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Camino 4: A Fresh Start

As I celebrated my last official day of employment with a homemade meal of sautéed vegetables, a warm and cozy bowl of chicken and  garbanzo bean soup, and a glass or two or three of sangria in Leon, Spain, a wonderful thought crossed my mind…. This life of mine, is in fact MINE to live. I can choose to create the life I have always wanted. I have previously written about my desire to leave  the 9-5 lifestyle behind me. It doesn’t suit me. It never has. Instead of repeatedly jamming the square peg into the round hole, I chose to follow my heart and to leave the structure and security of having a salaried job where I can expect a paycheck every two weeks for something more invigorating, something less certain. 

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Each time I have moved on from a job, it has been because it has become mundane, too routine. Ironically, I have worked with a variety of populations which others would call “challenging” and in environments where people would assume (and I did too before I worked in them) “could never be boring.”  Still, I found each day presented similar occurrences, and my purpose became unclear.

That being said, I left my position because I had a knowing, a feeling, that it no longer served me. It didn’t fit me. I work much better in an environment where I can be creative, where I can see daylight, where I can be my authentic self. As silly as it may sound to some, one of the things I looked forward to most was getting rid of my professional attire and dress flats. I prefer flowing and comfortable, colorful clothing and each day as I prepared myself for work, I donned the black dress slacks and black suit jacket, I assumed an identity that wasn’t mine. I am full of color, but felt a need to restrict my liveliness so as to be taken seriously as a professional by clients, coworkers, and executive staff. All the while, I was suffocating my soul.

Now walking the Camino de Santiago, I have only 3 outfits, of which I wash by hand in a sink (or sometimes the shower) and hang outside on the line to dry. And honestly, I feel free. Excess material possessions aren’t weighing me down. Neither is the burden of a “regular job.” I am grateful for things I have learned along the way, but no longer desire to “build my resume.” I would rather build my life. 

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Meet You at the Eiffel Tower at 7…ish Camino 1

This post will be part of a series detailing lessons I learned and observations I have made throughout my time traveling along the Camino de Santiago in the Summer of 2018. I will title each post and number them chronologically, for easy reading 🙂

I am writing this post from the Camino as I go..and am also presently working on my disse\nrtation for my doctorate in the evenings after walking throughout the day. Just as a head’s up, I am not going to be writing each day as I am trying to get the most from each moment 🙂

It is 4 June 2018 and I am on day 7 of my adventure!

Before I jump into my trip, I want to share some tips related to traveling abroad....

When traveling, particularly when traveling abroad, I have found it much more enjoyable when I am able to “go with the flow.” Many of the modern conveniences of the Western culture are not found elsewhere in such abundance. It can be easy to become frustrated when things aren’t as we would expect. Perhaps this is why I have heard it said on multiple occasions.. to include once so far on this trip.. “Americans are entitled.” This is just one perception held by some individuals, but not at all to be considered the only view held about Americans by those who reside in other countries. And, not to be misconstrued as an attack on those living in the United States.

So, if you have never traveled outside of the United States, or if you are preparing to travel internationally.. here are a few tips I have to hopefully make your experience more enjoyable:

  1. Bring your own toilet paper- Many countries, to include those in Europe, do not always provide tissue paper/toilet paper in their public restrooms.
  2. Be respectful of others’ time. If the bus is scheduled to depart or you are required to check out of a hostel, albergue, bed & breakfast, or hotel at a specific time.. don’t expect that the host will be understanding if you are running a few minutes behind.
  3. Understand that the idea of personal space takes on vastly different definitions across the globe. This goes from standing room on buses and sidewalks to sleeping arrangements.
  4. Expect to get lost.. getting lost isn’t always a bad thing.. if you plan for it. Always allow more time than you would normally need to get from Point A to Point B.. Remember, the language and the signage are different in each country. It will take you longer to do simple tasks (i.e., like find a restroom or the bus station). You can alleviate much stress if you just account for this in your preparations.

While this list is obviously not exhaustive, I shared some of these thoughts with my long-time friend, as our plan to hike the Camino de Santiago was her first trip abroad. We were flying from two different parts of the States, and would be meeting in Paris to begin our journey. My flight was to arrive in Paris at 0930, and hers at 1715 the same day. We would stay in Paris and make our way to St. Jean Pied de Port by way of plane, train, and bus, the next day.

Before leaving Stateside, we planned to meet at the Eiffel Tower at 7ish…

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If you would like to receive notifications for the other posts detailing this journey….Please feel free to follow me!

Also, as always, if you have any questions or comments… leave them below!

The World Needs Your Creativity

20180514_112632_0001Last night I tried something that I have never done before… a Paint and Sip class! I have wanted to do one of these for a while now, and finally the perfect opportunity presented itself.

I had been having a bad day and almost didn’t go. I am happy I didn’t back out! Our instructor, Lynn, was amazing. She works for Paint for Good in Richmond, Virginia. While I have traveled far, gone on solo adventures, and been skydiving among many other thrill seeking activities, this was a different type of soul journey.

The worries of the day honestly faded as I concentrated on the canvas in front of me. The level of relaxation was exactly what I needed after a rough day. Having worked in mental health for about 6 years, I am familiar with the stress-reducing capabilities of art and have often recommended drawing, writing, painting, and the like to patients in the past who were struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression. Yet, as we know, those of us who are paid to help others in dealing with these struggles, aren’t always the best at taking our own advice.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

So, if I knew the potential benefits, what was holding me back? I feared I would “mess it up.” Sounds funny, right? It is MY work, MY vision, how could I mess it up? Not to mention, there were absolutely no risks to my health, safety, or life. Throughout the evening, the well-known phrase so commonly uttered by Bob Ross “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents” echoed throughout the room. These little reminders coupled with the uplifting spirit of our instructor singing sweetly “That is beautiful!” and “You are doing fantastic!” helped to fade these fears. –The wine may have contributed as well 🙂

Embarrassingly, I must admit that I was feeling somewhat indifferent about encouragement the instructor offered. I thought to myself “she cannot possibly think that all of our paintings are really THAT good.” Then I allowed myself to relax, and I realized that I was again judging myself. This is a behavior I need to improve. I was uncomfortable with (and admittedly somewhat defensive against) the kind motivation of the instructor, because her words were in conflict with how I felt about my artistic abilities. In the psychology world, this is called cognitive dissonance.  Obviously, this puts us in a place of discomfort, so in order to get out feeling this way, we can either tell ourselves that these affirmations from others are incorrect, and we truly lack (artistic) ability… or, we can challenge the irrational thoughts associated with our beliefs by:

  • Concentrating on more supportive beliefs that prevail over the dissonant belief/thought

“Look at the ways I blended those colors, that’s not too shabby!”

  • Shrinking the significance of the conflicting belief

“Even if I am not the best, I am still having fun and that is what matters!”

  • Changing the conflicting belief so that it is consistent with other beliefs/behaviors

“I am not too bad at this!”

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Keep in Mind: When you have differences between your actions and your beliefs, you may feel discomfort. Changing not only your thoughts, but also changing your behaviors can help to reduce this feeling of discomfort, by enabling you to grow.

My challenge to you all is to GO FOR IT! Step outside of your comfort zone. Do that that thing that you have always wanted to do! You will learn more about yourself and the world around you, if you give yourself permission! The world needs your creativity. So, if you don’t take a leap and unleash your creative side, the world will miss out on all you have to offer!

As always, please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment!

Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?

Time. What does it mean to you? Do you feel you have enough or too much of it? How do you choose to use it? Do you want more of it? Do you feel like you have wasted it? What would you rather do with it? The interesting thing about time, is that for each year, we all have 12 months, we all have 52 weeks, we all have 365 days, and we all have 8760 hours, which is 525600 minutes, which is 31,536,000 seconds. And what we choose to do with that time dictates how our life plays out. Every choice we make regarding each second of our life matters. It is a second we will never get back. What are you doing with your time?

You Still Have Time

One of the things many people said to me whenever I shared frustration with my current position, as it relates to my work/life balance was “You are young; you can still start over and do what makes you happy.” Although at first this was encouraging and motivating. However, the more I thought about it, the more disheartened I became. All of these people had already decided that it was “too late” for them. Too late to pursue their passions, too late to do what makes them happy. They had made up their mind that their best option in life was to settle. Oh, my heart!

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It gets worse… these are the same people who have a countdown, some to the very minute they are eligible for retirement! They are living their lives waiting for the future, wishing the very moments of their lives away. For what? For the dream that one day, they will get to begin the life they long for, after they have given most of it to a job they are settling for. They are hoping to travel the world, to explore the national parks, to spend time with loved ones, after they retire. For the type of work they do, the life expectancy isn’t very long… three to seven years. So, these people are trying to fit all of their life into three to seven years! This is excruciatingly depressing to think about. Not to mention, at the age of retirement, their energy levels and physical abilities will be reduced, further limiting their ability to actively participate in their own life, even when they “get time” to do so! This idea of poor work-life balance is not a new phenomenon.

What is the Best Way for YOU to Spend YOUR Time?

As a daughter of parents who didn’t believe in “sick days,” you can imagine how mine reacted when I told them I was leaving my full time position to hike the Camino de Santiago when I was denied time off of work to do so. I was told that I wasn’t welcome to come to their home to eat their food, and how embarrassing it would be for them to tell their friends how they will have a daughter with a PhD (I am currently working on my dissertation in I-O Psychology) who quit her job. Notice how these responses indicate that they are worried about what they perceive they will lose (i.e., resources such as money spent on food and pride) as a result of my decision to do that I believe is best for me. Sadly, this response is no less than what I had expected. It was a good thing that I have recently been working on doing what is best for me, and not what others have wanted me to do. That type of thinking was what got me into the downward spiral of chasing the next raise, a place I had vowed to myself never to be. That wasn’t what made me happy. It never was.

However, as a child, certain thoughts are instilled in you. And it isn’t until much later, during adulthood, that you are able to reconcile your true thoughts with those injected into your psyche by others. This may put you on the defense, or you may feel guilty for allowing such to happen. But, don’t worry. As a child, you can do nothing but absorb what is sent your way. This is completely natural, even if it isn’t always the best thing for us. As an adult, you get the opportunity to really explore who you are, outside of who others have told you to be, or tell you that you are.

Isn’t that WONDERFUL?

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My goal is to encourage people to find their true selves, to create the life of their dreams, and to not feel guilty doing it! Be proud of who you are! Find what excites you, and spend your life pursuing that! Remember, it is never too late to live life through your own eyes.

To start, take an inventory of your passions.

If after you have what gets you excited, you realize that your current job isn’t the one for you, a good place to start is O*NET. They not only provide a place for you to easily search job types, but also educate you on how to better understand the job by certain descriptors such as: abilities, interests, skills, work activities, work contexts, work styles, and work values. There could be a job that fits you perfectly, that you don’t know even exists!

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For example, would you prefer a job which ranks high in independence, or one that prioritizes relationships? Do you prefer working with your hands or on a computer? This website can help you to avoid the pitfall of working in yet another job which just isn’t right for who you are!

The O*NET interest profiler is the perfect guide for identifying the type of job which is the best fit for you! I found this website as part of my I-O program, am not endorsed, and do not receive any monetary gain from placing this link on my page. I simply want to help you to be happy in a job that fits your wants and needs.

Please comment below with what you believe to be the best job for you and why! Are you currently in the position that is best for you? Why or why not?

Do you know anyone else who could benefit from O*NET or the O*NET interest profiler? Spread the word of this wonderful resource for those looking to pursue a new life of happiness and work-life balance! I would be thrilled to hear how it works out for you all!

As always, if you would like to be notified when a new post comes out, please sign up for the email reminder below!

Your Authentic Self

Recently, I have been reflecting on my present position in life. I am a believer that, as cliché as it may sound, “Everything happens for a reason.” I also feel that there is a lesson to learn in both the good and the rough times. In order to grow, we must be stretched beyond our comfort zone. While it is comforting for a short while to finally reach a place where you get “it,” you have learned how to navigate a new job, relationship, or other task, it is deadly to remain there. By doing so, you never expand your influence or understanding and your soul begins to shrivel.
I am a competitor, and have always been that way. To some extent, I always will be. However, as I have aged, I have realized that it is not as important to outdo others, or to be the best… what really matters is the impact you leave on the lives of others around you and ultimately, the impact you leave on this Earth. We are all here for a purpose, and before we can begin to understand what our purpose may be, we must get in touch with our authentic selves. As this is a work in progress for me as well, I will lay out a brief outline which helps to guide to a place of revelation concerning one’s true identity.

Before I lose you… yes, this probably seems “deep” and somewhat philosophical. But, if you are reading this blog, you probably have an interest in development and expression of self…and before you can begin improving YOU, you must be confident in knowing who YOU truly are.
If we break this question of “Who am I?” into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem too overwhelming of an inquiry. First, without including those opinions, requests, nudges, pushes, or beliefs of others (to include your parents, friends, co-workers, children, and “they”-whoever that may be), what do YOU truly enjoy doing most in life? Your response should not reflect what you think the “right answer may be,” but honest replies only. We get nowhere by lying, especially if we are lying to ourselves.

If this still seems like too large of a question to conquer, you can break it down even further.
The following examples may be able to help guide you with this question:
“When I am ________________, I feel at peace.”
“When I ____________________, I feel happy.”

Seems simple, right? But many of us don’t take the time out of our busy lives to really think about what we enjoy doing. Instead, we get caught up in the merry-go-round of life, and get lost in doing the things we feel we HAVE to do, completing ignoring our soul’s cry to be fed with joy and self-love. As long as these things which make you happy and at peace are not harming anyone, they are likely healthy for you.

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Now, the opposite is just as important. What are the things that you find yourself doing that cause stress or misery? This is not to say that we never have to do anything we don’t like.

The following examples may be able to help guide you with this question:
“When I am ________________, I feel stress and strain.”
“When I am ________________, I feel uneasy and/or anxious.”

Finally, take a look at the last week. How many of the things from your “makes me happy” list did you partake? Likewise, how many of the things from your “makes me uneasy/stressed” list did you engage in within the last week?
Taking note, which of these items from the unhappy list can be removed or decreased? For example, can you alter your schedule in order to allow for more time so that you are not stressed due to running late? Can you ask for help (yes, I know this is not my favorite thing in the world to do either) with doing a ride share so that you can decrease time spent taking your kids to and from practices throughout the week, sharing responsibility with other kids’ parents who also must drive their kids to the same practice? Further, does your chest get tight each morning when you think about having to go back to the 9-5 that you despise? If so, what steps can you take in order to change this stressful aspect of your life?

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Of those happy list items, which can you make more time for? If drinking coffee out on your porch or deck in the morning helps put your mind at ease the rest of the day, can you wake up a few minutes earlier so that you are able to enjoy this relaxation time? If taking pictures energizes your soul, can you plan to bring your camera/phone with you to take pictures of nature and beauty you come across throughout the day? Taking a moment to admire the little things, really can make a huge difference in the tone of your day. On some very stressful days at work, when I lived in West Texas, I would go to a little park where I knew the prairie dogs gathered and watched them play. It honestly helped me get through the day on many days.

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Finally, what are the things you are good at? What are your talents? Do you find that you are a great speaker, but work a job which requires you to sit behind a computer all day, interacting only via text? Are you the person your friends always come to for relationship advice, but your work duties involve changing linen or cleaning an office? Conversely, are you anxious at the thought of speaking to large groups of people, but your work regularly requires you to do so? Sometimes we are not even really aware of our own talents! A good way to begin your search if this is an area of confusion for you is to ask your friends and family what they believe you are good at. What are people always asking for your help with doing or situations that you are always asked to help resolve? People don’t typically call on others to help if they do not feel that person would be successful in doing so.

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Lifethroughyourowneyes.com

Once you have your list of at least 5 things (please, add as many as you can think of!) that you are good at doing, gauge the amount of time spent doing these things in your daily life. If it is not often, ask yourself why this is so. Are you staying at a job which you hate because it pays well? Do you enjoy doing the things you are good at? If not, I encourage you to explore why this may be.

If you are like me,writing down your thoughts, goals, and even to-do lists, helps you to save it to memory and ultimately enhances the chances that you will remember what you intend to do. So, for those of you who could use it, I have attached a handout which will help you with this little exercise. 

Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance for Millennials

If you follow this blog, you probably have struggled at one point or another with maintaining work-life balance. This is not uncommon, although many don’t even consider failing to do so can, and most often times is, a major source of stress in their lives.

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I have always been fascinated with, and truly disturbed by, the “work hard, then die” mentality that so many Americans have. This is prevalent in the baby boomer and generation X populations, more so than millennials. However, as millennials, we have been raised by parents who invented the 50 hour work week, believe being seen on the job is the vital to having success, and have a reputation of being workaholics. As millennials, our philosophies are in contradiction with our parents, and because our parents view our work ethic through the lens of their generation, we are oftentimes viewed as “lazy.” This simply isn’t true. As a generation, we believe that quitting time is quitting time, and view work as a way to fill time between the moments of our “life” where we spend more time involved in the larger community and working to develop ourselves through training and acquiring new skills. This suggests support, as a generation, for the phrase “work to live, not live to work.” This is very much unlike the generations before us. Baby boomers worried that taking time off would result in losing their position on the team at work, and generation Xers who focus on work-life balance, but fail to incorporate community contribution and self-improvement as top priorities.

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Other variances are due to the differences in relationship each generation has with technology. For millennials, we were practically born with technology at our finger tips. (Funny side note: When I visited Japan in middle school, I recall being astounded at the sight of all of these children my age and younger attached to advanced cell phones—little did I know, this would be the future for Americans within only a short span of time 🙂 We actually made a joke saying that these children came out of the womb with cell phones!). For our parents, they either learned how to navigate technology during their lifetime or had to learn to embrace it in their lives. Because of this intimate relationship millennials have with technology, we believe that we can work flexibly from anywhere in the world, and at any time. In addition to this, we feel that our work performance should be evaluated on the final product, not how, when, or where we completed the work. Millennials appreciate the ability to be creative with how they accomplish work tasks. When this creativity is stifled, our work motivation and job satisfaction decrease.

I could not agree more with this!!! This is exactly why I chose to leave my 9-5 and to pursue my dreams of financial freedom! In addition to the freedom associated with time and location independence I was seeking, I no longer found my job meaningful or challenging.. which is another indication of a millennial in the work place! Having a job where we feel that we can truly make a difference, contribute to change, and continue to develop our skills is paramount. If these things are no longer present, many millennials look to move on. This is exactly what I have done! Other generations would say that millennials are “obsessed” with career development. I am not sure why this is viewed as a bad thing?!?! Of course, this could become problematic if it begins to take priority over work-life-community-self balance.

Millennials have also been accused of being “viciously independent.” This attribute alongside our reputation of being the best educated generation, thus far, contributes to our drive and ability to follow our passions in life!  We have a globalized way of thinking and wish to leave a footprint on the world through giving to others, so it is no wonder that we wish to take our ideas across the world!

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So, if you are a millennial, achieving balance between work, play, community engagement, and self-development is vital to promoting positive mental health.

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4 Things I have Learned about Myself and the World Through Travel!

Self-Discovery and Travel

Many people who travel, end up not only taking a geographical study around the globe, but also one of self-discovery. I will never forget my first international experience where I traveled with about 10 other students and my middle school art teacher to Japan. Of all the experiences, the two that stick out to me the most, despite being quite different from one another, impacting me, my life, and my perspective of the world in huge ways. Below I have included FOUR of the lessons I have learned about myself through travel. Please, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below!

I am but only a small part of this world…

The first memory I recall is, as a 12 year old, looking down from the window of a jet plane and seeing a large mountain range below me (the middle picture below was captured in that moment!). Although I was never sure which range this was, I recall the feeling it gave me to see such a vast and enormous landscape from that high in the air. I recall feeling so small in that moment. I realized how large this Earth really is, and I get to be a part of that whole world. Thinking back on this moment gives me goosebumps! Also, when I am going through rough times in my life, I recall how small I am compared to the world, and that this also means that my problems are small, despite how I may be feeling at the time. This image helps me to center myself and become calm amidst the turbulence in life.

 

 

The world I live in in so vast and beautiful…and waiting to be explored!

I remember, at that moment, catching the travel bug! I wasn’t aware of what it was, I just knew that there was an entire, beautiful world waiting to be explored. This was a feeling of exhilaration which will stay with me forever.

 

 

Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

The second most memorable time from that 10-day trip, was sitting on my knees in a tea garden, being served, and attempting to eat pickled plums. And, yes. To my 12-year-old Americanized palate, they tasted just how they sound. I recall sitting next to my best friend as we looked at each other in pure disgust with what our taste-buds were experiencing (see below!). I recall asking for seconds and thirds and fourths of the hot green tea which we were served in an effort to extinguish the lingering taste of the first bite we had of the pickled plums. We were advised prior to the trip that it was considered disrespectful and rude to leave food uneaten, so we were trying to devise a plan (through eye contact only as we were expected to be quiet and relaxed in the tea garden) to get rid of the rest of the pickled plums so as not to disrespect the Japanese culture. At some point, our art teacher must have noticed that we were struggling with the fare sitting in front of us on the floor (as is custom in Japan, dining experiences typically happen while seated on the floor), because when our hosts looked away, she would take a little piece of the pickled plums from our plates and quickly conceal it in her mouth. At the time, my best friend and I giggled at the sight of our teacher sneaking this food in this way, and wondered how she was able to consume 3 servings! Now, looking back with more travel under my belt and a more culturally mature palate, I wonder if I would enjoy them now. This moment stuck with me because it called me to step outside of my comfort zone, to try new things, to have new and different experiences. I learned to appreciate different customs in different locations. There was another instance with my first sushi experience as well as observing a cracked, raw egg being used as a sort of condiment which also contributed to this experiential knowledge, but for time’s sake, I won’t share in this post.  🙂

 

 

 

I am more confident in my beliefs and philosophies on life and what is important to me!

A few years down the road, during my senior year of my undergraduate studies, I elected to study abroad in Rome, Italy. Possibly the best decision I have ever made! I always say, and truly believe, that half of my heart was left in Italy. No, not a man! With the culture. I recall feeling mesmerized by the amount of culture that is still present and has been preserved around Europe, as compared to what I had experienced in the United States up to that point in my life. Many things touched me during my time spent in Europe, but one thing that comes to mind…and don’t laugh… but is the daily siesta! Many shops there are family owned and operated, and that combined with the heavy religious flavor meant that food stores, little shops and the like were all closed between the hours of 1-4pm. At first, this was a rough adaptation for me to make as I eat every couple of hours (especially while walking an average of 9-10 miles each day exploring!) I learned that if I was going to need to eat during the hours of siesta, I had to purchase a snack or meal ahead of time. While initially this felt like an inconvenience, it allowed for not only the people working to get a break, but also allowed me to take a time out to really enjoy the culture.

Side Note: I have always hated the word “J-O-B.” In fact, for years (I won’t tell you how old I was, haha!)  I would cry when my parents spoke to me about that word. I have always despised the idea of trading my time for money. To me, my time is worth more than anything.  I particularly have an issue with using my time to develop and carrying out the dreams and goals of another, in lieu of my own. I realize money is a part of this life, no matter how much I hate that. So, when finding a j-o-b, make sure that it is relevant or at the very least, assisting you with your journey to accomplishing your dreams. If your goals don’t match the goals of the company, organization, or person you are working for, it is advisable that you reconsider working there. It isn’t beneficial for either party.

Anyhow, I digress. Like I was saying, Italians are my PEOPLE! Their values and they way they prioritize their time to include…family…spirituality/religion…rest…balance… are similar to mine! They work hard, but also practice self-care! In short, “nap time” in Europe had a deep impact on the way I perceive myself in the world as well as in the workplace. It was okay, and not lazy, to not put work as the top priority, as many Americans do. I may be different than others, but I am not alone. And the workhouse mentality I saw in America (as well as in Japan where my host dad worked between 12-14 hours each day!) was not in actuality a requirement for being a human on Earth! Working at a desk all day doesn’t make you more of an “adult,” more “mature,” or a participant in “the real world” as I had been taught all of my life. AND, working a different schedule, giving yourself time for other things in life, and choosing not to make work the dominate thing in your life doesn’t make you “childish,” ”immature,” or “oblivious to the real world.” This was life altering for me. I have not viewed life and the role of working/having a job, the same ever since. This cultural experience allowed me to have confidence in my views and beliefs about what is truly important in life. (You may now see why I have had such a terrible time with working in such a structured environment!)

Which moment(s) in your travel stand out MOST as having shaped the way you prioritize work in your life? What does “work” mean to you? Leave a reply below!

Categories: Travel Stories

The Journey has Begun-Camino Bound!

Despite having known for quite some time that the traditional 9-5 wasn’t for me, I have been enduring it the last 4 years. It hasn’t all been for nothing, however. I have learned a lot about myself and confirmed over and over again, that this is NOT for me.

I recently informed my employer that I would be resigning in a couple months! While that, alone, is FREEING, it isn’t the end of the good news! I am also planning to hike the Camino de Santiago this summer! My brother has hiked it before, and when he did this in 2015, this was the first time I had ever heard of the pilgrimage. In short, there are numerous routes across Europe you can take which ultimately lead you to the tomb of Saint James, which is located in Santiago de Compostela located in north west Spain.

Aerial View of Lake during Daytime

My soul has been longing for an adventure as well as answers and revelations.. all of which the Camino boasts. Above all, I am looking forward to experiencing life in a deeper way and (as cheesy as it may sound) getting time to really get alone with my heart and to hear what plans and dreams God has placed in it for me to find. It is difficult to really find the silence which I believe is necessary to truly explore God’s heart and discover your purpose when life is moving full speed. We (I am assuming I am not alone in this) become passive in our own lives, allowing it to happen to us, day in and day out, instead of participating in and being present in our own lives.

For me, I know that in order to reach my stubborn mind, I must attach a physical challenge to the mental challenge in order to get the most impact. While I am expecting this to be life altering (as all international travel experiences I have had have been), I am not putting any particular expectations on the journey. I am approaching this journey in a free and relaxed manner- welcoming whatever lessons, epiphanies, and experiences that I am to encounter with open arms. I realize this will likely include a struggle or two-of physical, emotional, and mental characteristic. This is why the excitement I have for this exploration is unlike any other that I have experienced. Typically, a journey is embarked upon for entertainment or recreational purposes. While I plan to enjoy myself, my goal has been a more serious one of self-exploration.

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Interestingly, I have had several people in my life tell me that they wish they could be “as sure” about themselves as they perceive me to be. I have not ever felt that I am that sure about myself. However, upon further self-searching, I realized that I AM SURE about who I am, about what I like, and what makes me happy. I AM SURE about the life that I would like to live. I AM SURE that I am not meant to live the traditional lifestyle. It was never that I wasn’t sure about myself, it was that I was unsure if people would accept me for who I am and the lifestyle that I choose to live. I was unsure that others would support me and my decisions. I was unsure that others would believe in my passion.

Recently, I have recognized that none of those things that I was unsure about matter. NONE of them matter! To be completely transparent-I still struggle with this despite this revelation. But I continue to work in this area, so the exclamation is as much for you as it is for me 🙂

It isn’t selfish to recognize that it is YOUR life. YOU deserve to be happy. YOU are allowed to live the life of your dreams. You are allowed to live life through your own eyes. This isn’t selfish, because everyone is entitled to the same thing. Of course there are limitations, if hurting others makes us happy, we must reconsider our motivations. However, with the few exceptions like this one, this thing called life is YOURS FOR THE TAKING!

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Make the most of your life. After all, it is the only chance ya get!

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What makes you feel free? Do you have the courage to live your life the way YOU want?

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