I want to go back and tell my 2012 self, “You’re gonna be okay.” Do you ever think about that? You’ve been through some struggles in the past. And at the time I bet you were anxious about the future. How would it all turn…
As I type this, I sit in an empty house. Stillness.
Until now, I’ve been going a mile a minute organizing the wedding/UK visa/jobs/animal transport, and, and….
But thanks to help from my family and my multi-tab Excel spreadsheets, checklists, and meticulous calendaring…it’s all done. And now I have nothing but time to sit and soak in the fact that I’m about to pick up my future husband from the airport in an hour, and that we get married on Saturday.
It’s been FOUR MONTHS – the longest amount of time we’ve ever been apart. And if all goes well, it’ll the longest we’ll ever be apart again.
Typing this blog post is keeping me sane. I try really hard to control my emotions at all times. I’m realizing that I need to change that, because tears remind us that we’re human. Mine are giving me comfort now, because I’m fully realizing how much I f*cking love this man. And how he is everything I never knew I always wanted.
I wish could go back and tell 2012 self that it’s all going to be okay…the 2012 self that was going through the heartache of a divorce and leaving the only relationship I had ever been in.
That’s the thing about heartache: we know it doesn’t last forever but at the time, it feels like it does. But heartache needs to be felt before it can be cured. You can’t numb it, though many us try. It only postpones the healing. You ever picked at a scab? Yeah it’s kinda like that.
I’m so glad I didn’t Band-Aid my past, even though I tried to many times.
So I may not be able to tell my 2012 self that it’s all going to be okay. But I can tell you. Tears of pain lead way to tears of joy. Mine definitely have.
Or maybe I need to stop listening to so many damn Ed Sheeran love songs. This is too much right now. I am way too emotional. I can’t be crying cause seriously, my makeup is on point and I’m not about to mess up these lashes before my baby sees me in an hour.
Somebody please tell me to chill the f*ck out.
To be continued…
Now that I’m back in my second home with the man I love, I get to unpack, and establish some semblance of a routine again.
So why is there a lingering sadness in me?
I guess I expected that by now, I would’ve had this grand epiphany about the rest of my life. But right now, I have more questions than answers. And the uncertainty is crushing me. I started to let the pressure take me a dark place.
But I’ve been here before. The sleepless nights, the constant knot in my stomach…it’s all part of the process. These growing pains are a familiar struggle I’ve come to love and hate.
This is the part where you may be tempted to turn around and go right back to your safe zone…to the familiar. But you have to just suck it up and keep going. Otherwise it’s like hiking halfway up a mountain and then stopping to wonder, “Wait. What if I don’t make it?”
Well shit. You made it this far, haven’t you?
Besides, you can’t lay claim to what you almost did. You have to be willing to go through the discomfort and the fear that things probably won’t turn out the way you envision them.
But that’s okay. Just do you. In fact, if most people approve of the decisions you’re making, you’re probably not living your path.
The people around you should think you’re at least a teensy bit batshit insane. Not everyone is gonna “get” you. But everyone isn’t living your life – you are.
Growth requires you to trade in short-term gratification for a long-term payoff. Not everyone is willing to wait, or sacrifice, or do what it takes to nurture their goals over time in order to watch them bloom…
Like spending your weekends partying instead of studying
Spending instead of saving
Or settling for Mr/Ms Right Now when you want Mr/Ms Right
There’s nothing wrong with immediate gratification. The problem is when you become a slave to it and then complain about how you don’t have the life you want.
So what are my growing pains about?
I’m coming down off my travel high and coming to terms with the fact that I can’t travel like this forever – and honestly, I don’t want to. Travel was my short-term gratification.
I’m also approaching the end of my six-month limit in the UK, so I’m about to feel the full brunt of a true long-distance relationship.
How am I supposed to go home and get a normal job and be away from the man I love (again)? Seriously, fuck immigration laws right now. I hate that I can’t live where I want to without the government’s permission.
To find your soulmate is a gift. But to find them on the other side of the world is either a cruel joke played on you by the universe, or an immense test to your resilience, your faith, and your resolve as a couple. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s both.
That’s all the time the UK government gives “tourists” like me to stay in London without a settlement visa. So here we go again – counting down the days we have left with each other before we have to say goodbye again. Back to middle-of-the-night Skype convos, I miss you’s, and countdowns to the next visit.
It takes an immense amount of faith and patience to see these growing pains through. And although “winging it” has been my M.O., it won’t work for an international relationship. You can’t just casually hang out and see where things go. You either take legal steps to be together, or you don’t. You’ll either make the relationship a priority every single day, or it will die off.
One of you will have to leave their world behind in order to make the other person their new world.
These growing pains are real. But I know they’re testing us and building us into an unstoppable, unbreakable force. This payoff will be greater than anything I ever rushed into. That I’m sure of.
So to my friends in Cali…if you ever catch me gazing off into space, glancing at my phone, or smiling with my mouth but not with my eyes…it’s because half of me is 5500 miles away.
And I’m just holding it together as best I can.
Of all the items sitting in your closet or dresser right now, is there one that has an exceptional story to tell?
Maybe it’s a ring that was passed down from your grandmother to your mom to you.
Or the SF Giants shirt you’ve worn for a week straight during the last three World Series they’ve won. Forget Panda or MadBum, you just know they’ve won because of that raggedy t-shirt. You have newer shirts, without the beer stains and tug marks, but they don’t have that same story to tell.
Mine are my classic black Chuck Taylors.
I bought them before I left for Europe. I needed a pair of shoes that I could wear with almost anything. Because when you’re living out of a suitcase and lugging it onto planes, trains and subways, every single thing in your bag needs to serve a purpose.
So if you’re that chick who brings 5 pairs of shoes to a weekend getaway, this life is not for you.
In my Chucks I could stand in crowded trains in London during rush hour, climb three flights of stairs to my flat in Barcelona with bags of groceries, and hike the hills of Cinque Terre.
When I traveled alone, those damn shoes ended up in a lot more of my photos than I did! I hated taking selfies. I felt so awkward. And I felt even MORE awkward asking a complete stranger to take my picture.
So I took “shoe selfies”: My Chucks in front of the docks at Riomaggiore, my Chucks at Parc Guell in Barcelona, my Chucks on beautiful sidewalks in Nice and Dublin.
My shoe selfies may not be the most Instagram-worthy pictures.
In fact, I never posted most of the photos I took. But when I look at those busted-up Chucks, with the faded laces and scuff marks, I smile.
I smile remembering the places they’ve taken me. I smile thinking about how I got sick of wearing the same 7 outfits but somehow, my Chucks went perfectly with all of them. I never got tired of wearing them.
Even on those nights when I took myself on a date, and sat at a brasserie alone on a Thursday night with my glass of Sangiovese, I wore my Chucks. And I gave a satisfied smile as I watched droves of club-hopping high-heeled girls stumble on the cobblestone roads, like drunken little newborn fawns.
I can’t do that shit anymore. Because COMFORT > EVERYTHING. I’ll bust out some heels every now and then, but not when I travel.
My Chucks may not be sexy. They may not be classicly feminine. But I was wearing those Chucks the day I met my fiancé in London last year, paired with a backwards snapback cap by FR£SH State Property.
And he thought I was so damn fly, he put a ring on it. Psshhh. **flips hair**
Now that I’m back in Cali, I’m afraid to wear them. I don’t want to
erase the adventures they’ve had.
Maybe I’ll just keep them in my closet, until a new journey comes calling. Or maybe I’ll give them to my (unborn) daughter one day, when she tells me how she wants to experience other worlds besides her own.
And I hope they bring her the same magic.
The power of “no” is undeniable. It takes courage to say because it isn’t always well-received. And there’s always that little doubt in your head about whether you’re doing the right thing.
Too often, we stay in unhappy situations until some outside force intervenes. We wait for other factors to close those doors for us and push us in the direction we should have taken on our own. But why leave that “no” in the hands of other people?
The term “blessing in disguise” is often used to describe an outside force that comes into your life and shakes things up, driving you in a positive direction that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken. If what you have in front of you isn’t what you want, save yourself by saying no. Don’t wait for a blessing in disguise because it will probably never come.
That’s why “no” is so powerful. Think about this:
How many times have you said yes to relationship standards that fell short of your expectations
…to a friend who asked for favors but wouldn’t do the same in return
…or to a job you hated because you were afraid you couldn’t find better?
Saying no means taking control of what you will not accept, and not leaving that decision to someone else.
Saying “no” requires not being driven by fear.
It often means rejecting an option even when you have no alternative to trade it in for, like ending a relationship or a friendship without having another set or arms to run to.
Why embracing the power of “no” can change the course of your life:
Dating and relationships: You’ve probably made the mistake of hanging on to a partner who didn’t want the same thing as you, or subscribed to relationship standards that didn’t make you happy. It’s not that you should get what you want all the time because that’s unrealistic – but there should always be reciprocity and an equal, consistent commitment to each other’s happiness.
You have to know when to invest and when to walk away. And if you’re waiting until you find someone else to fall madly in love with you and show you what you’ve been missing, you’re doing it wrong.
Relationships aren’t like jobs – you can’t interview for a new one while holding on to the one you have. And if you are, you’re not ready to be in a relationship in the first place.
Don’t be afraid to stand on your own and end relationships that don’t meet your standards. In fact, by latching on to the wrong one, you’re guaranteeing your own misery by ensuring you’re unavailable to recognize and receive the right one.
Friendships: On a similar note as the above, your 30s are a time to say “no” to friendships of superficiality or convenience. Every friend should enhance your life in some way.
Friends should do for you as you do for them, not just when it’s convenient or when they need something. The key, again, is reciprocity. If you’re doing your part and they’re not, the word you need to remember is “no”. Free up time in your life from superficial relationships so you can dedicate time to those who enrich your life.
Personal development: It took me until now to become fit and healthy. Not because I didn’t know how to before, but because I preferred eating what I wanted, and sleeping in instead of working out.
A sign of maturity is putting less value on short-term gratification. The most worthwhile payoffs are not immediate. They take time, effort and discipline.
Sometimes that means saying “no” to a destination wedding invitation because you’re trying to save money for a car or house, or to a California burrito at 2am because you’re trying to eat healthier.
Jobs: Jobs are SO much like relationships! And that makes the job search process a lot like dating. If you’ve gone through the interview process recently, you know what I mean.
Many of the same rules apply. You have to know what you bring to the table and what you expect from the other party (your employer). If you treat the interview like a first date rather than an audition, you’ll be a little more real with yourself about whether this is a job you actually want rather than trying to blindly sell yourself into something that may not be the best match for you.
Pay attention to the warning signs because how a company treats candidates during the interview process is reflective of how they treat their employees:
Do they value your time? Do they treat the interview like an audition (one-directional) or a conversation (two-directional)? Are they transparent with their information or do they treat you like a poker opponent? If it feels like you’re forcing it, you probably are.
Above all, remember…
If a situation doesn’t feel right or it doesn’t serve you, don’t be afraid to say no.
The hardest part is having the confidence to realize that your options are not limited to what’s in front of you at that moment, because you can create new options.
If you let fear drive your decisions, the right people/opportunities will never make their way into your life because you’ll be too busy trying to put a Band-Aid on the “yeses” that should have been “no’s”.
If we are all so unique, why should the progression of our lives follow the same timeline?
It’s time to get past the outdated idea that you’re supposed to map out your entire life before you’re even old enough to buy a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon for all those beer pong games you played
last weekend in college. It’s hard enough to pick a college major, let alone make life-altering decisions when you’ve had very little life experience.
Your 20s are a time for self-discovery. And that path rarely occurs on a straight trajectory.
Yours may have looked more like this:
So it’s no surprise that reaching your “Dirty 30” might even feel like:
Mistakes are an essential and unavoidable part of life – so is change. The earlier we embrace the fact that mistakes do not equal failure so long as we apply the lessons learned, the less our lives will be driven by fear.
Here’s why you’re better equipped for life-altering decisions in your 30s:
You’re less likely to be influenced by others.
The days of fielding your dating/outfit/career choices by your five closest girlfriends should be over. That’s because you know the difference between seeking advice and needing approval, and you don’t need the latter.
So if you want to take a pottery class, learn French, or quit your job as a paralegal to turn your photography hobby into a career, you’ll decide based on what’s best for YOU (and your kids, if applicable) and not popular opinion.
You know who you are.
Therefore you begin to attract people and opportunities that truly complement you because you are radiating your true self into the world. Yay!
You’re more open-minded.
You’ve probably undergone one or more major life changes and survived, so you’re more open to new experiences and don’t freak out when things don’t go according to plan.
You made enough mistakes then to make wiser decisions now.
By now you’re probably more adept at taking calculated risks as opposed to careless ones because your brain has learned to think a few steps ahead.
Which leads me to my next point…
You’re like, mature and stuff.
Seriously. Your brain’s frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that solves problems and anticipates consequences, does not reach full maturity until your mid-twenties. That explains SO much, right?
So that time you thought it was okay to slam Fernet shots the night before your 8am midterm and woke up feeling like death, let’s just pretend that wasn’t entirely your fault.
You’ve spent enough time in the workforce to gauge whether you’re on the right path.
Studies show two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first 10 years of your career. But if you haven’t spent your 20s climbing up the same corporate ladder, it’s not too late to reinvent yourself or further your education. Which leads me to my next point…
Universities are adjusting to the lifestyle of the working adult.
The prevalence of night classes, online courses, and satellite campuses are a reflection that the average college student is no longer a fresh-faced 18-year old living in a college dorm. Even well-known universities like UC Berkeley have satellite campuses in busy downtown areas so students can walk to class after work.
Unfortunately that doesn’t make college any more affordable.
But if you’re going to take out a student loan in your 30s, at least you have a better concept of debt than you did when you were fresh out of high school. And you’re less likely to waste your hard-earned money by changing your major multiple times like you may have done 10 years ago.
Solitude is less scary than it was in your 20s.
You’re more comfortable sitting in a coffee shop alone, or embracing your single-hood rather than crying over it. And that means your travel plans are not dependent on anyone else. Why wait for someone to travel with you when you can write your own travel itinerary? It’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise! If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating.
Aside from my metabolism, I wouldn’t trade anything from my current life for what I had a decade ago. I’ve never been so sure of what I want and who I am.
Now that you know it’s not too late…go out and conquer the world you sexy, sophisticated beast!
But don’t forget to put on sunscreen first.
…and pack some healthy snacks.
…and set your out-of-office alert on your work email.
You are a grown up, after all 🙂
It’s time, once again, for this little birdie to fly. Only this time, I’ll be in my second home so I’ll be staying put for a while.
Getting to London was hectic, as I wanted to avoid London Heathrow Border Control who had interrogated me several times before. According to them, I’m a flight risk because I’m unemployed and stay with my British boyfriend. **exaggerated eye roll**
So I flew from Florence to Paris, then took the Metro across town to catch the Eurostar train into London. I allowed very little timing for error. So naturally, I had nightmares about missing one of my connections.
But it all worked out. I even got to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, each in a different country…no big deal or whatever :))
I made it look pretty on Instagram, but traveling this way is anything but glamorous. When you’re hauling ass across three countries in a day, on public transit, sweating from dragging your 18-kg luggage up and down the metro station stairs, let’s just say you don’t look sexy. At all.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hotels and taxis remove you from the reality of the country you’re visiting.
I’ve loved the adventure, the need for self-reliance, and the unpredictability of it all. When I publish my book someday, or become the VP of marketing at a tech startup and I’m ballin’ outta control, I would still travel the same way I do now.
I get a rush from traveling like this…
…from having to figure out how home appliances work in every country.
…from having to learn a new metro system.
…from struggling with a new language and stalking out free wifi like groupies do NBA players.
I’m forever changed. A fire ignited in me last year and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put it out, nor do I want to.
I read an article last year called “Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels”.
It painted a portrait of the solo female traveler as this beautiful free-spirited, yet completely unattainable creature. The author went so far as to suggest that if you should fall in love with such a girl you should let her go, as if it were impossible for any man to keep us happy.
Although I can relate to parts of the article, I disagree with the author’s view that the traveling girl woman is directionless, unable to hold a steady job, wasted her college degree and is now probably a yoga teacher.
Have we progressed so little as a society that we still view “independence” and “relationship potential” as mutually exclusive traits in women?
Women aren’t your possessions. Even in a relationship or a marriage, we are not yours. We are ours. We choose to be with you so long as you continuously honor the expectations of the relationship, and vice versa.
And if you aren’t comfortable standing next to us in the spotlight or letting us lead sometimes, then I agree you should seek a woman who is comfortable taking your lead.
Besides, I have no intentions of living my entire life out of a suitcase. As much as my heart yearns to watch the sun set on a new horizon, I yearn even more for one city to call home.
And guess what? I’m living proof that women like us can and do fall in love.
It happened to me on my first day in London last year. Trust…I did not intend to! In fact, I was dead set on beating any love prospects away with a stick…and possibly a taser.
I was on my “I-don’t-need-a-man” Independent Woman hype. The last thing I wanted was to fall in love overseas and then miss that person when I returned home.
My emotional walls were up pretty high. Most men would have been intimidated by that. Here I was, a California latina “slash” hip-hop journalist, with my camera and laptop in tote, with enough money in the bank to have open-ended travel plans for the foreseeable future.
What could any guy really say to me to get me to want to trade all of that in for a relationship?
That’s why nobody tried. I interviewed a lot of male artists, kept it professional, and met a lot of interesting and incredibly talented people in the process.
But it’s as if Jordan already knew we were going to be together, even before I did. He was patient and accepted that I wasn’t ready for anything serious (yet).
He didn’t want to cage me, but he made his feelings very clear from Day #1 so there was never any guessing about where he stood. He was never afraid to put his heart on the line – not for one second. He was a totally open book.
He wasn’t threatened by my independence, my prior divorce, my travel plans, or my residence in California.
He let me be me.
Yet he treated me like his Queen even before we were in a relationship. Over time, his actions and his consistency made it so that I could live without him, but I no longer wanted to. Over the next few months, we found ourselves willing to do anything to be together.
When I first started traveling, I predicted I’d end up in Barcelona or London getting some Expat job for a work visa. Meeting Jordan changed all that because we had to decide, early in our relationship, which of us would move. After spending a few months with him in London, we both decided we’d be happier together in California.
I look forward to settling down in Cali. And as strange as it may sound, I’m ready to get back to my marketing career as it’s something I‘ve worked hard to build.
But my sense of adventure, my desire to explore new street markets, watch sunsets on the beach, or get lost in the winding streets of a new city – that will remain in me always.
I smile when I admire my tan lines and know they came from different countries. My hair is frizzy and often smells of sea salt. My iPhone camera roll would rival a travel magazine. And my Facebook News Feed is full of updates from people I’ve met around the world.
And it may mean my heart will never be fully at rest because it lives in different places, but I’m okay with that.
After all, that is the downside to all of this. I’m always missing a person, a city, or counting down the days I have left with someone I love before I have to leave them. But that also means I don’t take anyone or anything for granted.
So to the author who believes that girls women who travel are basically a lost cause when it comes to relationships, I say:
I happen to think the wildest, most beautifully plumaged bird is also the most worthwhile to pursue…
…because you can’t trap it.
You must earn its trust and affection over time so that it may choose to fly beside you, rather than sacrifice its world for yours. I was a man’s possession for over a decade and would sooner die than return to that life again.
Now that I’m back in London I get to unpack my suitcase, figure out my game plan for Cali, and spend much-needed time with the man who makes me want to fly beside him every day.
To all the men/women who hold a mirror to their woman’s light to help it reflect into the corners of the darkest room: bless you. You will raise daughters who will enter the world with all the approval they will ever need, rather than seeking it from a partner, friends, social institution, or media-warped society.
She will know her worth and her beauty. And she will never need to know why the caged bird sings…
because she will be f r e e .
I don’t think that Firenze (Florence) knows how to do “plain”. Everything is lavish and over the top.
It’s lively and bustling…and LOUD. I had to learn to stop being alarmed every time I thought I heard Italians having a heated debate. They were just having normal conversations. But with passion. And lots of hand motions. As a Latina I totally get you, Italy. We do that, too.
Like, Latina women are guilty of wearing too-small skinny jeans with rhinestones on the butt, paired with a stretchy neon orange low-cut top and heels.
…to the grocery store
…while pushing a kid in a stroller.
I saw a girl in Rome wear bright green Ugg boots with leopard leggings and gold hoop earrings…
Go ahead. Do you, boo.
I don’t know why I’m so surprised at how many tourists there are, seemingly mostly Americans. Holy crap they’re EVERY-fricking-where! I know I’m technically one of them, but I’d like to think of myself as more of a tourist ninja cause nobody ever knows I’m a foreigner.
And between The Jersey Shore filming at Pizzeria O’Vesuvio and the KimYe (Kim Kardashian/Kayne) wedding all taking place here, I’m pretty sure Italians secretly wish Americans and our shitty reality TV shows would stay the hell out.
I feel you, Italy. We think they’re douchebags too.
And while Florence might signify art and culture to most, I made it an adventure.
You can keep your 7 euro Gucci coffee with fancy sugar. I prefer haggling with street vendors and drinking Fragola liqueur straight from the bottle.
Firenze in a nutshell:
- Taking a chance on Fragola liqueur instead of Limoncello and discovering it tastes like strawberry Quik with booze in it. Sweet Jesus.
- Making fun of people who spend 7 euros on coffee at the Gucci Museum Café because it’s served with brown sugar shaped like the Gucci symbol.
- Girls taking selfies kissing the Gucci sign outside the museum. Girl, STOP.
- Girls taking pictures of each other pointing to the Statue of David’s penis.
- Successfully haggling street vendors down from 40 to 25 euros for a new suitcase.
- Checking out girls’ asses and wondering which have more booty: Barca girls or Firenze girls.
- Gaining 8 lbs and immediately wanting to
work outconsole myself with more pizza.
- Getting neck cramps from looking up at the gorgeous domed ceilings of Orsanmichele, Santa Croce and Santa Maria di Fiore.
- Aggressive street vendors who insist on touching the small of your back while they try to
glance at your asssell you a leather bag.
- Leather as far as the eye can see – belts, jackets, bags, wallets, you name it. In EVERY color.
- Fake designer shades fo’ days. You need some Fucci shades, boo? They got you! Unless the cops are coming, cause then they gotta pack up and run.
- Falling in love with Mercato Centrale, where the best food stands have the longest lines.
- Reaching the front of the line and being shouted at by a little old Italian lady trying to seat you.
- Feeling strangely comforted by the above.
- Amazing street musicians in Piazza della Repubblica.
- Italian couples making out. EVERYWHERE.
- Best gelato ever. Bless you, Grom.
- Getting so tired of pizza and pasta that I went to McDonalds and ordered on a machine. Because every single McDonalds I saw in Europe replaced their cashier with machines.
- Knowing you would all judge me for admitting I ate McDonalds in Italy.
I felt a little guilty not visiting the museums, but given that I had done so in every other city, I didn’t have it in me to do anything other than eat and wander.
No matter how gorgeous the destination, traveling alone wears on you after a while. I feel like I didn’t fully appreciate my time here because I’m just so tired.
Next stop, London! It’s time to go home to my boo and enjoy not living out of a suitcase for a while. That sounds like heaven right now.
But seriously, once I’m there it’s GYM time. Like HARD.
Cause after all these months of careless eating, my ass is gonna need its own passport to get home.
And just like that, I said goodbye to Cinque Terre. My time there was way too short, but that’s how it should feel when you fall in love – like your time together is never enough.
I arrived in Florence with a newfound optimism. Despite a wheel breaking on my suitcase and having to drag it three blocks from the train station to my AirBnB, I laughed it off and made a mental note to buy a new one from a street vendor later.
My AirBnB host is out of town so his neighbor let me in. She didn’t speak English but between my fluent Spanish and minimal Italian, we completely understood each other. Long story short, I have a three-bedroom flat in central Florence all to myself – buonissimo!
It’s amazing that AirBnB hosts will allow complete strangers into their homes, especially when they are out of town.
I’ve noticed hospitality is different in every country. In England, France, Ireland and Holland, my hosts were fairly hands off. It was their way of giving me privacy. But in Spain and Italy, my hosts treated me like a member of their household.
On my last night in Barcelona, my three flatmates and their friends cooked a huge dinner and invited me to join them.
In Cinque Terre, my host called me down to her kitchen to eat dinner with her and her daughter. And on my last day, she dropped me off at the train station so I wouldn’t have to drag my suitcase onto a bus.
In Rome last year, my host took me to a cooking class at Eataly and then we had lunch and chatted all afternoon.
When I was stranded in Ventimiglia during the train strike, a group of friends saw me sitting alone at a cafe and invited me to join them for dinner and bar hopping, during which the men insisted on paying for everything.
Seriously, who ARE these people?!
This sort of blind, unconditional welcome is foreign to me. It’s foreign to most Americans, I think. We tend to begin new relationships with a wall built up, which we lower slowly over time. We often keep people at a distance until we get to know them.
I had to learn that not everyone who does something nice for me wants something in return.
Sometimes we focus so much on protecting ourselves from the “wrong” people that we prevent the right people from getting close to us, too.
But living life on the defense only works when you’re under attack.
When you’ve been hurt a lot, you get accustomed to wearing that armor every day. I know that all too well.
I tend to say things like, “This is why I hate people.”
But what I really mean is, “I hate being disappointed so I would rather expect the worst from people.”
The truth is, I’m so sensitive and easily hurt that I’ve mastered the art of using cynicism and sarcasm as an emotional bulletproof vest..
…although I prefer to call it my sense of humor.
And you know why sarcasm is f*cking awesome?
Because you can say whatever the hell you want without being held accountable…because you were obviously kidding.
Or because you can break the ice in awkward social situations and make people laugh…or offend them. It’s their fault if they don’t get it.
Or because nobody can hurt you because you never really told them anything real about you. You can’t hurt me because you don’t know me. Haha I win.
I’m so sarcastic that people who know me expect it from me. It’s part of my personality. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my non-American friends think I’m either a complete idiot or a total bitch based on my Facebook posts…
Just kidding. They think that because I really am a bitch.
See? I can’t even tell the difference between sarcasm and my real thoughts anymore. And that’s bad.
I instantly bond with other sarcastic people but I have probably pushed a lot of others away or given them a bad impression of me.
It could be because of the language barrier, but I’ve stopped using sarcasm during my travels because it is often taken literally. It’s refreshing because I can’t use it as a shield anymore. I’m getting comfortable speaking genuinely, even if it makes me feel vulnerable.
This experience has opened me up so much.
Being spoken to with sincerity makes me want to be sincere.
Being trusted by strangers makes me want to prove I am trustworthy.
Being invited to the dinner table makes me want to welcome new people into my life.
Getting hurt is not the worst thing that can happen. In fact, the bravest are those who have had pages torn from their lives yet remain an open book. They are the ones I admire most.
So lower your armor.
Until you do, you’re living life from inside a bulletproof case. Sure, people can’t get to you. But you can’t get to any of them either.
P.S. I went off on a tangent and didn’t talk about Florence at all in this post, but I will next time. Here are a few photos from my Instagram (instagram.com/maaridee), but I promise you it’s more gorgeous than anything I could capture.
I can’t count how many people have told me they’ve ended up with a $400 phone bill after “barely using their phone” while out of the country.
That’s because data is a bitch.
We love it, we need it, we live by it. But outside of your home country you will also pay for it, unless you know how to use it.
I must warn you – it involves you doing math. Before you close your browser, hear me out.
Wouldn’t you rather do math to track your data beforehand, than do math to figure out how you’re gonna pay rent cause you spent all your money on a phone bill?
Yeeeah. So here’s what you do:
- When you land at your destination, turn off your data and roaming. On the iPhone go to Settings > Cellular > uncheck all the boxes.
- Then, reset your data usage statistics – from the screen above, scroll all the way down and hit Reset Statistics.
- All data counts will go to zero.
Now you can keep track of how much roaming data you’re using on your trip (Current Period Roaming).
International data plans
I highly recommend purchasing a small international data package (I survive on 120Mb per month for $40) so you can turn your data on when you absolutely need it and wifi isn’t available. If you don’t, you’ll get massacred by pay-per-use data charges unless you keep your data off the entire trip.
Here’s where the math comes in: a 120Mb international data plan means roughly 4Mb per day. That can either get you five minutes on Facebook or a day’s worth of Whats App messaging.
That’s why I only use my data to text on Whats App or look up directions. Anything beyond that drains your data too quickly. Save social networking for when you have wifi.
If you start a new billing period while abroad, reset your data statistics again on the morning of new new billing period. But keep track of your count from last billing period, too, in case you have a billing dispute with your wireless company.
Forward your calls
Check with your wireless carrier because some (including mine) charge $1 for every missed call. WTF? So I forwarded my calls to my Google number since the Google app only rings when I’m connected to wifi, and voicemails get transcribed and emailed to me. But you can forward yours to voicemail, too.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wifi
Travelers know that free public wifi is the equivalent of finding money on the ground. Most require passwords. But if you ask around, some cities have free street wifi available to the public! Woot!
Take France, for instance. The wifi name “Free Wifi” pops up all over the place. I don’t know if it’s country-wide, but I’ve successfully used it in Paris and Nice. Most ignore it because it requires a password. Well here it is!
And here is a screenshot of what it looks like.
In London, there’s “_The Cloud”. Register for a free account and BOOM. You’re connected.
Excuse me sir, can you spare a password?
When you travel, ask people in the service industry about free public wifi. It can save you from using your data unless you absolutely have to. And if all else fails, I’ve learned that coffee chains tend to use the same passwords so when you’re out about, you can huddle near the entrance and swipe their connection. I do it all the time.
Oh, and apps help. See my Best Apps for Travelers article for free apps to help you stay connected and get around. **shameless plug**
The app Onavo Extend is supposed to help you compact the way your phone uses data, so it uses less data to perform the same tasks. I haven’t personally used it but it’s a free app so it’s worth a try.