I've gone through more transitions in 2016 than any year before. I made a lot of decisions where my head and heart were not in sync and made more mistakes than I'm proud to admit. Though I want to say I'd do things differently in hindsight, I've learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and the world. I'm so excited to go into 2017 feeling a little wiser and a lot more humble. Here's 17 of the infinite lessons I learned the hard way.

1. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Progress requires change & change means doing things you've never done. It's simultaneously terrifying & exhilarating.

2. Eating more natural foods have an immediate, positive effect on mental clarity & physical wellbeing.

3. Spend only on a credit card with rewards. You can literally make money by spending money.

4. It is absolutely possible to be in love with more than one person at a time, for different reasons and different intensities.

5. The best kind of love is void of possession or attachment.

6. It is perfectly OK to run from anything that doesn't serve you without your next move perfectly planned out.

7. There is no clarity quite like that which comes from living far from where you grew up.

8. People either leave you feeling empowered or drained. Choose wisely.

9. Intelligence can't be taught. It's a byproduct of boldness and experience.

10. Everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts forever. Accepting this instead of trying to change it will save a lot of heartbreak & allow you to live completely in the moment.

11. Exercise is the ONLY thing that gives back as much as it takes (except maybe moms too!)

12. The amount of time you spend with someone has nothing to do with how strong your relationship is.

13. People don't want to be treated the way you want to be treated. They want to be treated how they want to be treated.

14. Natural highs will bring you closer to nirvana than any synthesised substance ever could.

15. Be extremely cautious of who you decide to work with. We spend so much of our time working & the people we work with influence our personal, mental & professional growth.

16. In the words of Neil Gaiman, "nothing I ever did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it."

17. Not making a decision is worse than making the wrong decision.

Out of my System- Youngr

(not my song, all my footage)

I have all this random footage I wanted to put into one conglomerate travel memoir of my journey the past few years. Here it is (despite a lost memory card and a crashed computer.) These 3 minutes are but a glimpse of the amazing experiences and incredible people I met. They can't fully capture the past several years accurately, but this vid is a close preview. Special thanks to the stunning souls who crossed my path and forever changed my life.

I spent too many years dreaming of travelling and waiting for someone to venture with me. Senior year of university, sick of waiting, I applied to study abroad on a whim and three months later I boarded a plane to live in a country where I didn’t know a single person and that spoke a language I barely understood. That trip was the single most life changing experience in my twenty-five years on this planet. It changed my world in so many ways and taught me what I really wanted out of life- and how to get it. 

It introduced me to myself. 

I wish I had backpacked some countries before I decided to study a degree in Sociology. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with this degree, but moving abroad made me realise my love for languages, writing, and meeting new people. I would have studied journalism. 

It gave me a sense of accomplishment. 

Before leaving home, I had a constant sense that I was a victim of less than favorable circumstances that I couldn’t change, but leaving and living a different way of life abroad taught me that we are not victims and can change our situation if we have the courage to. Life doesn’t happen to you, you make life happen.

The conversations I have are different. 

Instead of egocentric based conversations, they’re inspired by curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. We don’t talk about what that bitch from high school is doing, because we don’t care. That isn’t in our world anymore. We’re focused on the future, progression, and imagination. I learned so much about travelling and other parts of the world from meeting travellers and locals along my journey and I ended up in unexpected, incredible destinations because of this. 

I stopped letting people affect my choices. 

The reason my conversations changed is because I changed who I was with. I think living where you grew up or spent the majority of your life limits you by your past. I was spending a lot of time with people I had been friends with from my childhood- before I really knew who I was. I felt obligated to give my time to them even though I wasn’t inspired or learning from them- not because they are bad people but because in our adulthood we have different ideas about our futures. 

I was exposed to new norms and lifestyles. 

This is the one that keeps me coming back for more. I’m back in the country I studied in, going on my second year living in the capital. In New York, I work to live and live to work. Time to travel? Yeah, right. I felt so stuck in a life I wasn’t excited to wake up and live. I have so much more time to do things I love and enjoy in Spain. I’m mentally and physically healthier because of it. I’m not saying this is the life for you, but leaving home let me venture and see another way of life that I just happened to like a lot more.  

My relationship with my family improved immensely.

I didn’t have the best relationship when I lived with my family, we even fought regularly after I moved out. But the fact that they aren’t a five minute drive makes our time together much more precious. I actually look forward to seeing them now, and it’s much easier for me to accept who they are when I don’t have to see them every day. 

I still struggle with feeling selfish for loving my life abroad so much, but the reality is that it allows me to be the best version of myself. It’s instilled in me this overwhelming sense of euphoria that radiates from my being. I know this because I attract beautiful, electrifying people. Maybe living abroad isn’t for everyone, but I think if we all spent a significant amount of time submersed in a foreign culture the world would be a significantly better place. 
My Instagram is full of beautiful destinations and my collection of friends on Facebook is ever expanding, but there is more to moving abroad than meets the eye. It’s a deliberate decision with an opportunity cost as proportional as the profit. If I had to do it all over again, I would chose this life every time, but the part that you don’t see on social media is a huge part of our transition abroad as expats.

We never quite feel at home.
We’re living in a borrowed city, in a culture that we still have to grow into. Without the friends that knew us our whole life, we sometimes feel exposed, alone and lost and yearning for that someone who knows our flaws but still loves us anyway. “Our 20’s aren’t about finding home, they’re about finding a place where we can create one.” To find ourselves, sometimes we have to get lost. And when we do, we find the most incredible routes and destinations. 

It’s not all travel and games.
It’s work! Sometimes 5 days a week, with smelly hyperactive kids. So, when the weekend comes we don’t always have the time, funds, or energy to travel. Whenever I get down on this part, I remind myself being here is in a way travelling itself. I still live in a different city so far from home, with hidden gems in corners I haven’t yet explored.

Always having yearning to be in two places at once. 
No matter how much we Skype or FaceTime or stay in contact, we’re still missing some of the most important milestones in our friends and families lives. Engagements, birthdays, even losing loved ones. It all makes us wish we could be on the next flight home, but unfortunately sometimes this just isn't possible. We’ve made a commitment and we have to honor it.

We feel super selfish.
Because we can’t be there for our loved ones who were always there for us. Our thirst for adventure and something new over shadowed our responsibility to care for our families and friends. But, to really take care of others, we have to take care of ourselves and something innate deep in our core needs to satisfy those cravings. Sorry Mom<3

Saying good-bye never gets easier.
A life abroad is a life in transit. We’re constantly meeting people on the move, if we’re not ourselves. You’d think we’d get used to the act of leaving people we so quickly connect with, but it’s like ripping off a band aid every time. That part of our life we shared with someone else is exposed, and vulnerable. But it will heal, time and time again, and we’ll become stronger because of it. 

It loses its shine after a while. 
The first time I moved abroad to study in Spain was my first time out of the country, and everything was new and exciting. I remember my closest friend at the time marvelling over the garbage cans! But three years later I don’t even notice them anymore. What once was so different and exciting to me is normal.

Living abroad is to leap out of our comfort zone, into an entirely different world. *cue little mermaid theme song here* Though at times it can be confusing and exhausting, it’s the most worthwhile thing I’ve done in my life. I’m constantly learning, constantly overcoming fears, and growing as an individual. 

“To engage the written word means to follow a line of thought, which requires considerable powers of classifying, inference-making, and reasoning. It means to uncover lies, confusions, and over-generalisations, to detect abuses of logic and common sense. It also means to weigh ideas, to compare and contrast assertions, to connect one generalisation to another.”
-Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death

I started writing regularly in a journal 8 years ago in August after a blow out fight with the only people to this day who can trigger my temper- my family. It was on loose leaf paper because I had no intentions of keeping up with it. All I knew was I had to get out all the teenage angst eating me alive that I was too embarrassed to tell anyone else.

Journaling continues to be my magical cure for anxiety and mini life crisis'. Going back through it, which isn’t often because it’s a painful journey, allows for self-reflection from a third person perspective. It’s like my 15 year old self telling me a vivid version of the story I forgot I lived, and clearly seeing how it inspired who I am today.

The hardest part of starting a journal is sitting down to write it. Writing is the easy part, and when you do it, the collection of days become so so much more than just a journal.

  • A best friend. Because it doesn’t mind hearing you bitch about the same annoying problem for 5 years. And after you do vent your anger in any way you desire- because it doesn’t judge you-you’ll feel so much lighter for getting it off your chest. It will give you constructive, true self criticism and advice, though maybe not immediately but some time down the road. And it will be more genuine than any other friend advice because no one knows your goals, frustrations, or visions of the past and future better than you!

  • A bucket list.  Two years ago, nearly to the day, I wrote this short-term (and long term) goal:

I’ve been working on this exact mantra consciously every day but completely forgot about this entry. It was worthy enough to write down then, and it’s been worthy enough to incorporate into my life 760 days later- and counting.

  • A photo album. “Written word endures, spoken word disappears.” - The War of Art. Your experiences create a story that is You, and your thoughts and perspectives are the narrative. But just like we can easily forget that awkward high school party until we see old embarrassing photos, it’s easy to forget pages or chapters of our lives if we don’t revisit them. Writing them down creates an organised vision of our history. It allows us to revisit them at later times and really understand them. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove yourself from a situation to better understand it, and it’s really difficult to do that when you’re in the middle of a crisis. But writing it down, and revisiting it at a later time paints a clearer picture of where you were, and where it is you’re headed.

  • The locket around your neck. Whether it be a hidden file on your computer, or an old folder of loose leafs, it becomes a keepsake of the most difficult and memorable times in your life that no one else knows expect you. It’s what makes you you, and it’s the most personal thing you’ve got, and if you don’t get it out of your head and into that locket, it becomes explosive, toxic material. Every now and again I stumble on a situation identical to the one I’m struggling with. It’s like a little reminder saying “Hey, don’t forget about me here. You still need to work on me!”

Where would we be today without history books? Probably world war 94,375,629,372,108. We document history to learn from it, so I argue it’s imperative to document OUR story to learn from it. I tell my Grandma to write things down that keep her up at night, but her response is always “I’m afraid someone will see it.” Sometimes I feel like this, so I keep mine in a super private place close to me. 

In reality, it seems like we’re all hiding in the spotlight. You’re engaged!? You bought a house!? You ran 29 miles!? Awesome! I now feel smaller than that diamond on your finger. But we shouldn’t live our lives to impress people. We should live our lives to help people. Good teachers tell kids to ask questions because someone too shy to raise his hand might be unsure about the same thing. Well, we should share our confusion and what it took to overcome it, because I guarantee there’s people out with the same doubts, worries, and mistakes who can’t figure it out on their own. 

A bunch of you guys have asked me about travelling in Europe, and came out with some ridiculous misconceptions! I'm here to set them straight and tell you there is nothing to fear as long as you are conscious, educated on the destination, and trust your gut instinct.

1. I can't afford to travel.
Travelling isn't cheap, but you can ball out on a budget in Europe. Planning far enough in advance can land you some pretty affordable tickets to Europe. I have friends that planned 6 months ahead last year and paid $600 roundtrip from New York to Madrid. Play with destinations, and airlines. If you're flexible on accommodation and transportation, and look for free things to do, you can make it on very little. Last time I backpacked five countries in two weeks on less than $1500. And I wasn't frugal.

2.    Hostels are Dangerous!
No, I haven’t seen the movie, and no I won’t! Listening to this fib is like listening to non-Americans say ‘every American owns a gun.’ It’s simply not true. If you do some research (there are PLENTY of websites with reviews on location, cleanliness, and staff) you will find that you can find a plethora of hostels! From as nice as luxury hotels to as grungy as dorm rooms- it’s up to you. Staying in hostels is like a more-for-your-money hotel, with a community of travellers full of the most wonderful secret destinations.

3.    You need a rail pass to travel through countries.
A rail pass is can be a super comfy and scenic way to travel countries, but it might not always be the most economic friendly choice depending on your budget. There are SO many ways to travel between countries (ride-shares like blablacar if you’re feeling social, cheap flights like ryanair if you don’t mind seats like concrete, busses depending on distance, or renting a car.)

4.    You have to plan every leg of the trip.
Some people are planners and need to have a rigid itinerary. If this is not you, you might be missing out following a strict schedule. It is not always cheaper to book roundtrip tickets, especially if you plan on cramming a ton of places into your agenda. Plus, it leaves no room for spontaneity if you meet people or hear about other awesome destinations.

5.    London, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona -I’ve seen most of Europe!
Umm.. no. Sure big cities are beautiful and full of great gastronomy and old architecture, but there is so much more to a country than just the big cities. That’s like people judging the whole U.S. on just L.A. or Miami. I find that cities can be more impersonal with their own unique culture. To really experience the country you should experience the surroundings too- maybe a national park or a smaller village.

6.     Better to overpack than under.
Packing is a skill fine tuned with experience, but guys (most) Europe isn’t third world. They have toiletries and clothes too, and you’re going to want to buy souvenirs. My advice is to pack essentials that fit in a carry on, deepening on the length of the trip, to make your travels a whole lot easier. Most trains and small planes charge hefty fees for two suitcases or bags that need to be checked. Do yourself a favor, pack some comfy versatile clothes and one or two night outfits and save some room for purchases.

7.    Everyone speaks English.
Ok, so a lot of people speak English yes, but not everyone. Be prepared with a translator, learn some useful words in the language, and get used to using your hands and gestures to help. Pronunciation makes a huge difference, and it's likely you won't say some words correct. Don't panic. When I first came to Spain (confident with a minor in Spanish) I got lost so many times mispronouncing things. It's a learning lesson, and a funny story later on.

8.    Don't talk to strangers.
Sorry mom, but guys, TALK TO STRANGERS! Meet people from other cultures, get out of your comfort zone, and learn something new. And please use your judgement, I'm not saying go off in an alley late night with a stranger, but ask for directions on the train if you're lost,  make small talk with the waiters, etc. You never know what you might learn from the locals! (I'm not saying to try this on your own, but I ended up staying with the most accommodating hosts in the most unique places just by meeting people in-transit.)

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