Travel

It’s a big, big world. I wish I had infinite time and resources to visit every corner of the globe and share the beauty of life with people different than me. I have been fortunate enough to travel internationally to 18 different countries, but it feels like I’m only scratching the surface of the adventure that is out there. Over my years of traveling – both solo and with a companion – I have discovered many different tricks for frugal vacationing and itinerary planning.

Everyone has a different travel style. I personally like to make the most of my time abroad and pack my itinerary with as many activities as possible. I rarely spend more than one night in the same place so that I can optimize the area I cover. I am also more than willing to stay in budget accommodations with bare-minimum amenities – after all, I only really need a bed to sleep in. Still, I know other people like to travel slightly more luxuriously and enjoy a slower pace. While I prefer to see more atypical sights while on vacation, I know that others prefer to stick to city centers.  No matter what kind of traveler you are, I hope that the tools that I share on this page are beneficial in some way.

My most recent international travel experience was to Japan. For this vacation, I utilized sites like Skyscanner, Booking.com, and Airbnb for transportation and lodging. Yes, these applications are pretty straightforward to use, but did you know that there are ways to maximize their various filters and search tools to find the best options for your trip? It is important to know, however, that for every good travel resource, there are more bad ones. Don’t get me started on Trip Adviser – I avoid it at all costs. Knowing how to conduct a basic Google search will often provide more information about a travel destination and its best sights than any streamlined travel website that focuses the attention of its users on the financial value of experiences rather than actual worth. Remember folks, the best information is free and comes straight from the horse’s mouth (aka the locals). These are some of the items, among others, that I’ll cover in more detail on future blog posts, so stay tuned!

 

My original photo captured at the island of Inis Mor in Galway Bay, Ireland.

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Homesplorin’ in Los Angeles

Being born and raised in Los Angeles, you would think that I know this city like the back of my hand. To some extent I do – I know how to navigate the extensive freeway networks and can direct you to most parts of the city (even though it may take you an hour to get across town). Still, I quite often find myself feeling like a stranger from another land in a perpetual state of tourism. With a population of almost 4 million people dispersed across approximately 500 square miles, you’d better believe that the entertainment capital of the world has a practically unlimited supply of cultural, dining, outdoors, and artistic experiences to enjoy. Theoretically, this implies that every twenty-something in Los Angeles should never complain of boredom – but why is it that we still do?

I have my own hypotheses for this conundrum, but I’ll spare the readers most of my criticisms of LA for now. Despite being some of the current trends for millennials to partake in, bottomless mimosa brunches on the cliffs of Malibu or a visit to the overpriced Museum of Ice Cream are not exactly my idea of fun. Sure, they make for whimsical Instagram photos, but I want to believe that there are more creative ways to truly enjoy this historic, vibrant, and cultural city.

One of my friends has coined the term “Homesploring”, which I find perfectly describes the spirit of local adventuring. I’ve decided to adopt her policy of perpetual curiosity and have committed myself to finding off-the-beaten-path ways to enjoy my city and the surrounding areas. This is an endeavor I have already begun and hope to adopt as a habit to further build an appreciation for my surroundings. Here are a some of my recent homesplorations:

1. The Rose – Pasadena, CA. I went to see a performance by a Pink Floyd Tribute Band called Which One’s Pink. They were amazing, and the venue was spacious, but intimate.

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2. Echo Park – Los Angeles, CA. The beautiful Echo Park Lake is a great place to relax next to a backdrop of Downtown. There is also a 1-mile path around the perimeter of the lake for joggers to enjoy!

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3. The Long Beach Playhouse – Long Beach, CA. I saw a wonderful performance of Agatha Christie’s play, Black Coffee. Support your local arts!

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4. Joshua Tree National Park – Twenty-Nine Palms, CA. About 2 1/2 hours from LA is this gorgeous national park. It’s possible to plan a day trip for a few hours of rock-climbing, or camp out to see a sky full of stars in a pitch-black desert.

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5. The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA. Orange County is the home of this small and exciting venue that hosts up-and-coming bands like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. This standing-room-only space provides for a thrilling show among other dedicated concert-goers!

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Film

If I could really commit myself to an industry and craft, it would be film. I know, I know – I have a completely separate part of my blog dedicated to careers and stuff, which unfortunately takes a more realistic stance on professional success. But hey, a girl can dream right? I certainly don’t envision myself being an actress; it is the thrill of visual storytelling which fascinates me. That includes screenwriting, cinematography, and editing.

I’ve tinkled a bit with free film editing software and have developed a few creations of my own for school projects, organizational promotions, and personal showcases. I particularly enjoy the combination of film and music, and aspire to one day build a library of home-made music videos of songs that speak to me. I’m definitely not expecting these to end up on MTV or anything; instead this is simply another way for me to express myself creatively and uniquely.

Please check out a video I made featuring the highlights of a recent trip I took to Japan. Instead of putting together a classic slideshow, I decided to turn the video footage I took during the trip into something a little more creative that I feel captures the essence and richness of this country’s beauty, culture, and history.

Song credit: Coldplay “Lovers in Japan”

 

Work-Life Balance

The line between workaholism and ambition are sometimes blurred; most of us have to work to survive in this world, and some still struggle to make ends meet. This is especially true in the United States where a capitalist society creates a culture that forces its citizens to compete for jobs, salary, and benefits by rewarding working longer instead of better. Politics aside, it can be discouraging for a young adult in corporate America to discover that those who work 60+ hours per week instead of the “legally mandated” 40 hours are praised and recognized for essentially surrendering their lives to their companies.

I had a boss once tell me that “when you’re in your 20s you should be working as much as possible because well, you just can.” This reminded me of the age-old testament that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. He went on to say that I would be making a grave mistake by leaving my position at a company which monopolized my days, nights, weekends, and basically any free time I had.

I now work at a great company that has provided me with the flexibility to live the life that I want to live while having the financial resources to support myself. I can’t say that I love the work that I do, but developing a healthy work-life balance has allowed me to spend time outside of work nourishing my hobbies and interests. Will my decision to cut back on hours and leave a gigantic international company decrease my earning potential? Probably. But, I have decided that my life is so much more fulfilling when it is not only defined by a paycheck.

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Networking

Honestly, I sometimes think that if I could avoid going to business lunches and networking events, I would. I don’t particularly enjoy conversing with strangers when the underlying pretense is testing the quid pro quo waters. Still, the reality of today’s professional world is that opportunities are more likely to come to those who know people.

So, how do you get to know people in a professional setting when you have moved to a new city, feel uncomfortable in social situations, don’t like asking people for favors, or all of the above? If you’re like me, I have struggled to find solutions for each of these limitations and continue to experience mild levels of anxiety when I’m invited to any sort of “meet and greet” event.

I like to think that there are ways for me to form positive connections with people in my industry without compromising my personal sense of pride and self-worth. One way that I have eased the process of post-graduate networking is by becoming a part of my alma mater’s local alumni association. I already have an educational institution in common with these people and somehow it feels easier to interact with others who have walked on the same ground as I have. I also keep in contact with past colleagues whose work ethic I have emulated.

Ultimately, showing the people on my minimal but meaningful list of professional contacts that I care about how they are doing rather than what they can do for me has been one of the most effective and humbling ways to navigate a world that seems driven more by who you know rather than by who you are. 

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Career Building

If we all became what we “wanted to be when we grew up”, then the world would be filled with astronauts, doctors, and race car drivers. Although pursuing these dream jobs is noble and ambitious, our society needs a well-balanced array of trades and skills. Still, people in my generation (yes, I’m a millennial) were expected to pursue higher-education degrees in order to compete in our workforce.

Why were concepts such as ‘happiness’ and ‘fulfillment’ in relation to a career not emphasized to us as children? I certainly was caught in the trap of believing that I had to become a surgeon, high-powered attorney, or business executive in order to be successful. Little did I know that these professions were one way, but not the only way to achieve career satisfaction and financial stability.

If I could go back in time and speak to my 18-year-old self, I would advise her that the value of a career lies in how it is built rather than what it is. Developing one’s career-related skills, whether it be by obtaining vocational certifications or a PhD, is important for setting a solid foundation as a respected, trusted, and valued professional. We need scientists and mathematicians as well as electricians, police officers, and educators – I think that our younger generations should be taught that a so-called “glamorous” job is not the only (or even guaranteed) way to achieve success.

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Job Searching

We all know that job hunting is a daunting task; most of us would be content with never having to write a resume or attend an interview again. How is it that finding professional employment has become a competition that the well-dressed and well-spoken almost certainly win? Plus, with unreasonable educational and experiential requirements, how are young adults supposed to obtain employment without advanced degrees, financial assistance, or professional connections?

Thankfully, through my involvement in business-oriented extra curriculars as an undergrad, I was fortunate enough to become proficient at job searching functions such as writing resumes and cover letters, utilizing LinkedIn, and interviewing. In fact, I accepted a full-time offer from a Big 4 accounting company six months before graduating. Over the span of four years spent in the adult workforce, I have participated in my company’s recruitment efforts, helped friends throughout the various stages of their job searches, and applied my experience to eventually find another finance-related position that allows me to live my best life.

Regardless of which career stage you are currently in, feeling confident about your ability to effectively communicate your skills and expertise to a potential employer is imperative for a successful job search. Although my employment and recruitment experience is pretty limited to the practices of corporate America, I hope that the tips I offer on this page are beneficial to all you qualified job searchers!

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Thirty Day Trial Challenge

Hi friends! As part of my never-ending quest to keep life interesting, I have decided to commit myself to learning a new hobby or skill every thirty days. By no means do I expect to achieve perfection in such a short amount of time – I am simply creating a systematic way for me to try new things that I otherwise would have never explored. To begin, I created a list of 50+ abilities that I want to achieve competence in.

Some are a bit silly, like practicing how to do the splits; others are meant to really challenge myself, like learning how to play scales on the flute. Ultimately, I am hoping that this challenge helps me find entertaining ways to spend my time, and that it also connects me with passionate people who are in various stages of their own skill development. Whether you’re a newbie like me, or an expert in your craft, I’d love to hear about which activities keep you going.

Stay tuned – my first Thirty Day Trial Challenge kicks off at the turn of the new year!

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Exercise

I grew up as an athlete and never fully appreciated the daily practices and training that kept me fit. So when my childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete didn’t pan out, I was left with figuring out a way to make time for exercise. It wasn’t until I gained weight, had trouble sleeping, and was left feeling sluggish that I knew I needed a change.

My dad (who has run a couple of marathons in his time), always suggested that I develop a fitness routine at an early age. And with the heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses that run in my family, it became harder to be a stubborn child and ignore his advice. Still, I could not see myself being happy with spending hours at a time at the gym. Treadmills, in my opinion, are boring ways to exercise, and I’m certainly not looking to be a body builder.

It has taken me a while, but I have learned that my favorite ways to get my heart rate up are through cardio-rich activities such as dancing, swimming, and playing in recreational sports leagues. I do have a gym membership, which I utilize to get in some strength and flexibility training through yoga and weights. Am I still sometimes lazy and make excuses to avoid exercising? Of course. But when I adopted a more realistic regimen that incorporated fun and challenging ways to exercise, I found it easier to stick to. In conjunction with a healthy diet (see my Healthy Eating page!), my exercise routine leaves me feeling energized while still allowing time for my busy lifestyle.

I’ll be sharing my exercise journey, including fitness tips, on this page – stay tuned!

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Meditation & Spirituality

In the past, I have had interesting experiences with religion and faith. Although I was brought up in a seemingly Catholic household, at about the age of 11 or 12 I discovered that my parents actually didn’t identify with the church. I have a basic understanding of the bible and common religious practices, but my spirituality has remained mostly dormant since my preteen years.

Still, I’ve had quite an extensive exposure to many of our world’s religions – my first childhood friend is Mormon, my aunt married into a Jewish family, I’ve dated a Buddhist, and my roommate in college practiced Hinduism. My life has been enriched by all of these people and their individual belief systems, but I’ve also found myself questioning where belong, if not within any of these denominations.

Perhaps my view on religion (as an institution) is best discussed in a different post, especially since I cannot currently identify as agnostic, atheist, or anything else for that matter. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t crave a deeper connection with the world around me and the phenomena that created us. After all, I do not have an explanation for the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, or the weightlessness of being in love.

I took up meditation in search of the answers to existential questions, but the practice has actually brought me peace in not knowing. I meditate about 10-20 minutes a day while practicing steady, deep breathing. Lately, I have been using an app called Happify, which provides meditation prompts depending on your self-identified areas of improvement. Meditation is a soothing yet contemplative way to reflect on the day in a way that is entirely personal. I imagine that it is a similar experience to prayer. With some practice, meditation can be a healing experience. I look forward to sharing more of my journey to spiritual development – it is an ongoing process!

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