11 Fun Facts: My Liebster Award answers

As a member of the Her Campus Bloggers Network (or HCBN), I’m now a part of a community of young women who, on top of being Her Campus writers, also maintain their own blogs. Many of them have been nominating group members for the “Liebster Award,” which several google searches taught me is simply the German word for “dearest,” and is a bloggers version of an ice breaker thats been floating around the internet for just about two years.


Though this sort of survey-like question answering reminds me of my TOD and LJ days (extra points if you understand those references) I figured, what the heck, I can have some fun with these.

The basic rules: First, answer 11 questions posed to you by the blogger you were nominated by. For me, that was the fabulous Dani Wong, a sweet Nor Cal native who was one of my Her Campus writers when I was president of the NU branch two years ago. Then, write another 11 questions, to be answered for other bloggers, who you will then nominate for the award.

1. If you could spend five years in another country, which one would it be?
Right now I’m pretty focused on solidifying my Spanish speaking skills, so I’d have to say Spain. I’ve dreamt of spending time in Europe for so long and heard so many amazing things about the country, it’d be the perfect opportunity.

2.  What motivated you to start your blog?
When I quit my job last May without a more solidified plan than to get off my ass, out of my cubicle, and go travel, I knew I was taking a huge risk, and that I was one of very few people willing to take that risk. My blog is almost like my public diary – it’s a perfect way to help record all of the amazing adventures I’ve been on, and will go on, as a budding writer and travel enthusiast. I want to share all of my experiences as a backpacker and recent graduate to inspire and motivate other young women.

3.  What was your best college experience? Worst?
I’d say my best college experience was volunteering as a tour guide for Northeastern University. I met some of my best friends, and had the opportunity for so much personal growth while I spent 4 years on the leadership committee of the program. Interacting with high school juniors and seniors struggling with the choice of where to spend their next 5 years was extremely rewarding, and taught me how to articulate my thoughts (and deal with awkward parents!)

My worst college experience was probably the life lesson of picking some very wrong girlfriends. Unfortunately, when freshman year starts, we’re all often desperate and overeager to meet new friends. I learned too late that I didn’t weed out my friends the way I should have, and there were girls in my circles of friends who added more misery and drama to my social life than anyone should ever have to deal with.

4. How would you describe yourself in three words?
passionate, planner, traveler

5. What’s your best quality and why?
I like to think of myself as a good friend — I have so many amazing women in my life I’m lucky to call my best friends, but I’m challenged in that those women are spread across the country, on both coasts. Keeping in touch consistently with friends who aren’t every day, hang-out-in-person-with friends is a challenge, but it’s something I’m continually putting effort into. I always make effort to make my friends my number one priority, and pride myself on being someone they can count on regardless of whether they have good news or bad news to share with me.

6. Where do you get your inspiration for your blog?
Lately, it’s been a struggle to come up with what to write — without an amazing adventure to blog about, without the chance to cross borders and interact with new friends every night, my life seems relatively mundane. But as I research my next big trip, it’s becoming easier to think about the things I wanted to know before I left for South America so that I can start to produce answers to those questions to help future SA backpackers.

7.  How do you cheer yourself up when you’re having a bad day?
Distracting myself with (bad) reality television, In N Out Animal fries and Vogue is often my go-to. Or a solid run on the treadmill to get my frustrations out.

8.  What is your ideal first date
Froyo and a relaxing meander through a cutesy neighborhood — first dates are always so awkward, but it’s fun to judge guys on what toppings they pick for their yogurt!

9.  If you could hang out with any movie character, who would it be?
I‘d get a kick out of getting cocktails with Mindy Kaling. I think her new show is phenomenal, and I bet she would be an amazing woman to learn from.

10.  What is your dream job and how do you plan to get there?
Part of the reason I’ve returned to LA and am back living at my parent’s house is because I’m still really struggling to find the answer to this question. I like to think I want to be a travel writer, but the reality is, I want to settle down eventually: put down roots, get married and have a family. Even though writing and traveling are my two passions, I’m not sure being a travel writer is really what I want for myself. Right now, I think something that combines writing, my passion for seeing the world, and the skills I’ve honed working as an online content producer would be the best thing for me, but who knows where those skills and passions will lead me. I’m excited to not have a solidified dream, and to develop one in the coming months and years. Being open and flexible to all sorts of career paths and dreams is daunting, but it’s also very exciting.

11.  What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Right now, I’m totally hooked on Taylor Swift’s latest album, Red. It’s embarrassing, but it’s damn catchy, and even though she’s a serial dater, her lyrics about heartbreak just ring true in all the right ways. Also, I can’t stop eating Trader Joe’s white cheddar popcorn. I can easily eat a bag in one sitting!

My eleven questions, for Peggy Menn, over at nuances & nostalgia and Hillary Cohen, a fellow fast talker who does some great YouTube video blogging.

  1. What’s your favorite item of clothing in your closet?
  2. Tell us about your best childhood memory.
  3. If you could be any celebrity for a day, who would you be?
  4. What’s the next trip or vacation you’re planning?
  5. If you could go back and remake one decision in your life, which decision would you take back?
  6. Which good books have you read so far this year?
  7. Pepsi or Coke?
  8. What’s your favorite thing about being a blogger?
  9. If you could have a $5,000 shopping spree at any store, which store would you chose?
  10. What was your first pet?
  11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The Plan: 36 days later…

I’ve been back home for just over a month, and though it’s crazy to think how little time has passed, some pretty big changes have come about in these last 5 weeks.

The biggest news, is that I’ve officially decided to call Los Angeles my home for the next year.

The plan was always NYC. I dreamed of living in the same city of so many of my favorite people who have relocated to Manhattan from across the country. I imagined runs through Central Park, Brooklyn brunch dates with my best friend, finally mastering the MTA, even normal happy hour specials after years of cursing Boston’s ridiculous laws.

But NYC is expensive. It’s more than expensive – it’s exorbitant. I know the ‘hip’ thing is to be broke in Manhattan (or now, Brooklyn & Queens), but if I realistically wanted to be paying rent, taking the subway every day, and even just occasionally joining my best friends for cocktails, club nights, and brunches, there was no way I’d be able to work part time, freelance on the side, and put more than a few pretty pennies toward my travel goals.

I have a new-found, lofty dream of becoming a travel writer, but I know it’s a business where you have to start at the very, very bottom, and climb all the way up. I also know it’s not a business where you can expect to make money right away, or even find success right way, but I’m determined to pursue my goals and try, even if it is a bit of a pipe dream.

In pursuing this dream, I’m taking a gigantic step backwards. I’m making saving money the priority, and therefore, I’m moving back into my parents’ house. Considering it was less than 9 months ago that I was employed, financially independent, and living on my own in a Boston apartment, you can imagine my parents shock, and slight displeasure, to learn that their almost-25 year old daughter was back at home for the first time in nearly 7 years to take over her childhood room.

I’d like to say that free rent makes up for it all, but for one, I’m not living at home completely for free (I’ll be paying for utilities & my groceries). I also know that being back under my parents roof will be a bit of a challenge. I was so proud to be one of the few college grads to stand on her own two feet immediately after I took off my cap & gown, so you can imagine my disappointment having to say I’m back under their roof. But I’m making this sacrifice now, hoping it will pay off down the line.

I’m now officially employed once again. Not by any sort of journalistic or writing establishment, but I’ve got a great gig working 20-25 hours a week as a nanny/driver for a wonderful LA family with a 13 & 15 year old. Since my expenses in Los Angeles will be very minimal, I’ll be able to put the majority of my earnings towards the one thing I’ve been dreaming of since my plane landed at LAX on December 30: another backpacking trip.

The ultimate goal is a six-month backpacking journey through the entirety of Southeast Asia, with a plan to leave sometime at the beginning of 2014. I’m hoping to have built up a substantial number of freelance connections and opportunities by then, so I can get on the road with a longer time frame and the goal of doing much more writing for outside publications, rather than just myself and this blog.

In the middle of January, I faced New England winter once again and skipped out east for a quick 10 day visit. I spent 4 days in Boston catching up with old friends, bosses & professors, then my friends Christine & Meg drove with me southwest 100 miles to the town of Middletown, Connecticut, where 90% of my worldly possessions have been sitting in storage since May.

Though I sold all of my furniture sans my mattress, TV and a few odd Ikea items, I still had lots of, well, to be very frank, crap. All of which needed to be sorted through. I never packed my storage unit with the thought that I would be headed back to California in the near future; the plan was always to be in NYC.

So through Craigslist I sold as much of my stuff as I could, donated the rest to a local homeless shelter and Goodwill, and shipped the absolute necessities (mainly clothes & shoes, plus my beloved Essie collection) back to Los Angeles.

And now, here I am. Back in LA, starting to settle down. I’m the proud sole driver and lender of my mother’s 1998 Toyota minivan — it’s so far from cool it’s pretty hysterical, but it’s on loan to me for free, the insurance is dirt cheap, and it drives from point A to point B, so that’s all that matters.

I’ve joined a gym, found intermediate Spanish classes at a local Community College four mornings a week, and started, slowly but surely, to reach out to my writing contacts, family friends, and my other network connections to start cranking out some travel stories from my time in South America.

I’m scared, but I’m excited. I know I’m taking a huge risk, and an even bigger leap of faith, and I just hope with some hard work, and a little bit of luck, I can pull this all off.

And if I can’t? If I fail? I’m promising myself I’ll give it a year. And after that, if I’m nowhere? I’ll take a few of the hard earned dollars I’ve put away, head to Southeast Asia anyways, and then come back to the US sooner than expected, but with the mindset that it’s time to do some serious searching for a full time job. I’m being lofty, but I’m also being realistic.

So there you have it: The Plan.

I hope you’re all excited to hear about the trials, tribulations, exhaustions & excitements as they come! Here’s to an amazing 2013!

“I return from my travels, I navigated by building happiness”

Well, I’m officially home.

I can’t believe how quickly my 92 days on the road came and went. How fast three whole months, a quarter of a year, simply flew by me.

I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of over the last 13 weeks. I took on another language, I jumped out of an airplane, I dined solo more times than I can count, I got lost and misread maps in countless cities, and managed to maneuver myself through a 12 hour bus ride, border crossing, and to an emergency clinic with an un-usable right foot. There were tears and grins, nearly 4,000 photos, and countless belongings left at hostels all across the continent. I drained my bank account, and it was worth every penny.

I’m a writer and an abstract thinker, so numbers really aren’t my thing (ask my high school math teachers about that one) but I figured quantifying my trip with a few numbers might be fun, and it’s certainly a crazy way to look at my travels.

Days traveled: 92
Countries visited: 5
Number of new passport stamps: 10
Cities visited: 34
Distance traveled (mostly by bus): Approximately 13,197 km, or just over 8200 miles.
Modes of transportation taken: Taxis, cars, jeeps, buses, vans, tourist minibuses, boats, horses, a donkey, commercial airplanes, 4 seat airplanes, no-seat sky diving airplanes, and parachutes.
Number of bus rides: 33
Hours spent on buses: Approximately 220 hours
Number of flights:  2
Organized tours: 8
Items lost and left behind: My Reef flip flops, my very nice compact travel towel, a plastic tupperware full of leftovers, and many bags of food meant to feed myself on bus rides.

View SA travels as a larger map

As I adjust to being back in the US — the real world — I realize how many things there are that I already miss about South America.

Practicando mi espanol. I loved challenging myself to communicate fully in another language. I was thinking in Spanish, constantly asking questions in Spanish, even translating random song lyrics into Spanish in my head. I am hoping to find cheap language classes or a Spanish exchange program in LA, but I know it won’t be the same as full immersion.

Meeting people, constantly, from all over the world. I have new friends in Switzerland, Holland and the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, South Africa, England, Denmark, Australia, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Texas, Alaska, and San Francisco. I met countless others from more countries and cities than I can name. I was constantly learning new things, exchanging information and gaining small glimpses into peoples lives. Sometimes it was sad, or weird, only knowing people for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days. But for the most part, it was refreshing to have meaningful conversations with people I knew I might never see again, but could still share wonderful moments with nonetheless.

Constant change. Know the city layout? Starting to feel comfortable? Showered more than a handful of times in the same place? Time to move on! The longest I spent in any city after Ecuador was 4 or 5 days, and the constant difference in surroundings, pace, climate, activities, and hostels meant I was truly never bored.

Real Coca Cola. In the rest of the world, Coca Cola manufactures their products in glass bottles, and they use real sugar, not corn syrup. Coke tastes 100% better, and I will truly miss drinking it from those 500ml skinny glass bottles.

Mercados. I miss the local markets with indigenous women selling every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. For less than it would cost to buy a single box of raspberries at Ralphs in Los Angeles, I could buy enough fruits and vegetables to cook for a week.

The excuse to be disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, and I’m thrilled to have my iPhone back because it means I can once again be in good communication with the people I love. But being unplugged was a huge blessing – to remove myself from a culture where peoples faces are constantly buried in their smartphones was so healthy. I’ll miss that disconnect, because I know it’s a habit very easily picked up in the States. We all sit with our phones in our hands and don’t communicate with, or even look at, each other. When nobody has a phone to be texting anybody with, you sit at tables or on couches in hostels or cafes and you talk. You get to know people, you swap stories, ideas, learn about new cultures and places in the world. It’s not a novel concept, but it’s one that doesn’t happen quite as often as it should back home.

The lack of pressure to be put together at all moments. I missed my closet so much. My heels, my blazers, my sundresses, my beautiful, and delicate, tank tops I would never take on the road. But it was refreshing to put on a tshirt and jeans every day, not carry a single bit of makeup with me for 3 months, and very rarely feel the pressure to be dressed up or dolled up. Of course there were moments where I wanted my mascara and my jewelry and my skin-hugging denim, but I felt so much less pressure to put all of that on. And when you don’t have all that to hide behind, you present a more raw version of yourself. No one on the road has comfort in a daily beauty routine, makeup, a fancy car, or expensive belongings. All you have is you, and your worn (and reworn, and reworn) travel clothes.

Of course there are many things I absolutely do not miss about South America — cities being totally shut down for almuerzo mid-day and all day Sunday, always having to buy water, not being able to flush paper down the toilets, constantly forgetting things in hostels across the continent, the freezing rain of southern Argentina and Chile, and, of course, 12+ hour bus rides.

And now, it’s back to reality.

In the next two weeks, I’m searching for nanny jobs, nailing out my car and living situations, and then flying east to spend time with Boston and NYC friends, and then delve into the nasty projects of emptying my storage unit, selling everything I can, and shipping what I need back to the west coast.

Even though my trip is over, I plan to keep up my blogging, and have every intention of doing lots of freelance writing from here on out. If nothing else, I’ll be posting ideas I came up with on the road, possibly some of my travel budget spreadsheets, and some updates on how plans for future trips are going!

Ode to my zapatos

It’s hard to believe, considering how massive my shoe and clothing collection are, but I’ve had the same pair of running shoes since 2008.

All trip, I´ve been saying how I can´t wait to throw out my zapatos — or as all my new British friends have taught me to say, trainers — before I leave South America. Partially because without them, I’ll have more space in my pack for souvenirs, but mostly because they’re stained, filthy, and falling apart. But as the last day of my trip nears, the thought of chucking my dear old Asics actually makes me a little sad, and even more nostalgic.

My turquoise and white babies, now a mixed shade of grey and brown, were broken in on the Great Wall of China. They took me to Squashbusters and Marino, my two college gyms, on freezing cold afternoons and sleepless, anxious nights alike. They accompanied me on walks to American Eagle on Newbury Street, where I would stand folding clothing for hours and hours on end. They climbed the Eiffel Tower, traipsed around Israel, wandered Costa Rican rainforests, and were there on my first hike up Los Angeles´s Runyon Canyon. Whenever I was plagued with depression and heartbreak, they faithfully let me shove them on and pound out my emotions on the treadmill, searching for answers to my unhappiness.

And in 2009, when Alex and I did a ridiculous 8,000 mile road trip across the United States, my Asics were there every step of the way. We saw the Grand Canyon, attempted a visit to the four corners monument, explored Denver, saw Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, and visited Arches National Park in Utah… all in my running shoes. Of course there was the eastern and southern parts of the US as well, but I’m pretty sure my poor running shoes sat in the trunk when I switched into flip flops for the warmer cities.

My shoes took me twenty-odd miles up to Machu Picchu, traversed Lago Titicaca´s Isla del Sol, and didn´t complain one bit when they turned a slight reddish tinge from the bright brown dirt of northern Argentina and Iguazu Falls. They´ve stayed tightly on my feet through countless horseback rides in Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina. We climbed Cotopaxi together, ziplined together, and witnessed the incredibly gorgeous southwest circut of Bolivia together. We traversed down the entirety of Colca Canyon in southern Peru, flew over the Nazca Lines, and attempted to sandboard in the sand dunes of Huacachina. They fell with me (on purpose, of course) 10,000 feet from an airplane over San Juan, Argentina and, most recently, they´ve been absolutely soaked as I walked, biked and drove my way through Patagonia and Argentina´s Bariloche.

As I travel and meet people and stare at a map of the world, I feel like there’s so much that I haven’t seen. But I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to have explored the parts of the world that I have made it to. From the cities in the U.S. I´ve called home to the countries I’ve traveled to thousands of miles across the globe, thinking about all the places my feet, encased in my trusty Asics, have taken me, I feel both humbled and fortunate.

There´s something about traveling and meeting people from all over the world that makes me even more excited and anxious to see the rest of the world, to set foot in the countries whose borders I haven´t yet crossed. My plans of moving to NYC to settle down after this trip have shifted. I´m now revising my goals towards thoughts of more travel and world exploration, toward achieving my goal of becoming a travel writer, and with the hopes of planning another major trip for the second half of 2013.

By then, I´ll have a new pair of tennis shoes. I can´t wait to find out where we´ll go together.

A flashback of photos of me wearing my running shoes all over the world…

Her Story: I quit my job to travel in South America

After reading the Lost Girls book in the first week of my travels, I vowed not to be like Amanda and make myself crazy freelancing from the road. That being said, a pitch I’d sent to HerCampus pre-travels was finally approved, so I decided to quickly bang out a “Her Story” contribution for one of my favorite websites. Here is the link to my original piece, published yesterday, but I’ve republished the story below. 

Her Story: I quit my job to travel in South America

Over the last four weeks, I have straddled the equator line, zip-lined through a rainforest on the edge of the Amazon, and climbed to 15,780 feet above sea level on Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. I took 80 hours of intensive Spanish, learned how to make Ecuadorian soup with shrimp and plantain “meatballs,” and had my first fluid and coherent conversation in another language.

But six months ago, I was sitting in a cubicle at a desk job in relative misery, anxious, heartbroken and depressed. So let me start from the beginning.

I went to college at Northeastern University, a school I immediately fell in love with because of its co-operative education program: an opportunity to spend six months working full-time in your field in between academic semesters. As an avid writer with my heart set on a journalism career, I knew the key to success in my field was gaining all the clips and experience I could get.

So over five years, I participated in three co-ops – at a small neighborhood newspaper, an IT media company, and for The Boston Globe’s Boston.com. On the side, I co-founded and helped run the Northeastern chapter of Her Campus and was in charge of the extensive tour guide program at my university. I was career-driven and determined to write as much as I could. I even gave up a traditional semester abroad (which I was dying to do) because I wouldn’t have been able to interview for a senior year co-op position.

As the end of my college years loomed, I used my co-op connections to my advantage and started a job immediately after graduation at TechTarget, the IT media company where I’d done my second co-op. A few months later, a nightlife blogging position opened at Boston.com, and I took the blog on as my second job.

I worked meticulously at both jobs for a year. Don’t get me wrong — I was incredibly thankful for my jobs. I knew how lucky I was to be employed not just by one employer, but two. But in the span of that year, I’d faced two rough heartbreaks and was feeling antsy and anxious. I couldn’t believe this was “it” – the rest of my life. I wanted to travel and see the world, and I felt stuck and depressed.

Everyone told me to wait it out. “First jobs are never perfect; the adjustment to the real world is really hard,” they’d say. “Heartbreak just heals with time.” But I knew it was something more than that.

So I started brainstorming and saving every penny I could, adding it to the savings account I’d built up over the last several years. I dreamed of a trip to Europe, a re-location to NYC. I contemplated applying for other jobs, even moving back home to Los Angeles. But in May, the stars aligned.  One of my best friends from high school, who had been living in Chile for just over two years, was quitting her job in Santiago to relocate to NYC. Before she left, she was hoping to do some traveling through South America. Her sister was also quitting her job and starting graduate school in the fall, so the three of us made plans for a jaunt to Argentina and Uruguay.

With shaky hands and tears in my eyes, I took a huge risk – one that many people warned me against – and gave my boss my two weeks notice. It was one of the hardest and best things I have ever done.

My father’s proudest moment was when I, his only daughter, graduated from university. But not because I finally had a diploma in hand. It was because I graduated with a job offer, and he knew that I wasn’t one of the many recent grads who would be forced to move back home and desperately seek work. I was employed, and to him, that was success. So you can imagine his reaction when I told him I wanted to throw all of that away to go see the world. Thankfully, my Mom was a little more supportive. She understood the depression and frustration I was going through, and though she wanted me to remain on the same continent, she understood I was feeling restless.

That being said, I’ve always been independent. I moved across the country at the age of 18, and have been living on my own for six years. I knew my parents would love me no matter what, and so despite my father’s disappointment, I took the risk.

I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t say one of their life goals is to travel and see the world. But how many people really do just that? How many people quit their jobs, leave their worldly possessions, pick up their lives, and just go? Too few.

That being said, most American teenagers and young adults who do take a gap year, or gap months, dream of backpacking through Europe. They talk of buying Eurorail passes and seeing Paris, Amsterdam and Rome, of taking a summer off to explore the Grecian isles. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, let me start by saying that South America is half the price. Europe is expensive and glamorous, with amazing meals to be had and expensive hotels to stay in. Everything in South America is, bottom line, cheap. It’s meant to be roughed through — living on $30 a day here is no problem, and taking buses across borders for $10 each is as easy as ordering the menu de dia – the daily lunch menu of fresh juice, soup, and a main course for as little as $2.50.

I immediately fell in love with South America. But after six weeks in the southern hemisphere — three with my friend and her sister and three on my own in Peru and Bolivia — I got on a plane bound for Los Angeles, not ready to leave. My plan when I returned to the US was to face the real world again: work my butt off to get a job in NYC, sign a lease, and make the next steps in my journalism career.

But as I reunited with my family and friends back home and contemplated beginning my life again across the country, I just couldn’t stand the thought. My career-driven self had a brand new thought: I have my whole life to work. Why wouldn’t I go see the world now, when my only physical obligation was $98 a month to the UHaul in Middletown, Connecticut where my mattress and boxes sat in storage?

So that’s exactly what I did. I planned three months of solo travel in South America. The first month would be spent on a traveling classroom program through Ecuador, taking 20 hours of Spanish classes a week and staying with local, Ecuadorian families to hone my speaking skills. The next two months would consist of making my way down the coast of Peru, into Bolivia, down through northwestern Argentina, and finally into Chile, where my return flight to Los Angeles is booked from Santiago on December 30.

For the most part, my family and friends reacted well. My Dad was still hesitant about my decision, but at that point I’d already given up my job, so he simply shrugged and said, “It’s your money, honey.” Mostly it was my parents’ friends, my older family friends, who reacted so positively, which really solidified my decision. “Good for you!” they’d say. “Now’s the time to go, when you’re young and have nothing tying you down.” My own friends reacted with just as much enthusiasm, sending emails, Facebook posts and g-chats about how jealous they were that I was “living the life” and seeing the world.

Making the decision to pause my life and see one of the most spectacular, and underrated, continents of the world has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Sure, I miss my parents and my friends. Sure, I wish I wasn’t scraping every penny out of my savings account. And trust me, living out of a backpack with eight outfit options doesn’t exactly appeal to my inner fashionista. But I know the comforts of home — a guaranteed hot shower, all my favorite outfits, and a refrigerator to call my own, not to mention my true friends and family — aren’t going anywhere. As I face challenges small and large: bug bites swollen to the size of my fists, misunderstood bus schedules, insanely challenging hikes, and horrifically bad maps, I’m learning more about myself than I could have even imagined.

Looking back to when I was just out of a three-year relationship and struggling desperately to come to terms with my new single status, one of my old bosses told me this: You’re the only guaranteed and stable partner you’ll have for the entirety of your life.” I didn’t want to listen to her then, but as the years have passed, those words ring truer than ever. Of course, having someone next to you is a wonderful way to travel, and a huge comfort. But the bottom line is I am secure and comfortable with myself, and I knowing that, if need be, I can face whatever challenge comes my way on my own. It’s one of the most incredible feelings in the world. What better way to achieve that goal than by seeing the beauty of the world?


there’s gotta be somethin’ more

As I was laying on the beach last Saturday listening to music, the Sugarland song “Something More” came on and literally gave me goosebumps. I feel flashbacks to LiveJournal or my TOD (hah!) coming on, but I wanted to post these lyrics since they resonate so much with my life right now.

So now boss man, here’s my two weeks
I’ll make it short and sweet, so listen up
I could work my life away, but why?
I got things to do before I die
There’s gotta be something more
Gotta be more than this
I need a little less hard time
I need a little more bliss
I’m gonna take my chances
Taking a chance I might
Find what I’m looking for
There’s gotta be something more.
Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate
I believe that happiness is something we create. 
You best believe that I’m not gonna wait
‘Cause there’s gotta be something more

One afternoon when I was in Montanita, Katarina, Erwin and I went for an afternoon mojito at a restaurant right on the beach. We talked about how lucky we were (are!) to be traveling the world, taking chunks of time off from the real world to actually live our dreams. We started talking about why so many people talk about wanting to travel but never actually make that dream come true — whether it’s monetary reasons, ignorance or simple fear of leaving behind the comforts of home, pausing their real lives, and taking a risk.

In my eyes, all those reasons combine to make one gigantic excuse, and I could not be happier that I kicked all of those excuses in the ass to make this trip happen. Sure, I hate having seven tops to wear for the next three months, and I miss the luxury of a stocked refrigerator and my shower with its perfect water pressure and actual hot water. And yes, of course, it’s a bit painful to see my money drain, slowly but surely, from my checking account. But what better way to appreciate the comforts of home in the US, and a stable income? Not only am I learning about South American culture, I’m learning about the lives, homes and cultures of the other travelers I’m meeting on my journey. I’m building a network of friendships that circumnavigates the globe, and a myriad of excuses to visit countries I’ve been dreaming of getting to.

Today we took a trip out to Monticristi (20 minutes from Manta), a town known for its mass production of Panama hats. Nothing too exciting to report, aside from dozens of stores selling millions of tchotchkes (or as Kathleen says, dust collectors) and more woven hats, baskets and hammocks than I’ve ever seen.

I will admit that if I wasn’t on this organized program I would definitely be scooting out of Manta early — it is far from an exciting town. It has also been nublado and frijo (cloudy and cold), not exactly beach weather. That being said, Kathleen and I found Cafe Verde, a nice coffee shop with delicious lattes and free wifi, where we’ve been spending each afternoon practicing our spanish and writing emails. Tomorrow is our cooking lesson, Friday is a national holiday and we’re taking a trip to go paragliding, and Saturday we have an all day trip to Puerto Lopez and the Isla de Plata, so thankfully I’ll be kept busy for the next 3 days.

And now, what you all really want: the rest of my pictures from Moñtanita!

Headed back to the southern hemisphere

When I came back to the US at the end of June having spent 6 weeks in South America, I simply couldn’t fathom putting myself back to the daily grind. I thought it might be the typical post-vacation blues, but as July wore on I realized it wasn’t just that.

Don’t get me wrong — I love being a journalist and a web editor. I learned more in a single year as an Assistant Editor and nightlife blogger than I could have during 5 years in school, and I’m so thankful that I was employed straight out of college.

My alma mater, Northeastern University, puts its students on the fast track to a career. It’s the reason the university is world renowned, and why so many students choose to spend 5 years there. Sure, students at NU study abroad, go on summer dialogues, even co-op abroad, but the emphasis and strength of co-op is that it leads to employment… the day after you graduate. But after a summer of reflection, I’ve realized that because I spent the last 5 years focused completely on pursuing a life as a journalist, I never stopped to think about how much world there is to see, or how young I am to be jumping straight onto a career path.

And that’s not to say that Northeastern isn’t an incredible school. I am so thankful that I moved myself across the country to gain such an incredible education, at a university that prides itself on real world, hands-on experience.

But at 24, a year out of college, I had a sudden realization that I was too young to be settling down. For the first time in my life, I’m single with nobody to look out for but myself. I’m off of a lease and out of a job, I have nothing tying me down but a single storage unit in Middletown, CT. In other words, I’m unattached and unobliged, and that’s such an incredibly rare situation — one I may never find myself in again.

So I’m going back.

Starting October 1st, I’ll be participating in a four week, Spanish language traveling classroom program in Ecuador. I’ll travel to four cities throughout the country: Montañita, Manta, Quito and Cuenca, spending a week in each taking 4 hours of Spanish a day and immersed in the culture in three separate home-stays. In addition to twenty hours of Spanish a week, I’ll be taking surfing, salsa, and cooking lessons, trekking to volcanoes, snorkeling off the Isla de Plata, relaxing in hot springs, whale watching, and even paragliding.

Then, starting at the end of October, I’ll spend the rest of 2012 — 9 weeks — making my through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. My itinerary isn’t completely solidified, but I think it’s going to stay that way. I loved the six weeks I spent on the continent in May and June, but not having flexibility in my travel plans was tough, and I can’t wait to arrive in certain cities and decide to spend a few extra days there, just because.

So here’s to more world travels and adventure — I can’t wait to document them all here!

Goodbye, Boston

I am doing the unthinkable.

Well, that’s a little dramatic. But I am taking a huge risk, one that many people, including my parents, think I’m insane for taking.

Today, I put my two weeks notice in at work — without a new job offer. I rented a uHaul, reserved a storage unit and began to list all my furniture on Craigslist. I organized a goodbye party with friends, booked a Zipcar for a donation trip to Goodwill, and began taping up boxes.

As a Northeastern University graduate, I was driven toward career goals from the moment I stepped onto campus at age 18. Completing 3 co-ops and watching older classmates graduate to secure jobs in our field, Northeastern students are compelled to do the same — searching for employment the second we begin our senior years, ensuring that when we walk out of Boston’s TD Bank North Garden on the first Friday of May, we have a solidified answer to the dreaded “what are you doing after graduation?” question we all came to despise during our last semester.

And as a class of 2011 graduate, I did just that. A month before graduation, I secured two jobs — both of which were at companies where I had co-oped. I joined the working world three weeks after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful. I can’t tell you how many people I know who are my age, or older, frantically searching for jobs, especially in the journalism industry. And here I am, giving up two of them.

TechTarget has been an incredible working environment for me to learn and grow. My time there taught me what I am passionate about, where I really see myself in 5 years, and that, most importantly, I still have a lot to learn. I acquired valuable online media and journalism skills that will serve me well in my career, and I formed friendships and working relationships with dozens of wonderful people.

Blogging for Boston.com as a nightlife writer has been, literally, a dream come true. I have the city of Boston at my fingertips, have had the opportunity to connect with some truly incredible people, and a perfect excuse to spend multiple nights a week out on the town. There are billions of young, aspirational bloggers out there, putting their posts onto the interwebs, but I was lucky enough to have Boston.com in my URL, and to have weeks where some of my posts saw upwards of 10,000 visits.

So why give that up?

At nearly 24 years old, I have the travel bug. I want to get out, I want to see the world. Upon moving across the country in 2006, I’ve strived to ensure that I have lived my life with no regrets, but one of my biggest thus far is not studying abroad for a full semester while I was in college.

Alison, one of my best friends from high school, has been living in South America for the past year and a half, and has decided she wants to spend a month traveling in the southern hemisphere before moving back to the US. The cards fell into place and I couldn’t resist. Did I mention she speaks fluent Spanish?

So after much debate and contemplation, and a few tears, I’ve decided to take the jump. On May 20, I’m flying down to Santiago, Chile to explore her new hometown. From there, we will be traveling through Argentina for 3 weeks. She has a trip planned with her parents at the end of June, so we’ll part ways and I’ll spend 10 days in Peru (in Lima, Cuzco and at Machu Picchu) before I fly back home to Los Angeles. I’ll spend a few weeks at home in LA, possibly do a mini west coast road trip with a friend from college, then fly back east to New York City, which I’ve officially decided will be my next home base.

I’m nervous. Actually, to tell the truth, I’m terrified. All I can think is “What if I’m destined to be unemployed for the rest of my life?” But I know that’s not true. And, more than anything, I’m excited. I can’t wait to travel in South America, in countries that I know close to nothing about. I’m excited to experience the culture, to be immersed in Spanish, to actually see Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls in person, and not just in photographs. No one I know has ever said they regret taking time off to travel, and that’s exactly what I plan to do. Take in the world, learn to live out of a very small suitcase for a month (that will be the real challenge), and learn that much more about myself.

Of course, I’ll be blogging the entire adventure, so be sure to check back here for posts, pictures, and updates of my travels. I’ll leave you with some inspiration:

‎”You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” — Steve Jobs