Why Traveling Solo is Something All Women Should Do

This post originally appeared on Inspirer.

There comes a time when you can become so obsessed with an adventure or visiting a place that you’ll do anything to make it happen.  For me, that city was Paris.  When the opportunity arose to make this trip a reality, all my friends and potential travel companions had other plans.  With slight trepidation, I did the unthinkable: I took myself to Paris.

The more people questioned and expressed surprise at my travel plans, the more confident I became that it was an experience I wanted to have.  I would explore the most romantic city on earth, alone.  Who knew that I would fall in love with solo travel in the process?

It can be daunting at first, but traveling by yourself is an incredibly eye-opening opportunity that every woman should experience in her lifetime.  Here’s why:

It’s an opportunity for self-reflection.

Not having anyone traveling with you equals a lot of time to think.  This can be terrifying for some; research has shown that most people prefer to endure electric shocks rather than sit alone with their own thoughts.  Once you get over the initial shock of not being constantly engaged with another person, you have the opportunity to reflect.  You may be surprised by how much you can learn about yourself when you’re not trying to keep up with someone else.

You can do what you want.

When you travel solo, your day belongs to you and you alone.  Want to sleep in?  Awesome, no one’s waiting on you to get going.  I loved the freedom to stop when I felt like it or to enjoy the Eiffel Tower for a second or third time.  When I became tired halfway through the Musee d’Orsay, I stopped to recharge in the cafe for an hour before finishing the rest of the museum.  That kind of freedom and flexibility only comes when you’re by yourself.

You get a huge sense of accomplishment.

Traveling alone means you’re in charge of everything: planning, execution and problem-solving.  It’s true that this can be quite an undertaking, and I definitely felt a bit overwhelmed at times. However, the challenge breeds a massive sense of accomplishment as well as confidence in yourself and your abilities.  I never thought I could navigate a strange city where I didn’t speak the language, but here I am writing about it!

Connect more authentically with others.

When you’re alone, you become more open and aware of the people around you.  You may not understand the barista serving your coffee, but you can give them a big smile and do your best not to butcher “Thank you” in their language.  Chatting with the people at your lodging or going on a walking tour and meeting fellow adventurers from around the world suddenly become a priority because they offer the chance to connect with the humans around you.

It’s a chance to break stereotypes.

Whether it’s other people telling you that you can’t do it or the voice in the back of your head, there’s an idea that women shouldn’t and can’t travel alone.  The fact is that you can and you will!  Don’t miss out on amazing life experiences just because you don’t have someone to go with.  Don’t wait for the perfect time or the right guy to come along to take you to the city you’ve been dreaming of seeing.  Just go, enjoy and prove to yourself and others that you capable and proud to be independent.

For more female solo traveler inspiration, check out boss babes Alyssa Ramos at mylifesamovie.com and Alex Baackes of alexinwanderland.com.

How just 5 minutes of journaling a day helps me make sense of myself

The only time I ever made sense to myself was when I was journaling twice a day.

I’d wake up and immediately seat myself at my desk, bathed in morning light. In the evening, before drifting off to sleep, I’d write at least a few sentences, no matter how heavy my eyelids were.

I’m a person who lives in my own head. Putting a pen to paper gives me an outlet for my thoughts that no amount of discussion or meditation can. It takes time, and my handwriting can be atrocious, but the act itself serves to calm and center me.

These past few years have been hectic and stressful. They’ve been punctuated by anxiety and a lack of self-care.

I’ve felt adrift, as though I’ve lost sight of who I really am and can’t seem to find my way back.

When I think back to a time when I felt truly comfortable in my own skin, the period when I committed to journaling is at the forefront of my mind. Why did I ever stop?

Writing things down doesn’t change the situation or make it go away. However, it does grant an opportunity to see things in a different light. It offers acceptance of what is and the mindfulness that comes from being present.

So here I am, starting to write again. It’s mostly for myself, but the truth is that when I write, I’m more pleasant to be around as well. Being present and content in the moment translates to being a better daughter, sister, friend and human being. No longer at war with myself, I’m happy with who I am. That’s a goal we can all get behind.

For those new to journaling or easing back into it, I recommend writing for five minutes upon waking up—that means before looking at your phone! The moments just after we awake from sleep are when we are most attuned to our higher selves without the influence of worldly distractions. Writing our thoughts during this time can help us connect to who we really are and offer a glimpse at our innermost aspirations.

Journaling immediately before going to sleep can also be helpful to share positive messages with our subconscious.  Processing the events of the day on paper allows us to fall asleep with ease since our mind is no longer cluttered with unfinished business. The most important thing is to pick a time that works for us and consistently write in order to create a habit.

We don’t have to write for an hour—and honestly, depending on the day—we might not feel like it at all. If we commit to jotting down even one sentence, we’ll be surprised by the positive effects. Soon enough, we’ll find ourselves filling pages.

If we aren’t sure what to write, we can start off with “I don’t know what I’m writing, and….” Breathe—it really doesn’t matter what we put down on the page. Besides, who’s going to read it? The act itself is cathartic and is an opportunity to clear the cobwebs of the mind.

Affirmations are another wonderful way to start the day on a positive note and can help at times when we feel at a loss for words. Journaling can serve as a type of visualization by imagining events going our way and people being kind.

For example, when I’m feeling nervous before a presentation, I’ll write down positive thoughts about how I see it going. It may be something like, “My presentation is incredible and every single person in the room is completely engaged with what I’m saying. They laugh at my jokes and ask great questions that I respond to with competence and grace. I am a naturally talented speaker and my confidence radiates through in every word I speak.”

Alternatively, we can focus on self-love and acceptance by writing affirmations such as, “I love and accept myself in this moment,” or “My life is incredible and I am happy to be me.” It may seem cheesy or silly, but it works.

Write what you most desire into existence. Process your day to sleep better. Connect with the person you truly are and who you want to become.  

This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal.

This is what really happens when you share your story

A few months ago, I wrote a piece in which I opened up about my struggles with body image and ultimately how I found peace through my yoga practice.  It’s an issue many seem to grapple with, yet we don’t talk about it.  I definitely felt embarrassed and ashamed about my messed up self image and food issues.

Talking about it was out of the question especially since the women around me seemed normal and sane.  That’s the true result of not talking about our personal struggles: everyone else seems to be fine – at least on the outside.

When I opened up about my own journey toward body peace, I knew that at least a few people would read it.  I just didn’t realize how many!  It ended up garnering quite a bit of attention both on the web and among people in my life.  I’ll admit that I panicked a bit when I realized the sheer volume of readers that were privy to intimate details about my inner struggles.

I questioned whether I should have put my story out into the world at all.  As I thought about it more and had time to process, I started to realize it was the best action I could have taken for myself and other people.

In putting my own narrative into words and including raw honesty about how I’d never felt good enough, I was able to process emotions I had long ignored.  There was a lightness in my chest when I realized that the emotion surrounding my body was no longer negative or a secret.  It just was.  

The most wonderful result of taking my own leap was the outpouring of support from people around me.  Everyone has a story to share.  In publishing mine, others felt compelled to tell me theirs.

A girl from my high school who I hadn’t seen in years texted me out of the blue telling me how much the article had resonated with her.  We were able to reconnect over vegan tomato soup and had the best time chatting and laughing.

My aunt who lives across the country wanted to chat on the phone after reading my piece.  It turned out she has always wanted to write and loved that I had simply made it happen.  I felt humbled indeed to have a relative find me a source of inspiration.

A guy from my university that I didn’t know well at all messaged me on Facebook about his own challenges.  We had a powerful dialogue about cultural expectations surrounding appearances both for men and women.

When we give ourselves permission to open up despite being scared, amazing things happen.

Yes, it can be terrifying to allow yourself to be raw and vulnerable.  It totally was!  It helps to realize that this fear keeps us from sharing our stories and connecting authentically with those around us.  We limit ourselves from finding others like us or being a source of empowerment to someone else because we’re paralyzed by the idea that someone will laugh at us.  Maybe they will, but there will be many more who are inspired and supportive.

My short piece sparked a larger conversation around me and among people who I may never meet.  People want to discuss body image and their struggles but are often too afraid to do so.

When you share your own journey, you empower others to do the same.  They continue talking about it with their own circle of humans and the cycle of authentic conversations and growth continues.  It’s scary to take the leap, but you have the ability to make an impact that resonates far beyond just you.  That’s true strength!

I shared my story and it resulted in a positive chain reaction I never could have imagined.  I challenge you to share yours.  What kind of impact will you have?

This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

It’s okay to not know what you want

An object in motion stays in motion.  That’s one of the few things I retained from my high school physics class.  I’m fairly certain I was too busy flirting with the guy next to me to learn the rest of Newton’s laws, but at least I learned something.

Newton’s first law can be stated as:

An object in at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Couch potatoes tend to stay couch potatoes unless an unbalanced force comes around and shakes things up.  We’re creatures of habit and we like to coast, but it’s when we stretch ourselves that we start creating a life we enjoy.

You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going or what you want to do with the rest of your life.  With the exception of my cousin who has wanted to be a pediatric doctor since she was at least 9, very few of us have that kind of clarity.  (She recently graduated medical school and is absolutely incredible!)

For the rest of us lay people, it’s totally okay and normal to feel a little unsure about our general life path.  Just start moving in a certain direction, it doesn’t matter which one!  The important thing is to begin something, anything.  Put one metaphorical foot in front of the other and get going.

At the very least you’ll learn what you don’t want – a valuable lesson in itself.  Alternatively, you may stumble upon something wonderful you never knew existed, but only if you get off your couch and put yourself out there.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about being devoted to inquisitiveness.

“Curiosity is accessible to everyone.  Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times – a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God.  But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity.”

So ask yourself: What am I interested in?  It doesn’t have to be profound or the solution to world hunger, it just has to peak your interest.  

Go on a scavenger hunt and follow what makes you curious.  Take that dance class, plant a garden, start learning another language.  You do you.

What makes you curious?

2 steps to the life you want

We like to complicate everything, overthink situations and generally make matters more difficult for ourselves.  Clarity of vision can go a long way towards streamlining your success.

1. Decide what kind of person you want to be & the type of life you aspire to lead.

It’s easy to see glamorous photos of famous people or read success stories of the uber wealthy and think “If only my life were like that…”  It’s another matter entirely to visualize and decide who you want to be.  Get out a pen and paper and describe your ideal life in excruciatingly minute details.

What do you look like?  Are you happy?  Who do you spend your time with?  Where do you live?  How do you feel?  What does your day-to-day look like?  

Get clear, get focused, figure it out.

2. Live as though you already are that person.

What does an extremely successful business person do?  They’re up by 5am to get a few hours of work in before anyone else is awake.

Want to be fit and healthy with boundless energy?  Make exercise and eating well non-negotiable.

Want to be a writer?  You have to actually write. 

Whatever you chose in the first step as your ideal life, start living it.  Determine how those who already have what you seek behave and adopt their mindset.

Become who you want to be by acting as if you already are.  You won’t be pretending for long.

Good Reads: How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People)

How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People) Pablo Neruda Love Poems Heart buddha

First of all, how great is this title.  The (and Sometimes Other People) makes me laugh every time I think about it.  That’s exactly how the whole book is: funny and relatable .  Lodro Rinzler and Meggan Watterson manage to give wonderful insight into love and life.  They write in a way that seems more like a conversation between friends than a spiritual advice book.  Reading this made me want to have coffee with them – the two of them just seem like a good time!

We’ve all felt not good enough at some point in our lives, maybe even today!  In the world we live in, we’re barraged with messages telling us that to be adequate we need this product or that.  We’ve bought in to the idea that we aren’t good enough as we are.

“Either way we are grappling with something that is prevalent in society: self-doubt.  Instead of embracing who we are, we give in to societal whispers telling us we’re not good enough, lovable enough, or desirable enough.”  – Lodro

It’s time to reject this way of thinking for a more positive approach to life.  Self-love is the key to being joyful and present as we become more compassionate towards others.  Plus, happy people are often viewed as more attractive.  Win-win.

“I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be.” – Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön

How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People) pearls buddha heart key flat elephant champagne

When we accept and love ourselves as we are, we free ourselves from the compulsive need to compensate for our feelings of inadequacy.  We no longer have to “look to alcohol or drugs or romance or online shopping to make us feel good about ourselves.” And we’re able to “realize those aren’t lasting solutions.” – Lodro

Once we learn to love ourselves, we’re infinitely more capable of loving others.  Whether in a romantic or platonic fashion, your heart is able to be more compassionate.  It’s kind of like the golden rule learned as kindergarteners.  Treat others as you want to be treated.

On a certain level there’s actually no difference between self-love and love of another.  To love another is to love ourselves.  And we are to do this not because of some external prompt.  We are to love and be loved simply because this is what we are here to do.  – Meggan

This book is worth the read for single and committed people alike.  I’m already looking forward to reading it again in a year or so!

Lyrical goals 

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure | ‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major

These particular lyrics from Lukas Graham’s 7 Years Old keep running through my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, lyrics and melodies get stuck in my head all the time (with varying degrees of success when I attempt to sing them out loud), but I can’t get this out of my head. 

While I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the rest of the song, these lines are straight up musical inspirational poetry. He’s belting out lyrics about envisioning success without even seeing failure as an option. And “even the smallest voices”? Don’t even get me started on how incredible underdogs can be. 

When you set your mind to something, commit, and believe with every fiber of your being; anything is possible my friends. 

So you want to be a writer

Well hey, welcome to the club!  I’ve stressed for too long about how to write good content to the point where I simply didn’t write at all – exactly the opposite of what I was going for.

It’s so easy to look at well-established blogs with their beautiful layouts and awesome posts with hundreds of comments and feel like you have nothing to contribute.  NEWS FLASH: you do!  Every single one of us has a unique perspective to offer – we just have to be willing to do so.

It’s kind of fun to go to your favorite blogs and go wayyy back in their archives to find their oldest, very first posts.  You’ll be amazed by how, shall we say, unpolished? they seem compared to what you’re used to on their site.  But everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

You can too.  All you have to do is….

  1. Start.  Literally just write.  SHOW UP.
  2. Commit to posting or journaling or something on a scheduled basis (make this feasible for your schedule) and stick with it.  Some days it might be total crap but do it anyway.  It’ll pay off!  We all know about Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours (yeesh so much time) but chip away at it with consistency and the power of compounding will improve your writing dramatically over time.
  3. Read a lot, as often as you can, anything and everything that strikes your interest.  I truly believe that reading makes you a better writer!  It can spark ideas, increase your knowledge and creativity, and is way better for your brain than Netflix (I still love you Netflix).  Seriously, though.  Dorky as it is, check out your local library too.  Much as I love reading on my iPad, sometimes nothing beats the feeling of a solid book in your hands.

What I’m Reading: You Are A Badass

Courtesy of jensincero.com

Courtesy of jensincero.com

            Jen Sincero manages to be hilarious and down to earth while giving great life advice in You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.  The personal stories she shares had me almost in tears from laughter and her no nonsense, cut-the-crap statements make this an easy read you won’t put down. Sincero manages to be relatable and inspiring in a way that makes you want to hang out with her and be awesome.  You Are A Badass is worth reading for anyone who wants to improve their life but is a little wary of the self-help movement.                                                       In her irreverent signature style, Sincero makes sense and offers a clear path to getting everything you want out of life.  Making your life better and dramatically improving your circumstances starts with getting out of your comfort zone. She writes “As French author and fearless truth-seeker, Andre Gidé, so aptly put it, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”  What a way to put it!  Self-improvement is a journey because anything worth having takes time and effort.

If you want to live the life you've never livedOn being yourself, she doesn’t mince words. “Do not waste your precious time giving one single crap about what anybody else thinks of you…the truth is, the only questions you ever need to consider when making decisions about your life are:

  1. Is this something I want to be, do, or have?
  2. Is this going to take me in the direction I want to go (not should go)?
  3.  Is this going to screw over anybody else in the process?”

It’s on you to take control of your life and become the person you want to be.  In Sincero’s words “Your life is happening right now.  Do not snooze and lose.”  Start today.