I have learned more about the cultures I am exposed to, I have more personal interactions with the people I meet, and I learn more about myself and my values.

I like to think about mindful travel applies in two ways; the external - being mindful of the places you visit and your impact when you travel, and the internal - being mindful of your own experience and emotions.

Mindfulness of Place

Cultural consciousness is one aspect of "mindfulness of place." I think of it as simply being conscious of the customs and current events of the places I travel to. As a guest in another country (or even city!) I feel it is my responsibility to be respectful of the culture and aware of the political situations (#staywoke!). And not only is it courteous to the place and people hosting me but it benefits me if I a do a bit of research on my destination. I am able to be more alert of any risks and I'll have point of reference from which I can connect with locals.

In 2015 my partner and I visited Greece at the height of their debt crisis bailout referendum. After boning up on the economic and political issues we prepared ourselves for a variety of scenarios (like having enough cash on hand in case there was a currency shortage!) and knew to be considerate and open minded when speaking with locals about the situation. This helped us be more present and able to connect with and be compassionate with the Greeks we met and we were able to have open conversations with them about their opinions about it giving me a much deeper knowledge on EU politics!

Consciousness of place may also guide the types of activities you partake in. For instance shopping at small businesses and eating at local restaurants that benefit community instead of big commercial chains is a great way to immerse yourself in the true culture of a place and avoid tourist traps (and are usually cheaper and better quality too!) One thing I love to do is stay at airbnbs and get local recommendations from my hosts, they are always so knowledgeable and happy to help you have the most authentic experience. When being mindful of place you may even decide to partake in eco-tourism activities that pay attention to how they impact the environment thereby reducing your ecological impact (a topic I want to discuss more in a post of its own).  

Mindfulness of Experience

The other side of mindfully traveling and creating more meaningful experiences is focusing on how you emotionally experience and process your trip. I personally have a tendency to pack my schedule and see soo much () while I can! But this can leave very little time for me to reflect on everything I experience each day. I like to plan what I call "slow activities" that are less stimulating than traditional sightseeing. This could be a long lunch people watching, a museum where I can linger, or a beautiful sunset. I also like to carry a notebook with me to jot down thoughts or interesting things I notice while exploring and I find sitting down to write a postcard home allows me to reflect more deeply and rewind through all of the new memories fresh in my mind. But truly the best way to take in every experience is to be present, put down the tech and keep my eyes open. Afterall, the point of mindfulness is to be present and experience your life (including your travels!)

“The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to have other eyes.”

― Marcel Proust

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