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?

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?