Happy One-Year Graduation Anniversary!

It has been 1 year, 6 days, 2 hours, 39 minutes and an assorted number of seconds since I walked across a maroon and gold decorated stage, shook hands with the president of my university, and handed an empty portfolio emblazoned with the Loyola Chicago crest. (Degrees are delivered by the U.S. Postal service, of course). Since that day I have attempted to “live an extraordinary life” and “set the world on fire” as my peers and I were encouraged to do that day and throughout our tenure as Loyola students. I naively and eagerly assumed that one morning I would wake up and know exactly what my next step would be.  The reality of the past year looks rather different; it has been a 365-day  journey of peaks and valleys, joys and sorrows, frustration and elation.

I spent my summer working the same job I have had since I was a precocious 15-year-old, anxiously waiting for an email or phone call that would notify me of where I was going next, either New York or Washington, D.C. As the sun set each day, I dramatically exclaimed to my ever supporting parents that despite efforts in college, perhaps I had peaked.  They laughed and told me to be patient.  So I waited, and cried, and waited some more, all the while thinking that fate was playing tricks on me. Then it happened, I was standing in line to get cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair (I am a midwestern girl at heart) when I checked my email and found out that I would be moving to D.C. to work at the most perfect place on earth.

I suppose the impetus for this piece comes from the nostalgia that has set in after seeing the endless stream of photographs on social media of friends and acquaintances alike proudly wearing their gowns, grinning from ear to ear. I, too, was one of them. I was starry-eyed, ready for the future, and somehow had convinced myself that the uncertainty of my future was not even a bit unnerving. Now, as someone who has one year of “real-life” experience under my belt, I have lost the endearing naivety that all recent college grads have. I would not say I have grown cynical per se, I would say I am now pragmatically hopeful.

Despite all that has occurred and the current journey that I am on-the search for that first post-college job in my career field, the past year has been replete with stories and adventures. Because I adore lists so much, I am going to give the longwinded literary paragraphs a break and simply list some things of this past year.

Top 5 Highlights:

1.) I took an almost complete family (Missed you Reesa!) trip out west before I moved to D.C.  We spent two weeks running free, climbing rocks, making friends with bears and elk, living the hippie road-trip life, and  seeing some of the most beautiful places in America. Yellowstone, I’m looking at you. It was bliss.

2.)I moved to Washington, D.C. and  interned at the place of my dreams and experienced the most perfect 6 months of any political junkie’s wildest fantasies (hint: it is featured quite heavily in shows like Scandal and my ultimate favorite, The West Wing). It was the most inspirational time of my life in terms of how I want to spend my career and my experience there is the biggest push I have to stay in D.C. and find a job here.

3.) I took a survival part-time job that has since expanded to a nearly full time job allowing me time to figure things out career wise without living completely off my parents dime. It has also led me to find the most unconventional D.C. friend family imaginable.

4.) I experienced my first Christmas spent in warm weather with an incomplete family. I spent the holidays with my parents kissing dolphins, drinking margaritas in the Florida Keys, lounging in hammocks tied to palm trees, and reliving my inner Hermione Granger fantasies  at HP world (Don’t do it. I’m not Ginny no matter how many times you bring up the red hair similarity).  It was a good lesson that adulthood brings changes to sacred family traditions and gives you chances to experience and enjoy new ones with the ones you love.

5.) I am currently undergoing a whirl-wind job search full of interviews with people and organizations that I dared to dream. I am learning so much about what I want to do, what I’m looking for in a job, and even though the process is as times exasperating, I feel accomplished every time I leave another office building with more and more interview experience.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Canyonlands Nat'l Park, Utah

Canyonlands Nat’l Park, Utah

Snowfall at the White House

Snowfall at the White House

Showing my mom around my workplace in D.C.

Showing my mom around my workplace in D.C.

 

Christmas in the Florida Keys- Islamorada

Christmas in the Florida Keys- Islamorada

It was a wet one.

It was a wet one.

Harry Potter World

Harry Potter World

IMG_1956

You bet I got some butterbeer

Cherry blossom season at the Tidal basin

Cherry blossom season at the Tidal basin

An inspiration for my career- FDR Memorial

An inspiration for my career- FDR Memorial

My current workplace- the John F. Kennedy Center

My current workplace- the John F. Kennedy Center

Top 5 Struggles:

1.) I miss my friends everyday. Like other young adventurers, I moved away from home after college. It was new and exciting and all that good stuff, but it also comes with the heartbreak of leaving people who have become a part of you over the years.With friends in California, Chicago, New York, Boston, and scattered in every nook and cranny in Europe and Asia, I am lucky that I have such exciting vacation spots already lined up. However, every once in awhile skyping and phones calls just doesn’t cut it and you simply want to show up at your friend’s house in the middle of night, crawl in their bed, and contemplate life while drinking wine and eating hummus. This of course is a natural course of life, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

2.) Balancing a budget on pennies with no free food or events on campus dictating your social life is quite the adjustment. Excuse me D.C., you  are asking what price for a tiny English basement apartment? Money woes are the burden of nearly everyone no matter where they are in life, and living post-college is no exception. It is not as if I am a stranger to budgeting, I worked three jobs in college to afford things, but after college I wanted to be able to take care of myself with absolutely no parental help and pay off more than the monthly payments of my loans. This is one place where I had to adjust my expectations.

3.) No matter how many interviews I go on, I still get nervous each and every time. When I say nervous, I mean heart racing, sweat inducing, stomach muscles playacting a roller coaster, nervous. Yet, the minute I shake hands with my interviewer I calm down and do my best. At least I can turn it on when it matters, but I could do without all the earlier theatrics. I’m working on it.

4.) I am a perfectionist and incredibly hard on myself.  These things while pushing me to excel in school are proving difficult to my current situation.  I like most humans feel deficient when I hear a no, or a maybe later. My mom and friends are the absolute best at maintaining that I do not get down when things don’t work out or reminding me to keep going, but I am not going to lie and say that is has been easy to keep going every day.

5.) This goes hand in hand with number 4, but the uncertainty of the future is an incredible struggle for me now. I dealt with it much better in school because I compartmentalized it and let it hide dormant between my hopes and plans for the future. Now, I face it everyday as I try to decide the next step; it is a continual struggle.

5 Things I Have Excelled at:

1.)  D.C. is a city of happy hours. I have found I possess a knack at finding really good cheap places to enjoy great food and drinks and thus, I organize a lot of social events around this. Who doesn’t love good company, tasty sustenance, and libations?

2.)  I have been told that I am Midwest friendly countless times since I moved to D.C., something which still seems so strange to me. I’m just me, talking to strangers and all. Apparently this is something that not all people do as they are very busy with their high powered jobs. Even still, I try to make the time to to pay attention to those around me. It has served me well as I meet new people everywhere and I appreciate each new story and new relationship. Hopefully as D.C. grows and changes, more of my fellow Midwesterners can rub off some of our friendliness on this high powered city.

3.)  Craigslist has been my D.C. sanctuary. I found my current job and housing on it. I used CL before, but not to the extent that I do now. If you need something, first check CL.

4.) I used to moan and complain at the thought of writing a cover letter. What do you mean I have to write a new one for each job?  Due to my job search, I was forced to learn how to write professional and engaging letters that balanced talking about your experience while at the same time proving just what an asset you would be to the organization. I have become fairly competent at doing so and have received comments from possible employers that they liked my cover letters. Point for Courtney: 1.

5.) I have lived in three apartments in my 7 months in D.C. While globetrotting taught me to be go with the flow, living here has taught me to be just as flexible in your own country as well. Things just happen sometimes, and if you spend all your time worrying about it, you get too caught up and feel miserable. Instead, I have grumbled about it a bit, then picked up and tried to remain positive.

5 Things I Can Improve:

1.) I need to learn to be patient with the speed of my life. I cannot control the timing of jobs, how how quickly people get back to you, or life in general.

2.) I need to stop stop judging my life against peers. I have spent way too much time looking at Facebook and see friends going to grad school, teaching English abroad, working in the Peace Corps (something I almost did), etc. I’m not envious of their success, I am honestly happy for them, but it makes me uncomfortable with my current state. I suppose I am envious of their seamless transition.  I want to do a great number of things in my life and I am incredibly motivated so I should stop focusing on what everyone else is doing and think about myself. Plus, if I think about it, I have done so much already and they may be Facebook stalking me just as much I am them. (Pitfalls of social media, huh?)

3.) Since this is my second post in two years, I have been neglectful to my special blog world. I am changing this, NOW.

4.) I have learned to say no in some situations, but I need to work on this. I am a people pleaser, so I want everyone around me happy first. I am going to try be pragmatic and say yes to the things that will help me down the road and learn to be a little bit selfish until I feel back on solid ground career wise.

5.) I attempt to do Skype dates and phone calls weekly, but often life gets in the way. I want to be more efficient at scheduling time to connect to my friends who are away.

This is a brief overview my first year post-grad. I will fill you all in later about my various tips to survive and travel tips since I have done a fair bit of traveling in between.

To all my first years in real life, I say this. Keep your beautiful and perplexed heads up. You may have found your way already, but if you haven’t enjoy the ride. Whichever our speed, we can take this one step at a time or barreling forward. We can create our stories. Let us be the authors and illustrators; this is our life after all.

Cheers!

Reunion with a Dear Old Friend


Earlier tonight, I experienced the warm, giddy, and comfortable feeling that can only occur when you are reunited with an old dear friend who understands everything about you. It pains me that I was separated from this piece of my life for so long, but I am eager for the new phase in our relationship. So who is this elusive friend you ask? Drumroll please… I will not hold you in suspense too long…Our Nature Lies in Movement is back in action.

I have decided to bring back the old blog, which last accompanied me through my travel adventures. While I am currently stationary, living in Washington, D.C., I want to continue sharing my tales of adventure and the mundane  (because let’s face it, life is filled with that dichotomous pair) with my lovely readers. It has been two years since I last published a post and in that time I have learned many things about movement. Movement may take form in the most obvious way- physical changes in environment, traveling, through various means of transportation across highways and oceans. However, I have also discovered during my hiatus that it can also occur in more subtle ways. Movement occurs naturally in life even when one is physically stagnant; it happens within one’s community, one’s career, one’s friends and families, one’s ideas, thoughts, hopes, and dreams.  I wish to capture movement in its grandiose fashion and in its minutia. I hope that I can make this transition from a pure travel blog to a blend that includes travel tips and stories both in the US and abroad, life hacks for twenty somethings, and everything in between. Stay tuned for a new layout, more intriguing posts, and beautiful photographs.

It feels so good to be back.

Cheers!

Welcome Back Our Nature Lies in Movement.png

 

 

How I Stayed with Strangers and Lived to Tell About It

I am among the more than 4 million users who are a member of the hospitality exchange website couchsurfing.org.

I will admit that I was initially tempted by the allure of free accommodation but when I started to actually fill out my profile I realized that CouchSurfing was really about interactive cultural exchanges. CouchSurfing is not just something you do on a whim when you have run out of money, for many people it is a way of life and travel. If individuals are going to open their homes to strangers, it is only courtesy for those surfing to embrace the opportunity to learn first hand about another culture through the eyes of a local. Therefore, I wrote my profile carefully so that I would present a genuine view of myself as a traveler and guest.

My CouchSurfing Profile

How did this all come about, you say? I am a 20-year-old university student who somehow was fortunate enough to study abroad. I surfed in Europe while I was studying in Prague. I have surfed with chefs and social workers, free spirits and conservative types, university students and retirees, young and old, and men and women of all nationalities and ethnicities. I have slept on couches, mattresses, floors (some more comfortable than others), and even the host’s own bed (they gave it up when space was crowded).

I began my couchsurfing venture in Paris. I somehow convinced several of my other travel companions to CouchSurf with me as well. There were 5 girls in total and we stayed at a flat with 5 French chefs.   They were gracious and willing enough to host all of us even though none of us had ever surfed before. Later I learned that our hosts have hosted more than one thousand individuals since they started hosting a year and a half ago.  At our host’s home I met a Brazilian flight attendant and a German Uni student; we formed fast friendships.  We swapped travel stories, life anecdotes, and even at times got lost in translation. Our hosts made us feel completely at home. They even showed us their culinary skills by cooking us a lovely meal on our last night in their home. Needless to say after the overwhelming positive first experience, I was hooked.

CS in Paris

New CouchSurfing Friends in Paris.

I started spreading the notion of CouchSurfing to my friends and suddenly I had created a trend amongst my study abroad group.  All of a sudden students in my classes would ask me for advice in filling out their profiles, finding good hosts, and other miscellaneous information as if I was a CouchSurfing expert. While I humbly told them my reasoning for CouchSurfing, I politely encouraged others to do so as well as long as their intentions were pure and about getting to know individuals from other cultures.

When I tell people that I CouchSurf, I hear the usual, “You are brave to be staying with strangers,” or “Aren’t you worried about safety?”  Yes, CouchSurfing involves everything your parents told you to avoid during childhood. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t meet people you talk to online. And certainly, do not stay with those strangers.  However, I have found that the nature of successful travel in general requires one to step outside their comfort zone. Instead of simply stepping outside the box, why not simply banish it?  This is what CouchSurfing does. It expands traditional travel to create more unique and genuine cultural experiences. It redefines travel.

In response to safety concerns, I simply respond it is as much of a risk to those who open their homes to strangers as it is for those staying. Thus, in the manner of friendly international relations it is both parties best interest to be cordial and polite.  (On a personal note, I am not reckless and am aware that a traveler needs to be smart, but I do think that Americans can be more paranoid than the average person. I simply chose to be a practical traveler who believes that there are good people in the world who are not automatically out to get you).

To those not fully convinced yet, the website itself enables a few methods that allow more concrete standards for safety. First, there is the vouch feature, which allows someone who has been vouched for three times to vouch for other members who they know or met through couchsurfing and trust. Secondly, an individual can pay 25 USD to have their address identified by receiving a letter in the mail with a code that can be entered online to secure their identity and location. Lastly and more importantly, references are the best way to gage a possible host or surfer. It is customary after a CouchSurfing encounter to leave a reference either negative or positive to let others know about the individual as a guest or host. It is exactly like reviewing a hostel on hostelbooker.com or leaving any feedback on trip advisor. When scouting for a possible host I would examine the reviews and make a judgment call based on the reviews.  Every time I surfed, my hosts have completely lived up to their positive reviews and I have found this feature to be the most reliable and best tool in choosing a prospective host.

If you think of it, CouchSurfing is simply a modified version of the old practice of crashing with a friend of a friend.  Social networking has clearly enhanced this tested and true method of accommodation by allowing it to be all on online and with a greater network of friends.

When I finally get back to the States I plan on opening my apartment to CouchSurfers. Since I am not traveling it will be a great way to get a taste of the world in my own home while my wings are temporarily clipped.  People and culture is what travel is all about. These are the pillars of CouchSurfing and I cannot stress enough the positive effects of this unique way to travel.

I close this piece with a brief list of some of the lessons that I have learned while CouchSurfing and a few handy tips. They may seem simple and obvious to some, but you would be surprised that this unassuming advice is not always heeded.

1.)Politeness still matters.

In many situations, it seems that manners have become a lost art and informality has taken their place. I am not suggesting acting like you are dining with the Queen at teatime; however, it is better to be overly polite. Customs around the world differ and while it is impossible to know the ways in every host country, acting in a polite manner will often benefit you until you learn the local customs.  Also, I always like to give my host a small thank you gift as a token of my gratitude for letting me stay.

2.) Be OPEN Minded

You will meet all walks of life when you CouchSurf. You will hit it off with some of the people you meet and some will rub you the wrong way. However, it is necessary to remain open minded in order to get the full experience.  If you are open minded, you will never be disappointed.

3.) You don’t have to agree on everything but respect others and all opinions.

This goes hand in hand with the 2nd one, but again it is important enough to be stressed. In Porto, Portugal, my host took me to dinner with one of his buddies who also had CouchSurfers. These surfers happened to be an older French couple and two twenty something French drifters. My host was an older former businessman who had worked and lived all over the world. While he was very polite and respectful of others’ opinions, his friend’s surfers decided to embroil him in a heated political debate about the Middle East.  While I am the first to revel in a good political debate, this went out of hand and the debate began a battle of religious ideology. Needless to say, it damaged relationships and really was unnecessary. Remember, you don’t have to see eye on everything, but you should respect the differences.

4.) Food is an important way to break the ice.

Yes, the cliché that food brings people together remains true especially when you CouchSurf. A nice way to get to know your host on your first day is to make a dinner for them. While it is not a rule of Couchsurfing, it often clues your host that you really are grateful for them hosting and allows good discussion over something that all people do: eat.  If your host cooks for you, offer to help. (This may seem like simple manners but believe me I have seen people awkwardly stand there while the host does all the cooking when all he really wanted was a hand chopping up some vegetables).  If your host takes you out to a local restaurant, try the cuisine. It may not be your cup of team but by making the effort to try the local dish you are making a statement that you appreciate their culture. No one says you have to enjoy everything you try, but trying new things is important.

5.) Keep in touch.

You never know who you will meet when you Couchsurf.  Some individuals you meet may be your friends for life and some may be merely acquaintances.  By putting the extra effort to keep in touch, it can lead to an amazing global network that may surprise you in the future. For instance, one of my hosts has multiple residences and has offered me to stay with him in Brazil and Morocco simply because I maintained in contact with him.  I have been invited to my first French hosts’ birthday parties time and time again and hopefully one day I will be able tot take him up on their offer.

6.) Leave the place better than you found it.

It is someone’s home after all.  Unlike a hotel or even a hostel, there is not cleaning service or maid to clean up after you. Treat the space with care and even better perhaps clean up a bit for the next guests. In Paris, one of the other surfers had a bit too much to drink and was sick all over the bathroom one night. Our host was then forced to clean up the entire mess. It was not only awkward for the surfer, but also for the host. Please clean up after yourself, and take care of the space.

7.) Let your host show you around.

I know that often you have your own plans when you stop in a new city. I know that I always had a short must see list written down. However, if your host takes the time to show you around, take advantage of it.  In Brussels, on my first night after a long bus ride my host took me to a bar to meet other local surfers and hosts. I was reluctant to go at first because I simply wasn’t in the mood. However, out of politeness I went, thankfully I did. Not only did the bar have a groovy attitude and splendid cider, but I also met so many wonderful people from all over Europe, two who were were official translators for the European Union headquarters.  In Portugal, my host gave me a tour of the entire city, and he even took me to free Port wine tastings. Talk about a night out!! Trust your hosts and their advice of their hometowns. At the same time if there is something you are dying to see or do, simply tell your host and I am sure they will be more than happy to take you there.

8.) At the same time, your hosts are not travel guides.

As great as it is to have a host that can show you around, not all hosts have flexible schedules that allow them to do so. Hosts are after all everyday individuals who have to work just like the rest of us. They cannot simply drop their responsibilities to show you around. Don’t get bent out of shape if you were expecting the grand tour of the city. Ask your host for a few places to see and head out on your own.  I had a few friends who tried CouchSurfing and when I asked them how it went they shared their disappointment with how their host was unable to show them around like they initially thought.  Each CouchSurfing experience is unique.  Some hosts may be able to show you around and some may not, but both are sill valuable experiences–just in different ways.

9.) Communication is key.

The most important thing you can do to avoid any unpleasant encounters is really just to communicate. The worst thing that a surfer can do is to just tiptoe around an issue.  If there is something really bothering you, bring it up tactfully. More often than not, your host will be glad that you communicated the issue and move past it.  There is nothing worse than the elephant in the room. Communicate with your host as best you can language barrier and all.

10.) Make the best of your situation.

I can go on and on about the benefits of CouchSurfing until the cows come home, but whether you like it or not is completely up to you. I encourage all to try it, but I cannot guarantee that it is necessarily the way to travel for you.  Thus, if it is fantastic, if not that’s fine too. Either way make the best of any situations, because for everything that is going wrong on your trip there will be a millions things that will go right and completely erase any small mishap you may have encountered. And in the off chance that your CouchSurfing experience isn’t everything you thought it would be, you at least have an entertaining story to tell your friends. After all even when things go to hell, they end up being the best stories. 

To this day, some of my best memories are from the places where I CouchSurfed during my months living in Europe.  So if you have a wandering soul like me and love travel because it opens your world to new people and culture, I whole-heartedly suggest giving CouchSurfing a chance.  I cannot promise you that every experience will be perfect and that all your hosts will be courteous and welcoming. You may have that one awkward or uncomfortable encounter.  However, I also cannot promise you that every hostel will be clean and bed bug free or that every hotel will be worth the pretty penny that you pay for it Couchsurfing may not necessarily be your thing, but you won’t know until you give it a chance. Travel is all about taking risks, and with a little bit of luck and an open mind you can enhance your travel by being bolder than the rest.

A Passionate Plea to the Night

**Sorry folks. If you were expecting some new travel musings, I have to disappoint you. Rather, I wanted to write a creative personal piece that encapsulates who I am.  Fear not, more travel posts are in the works as my blogging wheels are already turning. 

Passion is both the bane of my existence and my purpose in life.  To say that I am a passionate person would be the understatement of the year. For those around me they either appreciate it or wish to tame the wild beast. My father is one of those who appreciate it; he calls me his fiery daughter. While that can also be attributed to my crimson hair, it mostly applies to my temperament.  When I go home, most often he antagonizes me with ludicrous statements just to see if my fire has withered at all. Our quarrels, which reveal to actually be incited quibbles, allow him to encourage my fervor and attempt to direct it. He loves testing me, but then again tests have always been his preferred form of assessment during his tenure as an educator. While infuriating, I understand that my passion gives him hope and also reminds him of his less cynical youth.

My passion has also gotten me in trouble; many political and ethical debates among friends have ended badly although with a victory on my behalf because much to my consternation most people do not like to debate or argue and detest conflict. More importantly, my nature provides the biggest battle for me internally. While, I don’t fly off the handle anymore; I have perfected the art of controlling my emotions or at least masking them behind a thin veil of self-protection.

I feel things, incessantly, at the most inopportune times, when I’m awake and when I’m asleep. It is constant.  It is an eternal smoldering ember that cannot be extinguished. It is a ravaging hunger that can never be satiated.  It urges me to keep searching, to keep fighting and to never surrender or relent. But it also pulls me in every direction. Some mornings I wake up and know that I will be compelled to act. In which direction?  I am treading water, neither sinking nor swimming, neither moving forward nor backwards. I am imprisoned by own desire to do everything, all the time, and everywhere.  My desire to do everything prevents me from doing anything.

It is at night, when I lie awake because my mind is rapidly firing and try as I might I cannot make it cease. Then for a singular moment calmness washes over me because my passion appears directed. All the murky possibilities line up and point to one direction. I can let myself sleep and wake with the dawn.

The sun warms my face as it peeks through the curtains and I rise with purpose. I feel light, light enough to take flight.  I craft a weaving of plans in my mind for my future and how I can live with integrity and passion.  I eagerly greet the day with abundant energy. The day is a mixture of action, reflection, appreciation, and gratitude.

However, time is fleeting.  Night blankets the earth again. I’m still tethered to the ground and I feel heavy. I feel myself being sucked under again, back into the bewildering world of thoughts, hopes, misdirection, chaos, and confusion. I am back to the start, full of passion and yet no further in my quest.  I despise the night for it makes me doubt the day.

Despite this, I cannot wish night away for it allows me preparation for the day. The passionate confusion allows possibility and inspiration to emerge. The uncertainty of my direction allows an endless future where my passion can lead me. I can only hope to learn to cope with night.

This is the struggle of the passionate. It is my battle. It is my curse. It is my salvation.  It perpetuates a life that seeks the great and the impossible.  I am governed by the light and hopeful day and the dim and poignant night. I am governed by passion.

Beauty in the Mundane

I apologize in advance. I do not have any beautiful photographs of escapades in the city or any batty anecdotes to tell you right now. I do have some amazing road trip and camping stories coming up shortly along. Rather, this long-winded post is more of my way to unwind and release some of the tension that I have built up over the last few weeks. The weekdays have not been the most invigorating to say the least. In fact, they were practically lifeless if we compare them to preceding weekends. Honestly, the days merged together as they were a mash of assignments, clashing personalities, presentations, frustration and a nuisance of a head cold.

I have experienced problems with housing and my landlord (s) that were hopefully settled today after a month of back and forth negotiations (*crosses fingers). I was kicked out of my house due to faulty building permits. It was only due to my friends that I had a place to live.  So in dear Melbourne, I have been homeless twice. Balancing my finances has also been particularly challenging this time around; Australia is very expensive in comparison to Central Europe. I have done side jobs in both places just for extra cash, which has supplemented me quite well. However, I will be going back to the States with practically nothing to my name and I am entering my final year of undergraduate studies, which means that I need to think about the future (a terrifying thought). Tell me why I cannot be a professional student, please?

Most of the time I can barely contain my joy for the opportunities I have been given and sought out for myself.  Of course, I am incredibly grateful and wouldn’t change a single thing but it’s not all fun and games that everyone seems to think. Life still goes on back home despite your distance and just because you are on a different continent, it does not mean that you are not affected by occurrences back home. Similarly, just because you live somewhere else does not mean that everyday problems won’t affect you. In, fact, sometimes the smaller things seem worse because you don’t have the comfort of the familiar and the support system that you have back home.  Nor do I have the means to fix things from afar.

Living in Australia has challenged me in different ways than Europe did, and I will be coming back with yet again a changed worldview (There’s no language barrier, but don’t let that fool you).  I feel stronger than ever and I feel confident imparting a little wisdom to other young, eager, and hopeful travelers.

You need to be resilient, robust, and a little bit more optimistic than most.  More importantly, you also need to stick up for yourself. Be a force of nature.  Demand the most out of your experiences.  Appreciate the people who you meet but don’t get bent out of shape if some bother you (its not a popularity contest). This is also applicable to long-term life lessons, but is particularly true when traveling. It is those who greet challenges head on, who move on when things don’t go the way they were planned, and who pick themselves up to greet each new day with abundant energy, spunkiness, and passion that truly know how to travel right.

If you focus on the little problems, they will eat away at you. Every time I swipe my credit card, I wince. I think about how much interest I will incur at the end of the month and how long it will take me to pay that off. However, when your eyes see the sunset over the ocean, or hike to the bottom of the waterfall, all is forgotten and you cannot help but be in awe of the earth’s beauty.

I am a born traveler. I am convinced that even if I did not start now, I would have found my calling later on. I love travel for many different reasons and clearly the endless possibility for adventure has stolen my heart. It is in the still moments, the mundane, the tram rides, the nighttime walks home, the laughs shared with my housemates, and even times when I am so frustrated that all I can do is turn on music and dance that I really appreciate travel and change.

I often underestimate that ability. There are in fact some people who do not exhilarated by getting on an airplane and being alone in a new place. I thrive in it, while others detest it. For others, there are limits as to what they will take. I have seen my housemates hit their breaking points and they are slowly making their way back.

One of my good friends withdrew from the university and left due to plethora of personal reasons.  I understand her reasons and she is much happier now that she is at home and I am glad that it all worked out for the best.  She hit her limit. I, on the other hand, continue to be tested and say keep them coming. It will take a lot more than being homeless twice, being broke, and being injured to dampen my wanderlust.

One more thing, I suppose I lied; I do have one photograph for you. It’s from my little porch during an exquisite sunset. Even the sky can brighten my spirits when I am down.

So cheers to the mundane. It makes us appreciate how special movement and travel truly is. I do not take anything for granted, even the low points because they make the rest just that much better.