Slow your breath down, just take it slow.

There is something so beautiful and gratifying about traveling by yourself. Travel has always been such a big part of my life but I will admit it was never something I wanted to do alone. I always thought that it was never fun to travel alone; that going on an adventure with another person or a group of people is always more fulfilling than going it alone. And then I found myself in a position where I had no choice but to travel alone and figure out how I was going to spend the week. A friend and I had planned a trip to Thailand which I was very excited about. It was a very last minute trip and we had nothing planned but our flights. But we were excited because my friend had been there before and we knew how easy (and cheap) it was to do things on the fly in Thailand. I mean we didn’t even have a hotel booked for when we landed! It really was one of those “let’s just figure it out when we get there” trips. Unfortunately, the night before we were supposed to leave my friend got very ill and wasn’t sure she was going to be able to make it. I remember going to bed the night before thinking that I was going to end up in Thailand alone. I just had this pit in my stomach that things were not going as planned and I was about to embark on a week long solo journey through a country I had never visited before. I remember still being hopeful that my friend would be able to join but also mentally preparing myself for the fact that I was headed out into the unknown on my own.

Sure enough 5am the next morning came and I was getting ready to head off to the airport when my friend’s husband messaged me saying that she wasn’t going anywhere. In that moment, I took a deep breath and said to myself “Ok lets do this”. And just like that I headed out, on a true adventure, just me myself and I. I was excited as I’d never been to Thailand before but I was also terrified. I had never really traveled anywhere for an extended period of time by myself. I boarded the plane thinking “Wow, I don’t have anywhere to go when I get there.” I had researched a few places the day before and earlier that morning but nothing booked. Luckily, I had a short layover in Dubai and told myself that I was not allowed to board the plane to Thailand until I booked a place. Procrastination at its finest. Yet there was something exciting about not having much of a plan and just going with the flow. I researched a few places, compared prices and within 15 minutes I had a place to go in Thailand! As I settled into my resort, I couldn’t help but feel this sense of accomplishment for actually going there on my own but also freedom. Freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted without having to wait for anyone or anything. I was on my own schedule and my own timetable.

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There is something invigorating about having that kind of freedom and it is a feeling I will never forget. I walked along the beach, taking in the sun and the sand of Phuket and all the stressors leading up to that moment all seemed to wash away. It was in that moment that I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about what comes next. I was simply going to enjoy the moment and take it day by day. It is remarkable the things you learn about a city and yourself when you don’t have the safety net of a plan. It forces you to get out there, explore the unknown and let go of all your fears/inhibitions. I knew of a few places I wanted to visit and knew that I was overdue for some much needed R&R. That alone was all I really needed to set myself up for some of the best 10 days I have ever had. While I still like traveling with other people and would never say no to it, I am a full believer in traveling alone. My excursion through Thailand was something I will never forget. It pushed me to new limits and new heights. It made me realize that we all spend so much time worrying about the things we can’t control that we end up missing out on some of the greatest things right in front of us. Sometimes all we need is a mental break and traveling somewhere unknown by yourself can be the exact break you are looking for. It may not be for everyone, I get that, but I wonder if we convince ourselves it’s not for us simply because we are scared. It’s crazy to me how often we overlook the ways life is trying to push us to our limits. We get so wrapped up in the day to day of our lives, we forget to take chances and push ourselves to be better versions of ourselves.

Traveling alone can be one of those outlets that allows us to push ourselves all while taking in a new city and culture. I never knew how much I was actually capable of until I moved to London and Thailand was another one of those experiences that pushed me even further out of my comfort zone. At the end of the day, I am a better person because of it. It all reminds of that famous saying: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve always believed this to be true but ending up in Thailand alone, with no plan and just a suitcase really brought this saying to life for me. It’s brought about this feeling of being limitless which was something I had never experienced in this form. It forced me to let go of all my inhibitions, find my way around and make new friends in the most unlikely places/situations. It even brought me to closer to an acquaintance of mine that is now a dear friend. I think it’s important to give ourselves time and space to breathe it all in. Remember there is a great, big world out there waiting for us to explore it and if we are lucky stake a claim in part of it. 

The whole world is moving and I’m standing still…

I always write about my travels: the significance of them, what they mean to me and how they have transformed me for the better. When thinking about what to blog about today I just couldn’t get it together. I wanted to incorporate my travels into what I have been feeling lately but it’s been hard today. So today, I am just going to speak my truth and leave the travel out of it. Not for any particular reason except that I can’t seem to focus on anything else but my emotions and the uncertainty of my life. I created this blog as an outlet for me to use to remind myself of how lucky I have been through my travels but also to express the internal side of myself that my travels have helped me explore and become one with. I will probably ramble and repeat myself but isn’t that part of the process of dealing with our emotions?

I have been in a weird life moment the past few months, caught between where I was and where I am going. I have had so many ups and downs, days that are really good and days that basically suck. This in between phase of life has been really good for me but it has also been one of the toughest times. My sense of purpose has been lost and while I am hopeful and confident that it will come back, I also find it very hard to remain positive. I sometimes feel like my life is passing me by and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I am perpetually stuck in this in between. I do constantly remind myself that it is all going to be okay and I am going to get to where I’m going. One day I will look back on this time fondly. This time is all part of the process but living through the process has become a difficult feat for me. More difficult than I could ever have imagined which is interesting because nothing has ever really come easy for me. At least not the things that I really want. So in a way I should be used to this but I am actually not because in the past I have made snap decisions without really thinking it through as a way to avoid the hard parts. Aka the part I am living in now. I have learned not to avoid the really tough things in my life but instead remaining patient and focused on the things I want. But it is not fun to go through day by day on the sidelines. I am meant for so much more than where I am right now and I know it’s coming but I find myself feeling more and more unmotivated as time goes on. Doing things out of sense of necessity instead of want. But of course, we all hit rough patches and how we choose to conquer those pathces is what defines us. You have to fight through the hardest times to come out on the other side better and stronger. Like all things, this too shall pass I am certain of it. But this time waiting is a mental mindgame.

Time. Such a funny thing that our lives revolve around. We either wish to have more of it to keep up with the chaos of our lives or we wish to have something to occupy it when we have too much of it. There is never a happy medium when it comes to time. I am sure soon enough I will be one of those wishing to have more of it but now I spend my days desparately searching for something to pass the time that doesn’t involve mindless television and staring at computer screens reading through various job descriptions (secretly hoping that this time someone will call you instead of getting declined). I suppose the abundance of time is also what led me here. Having an outlet to speak my truth without judegement and escape the day to day monotony that has become my life.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: life is hard. Its not always sunshine and rainbows that society (and social media) tells us it is. Some days just getting out of bed is an accomplishment. But I think it is important to feel the hard days and try to make sense of it all. Remember that tomorrow is a new day and you can choose to stay in bed all day or you can choose to be the best version fo yourself, attacking the day head on. If I have taken anything away from this time off, it’s just that. Some days are harder than others and some days I will feel completely down and like I’m going nowhere. But then I remind myself that this is just a phase of life that will soon pass. Speaking your truth and reminding yourself of all the good things you have and all the people that stand by you are so important to getting through the hard days. I don’t it is possible for anyone to be completely alone; whether you realize it or not there is always someone in your corner. Someone who is always on your side; someone who always believes in you. I am fortunate to have more than one person in my life like this and on the toughest of days I think of them and even reach out to them if I’m really in a bad way. Sometimes just knowing that someone is on your side makes all the difference in the world.

The most important person through this season of life has been me. I have learned so much about my inner strength and have learned to believe in myself more than I ever have before. Having faith and staying positive in knowing that this is just a phase and that I will move past it is what has kept me going this long. I may even sound like a broken record by constantly saying that this will pass and I will find my way. But it is the thing I need to tell myself to keep going and not give up. Because that’s the truth of it, I am a fighter and I don’t give up on the things that I want and the things I know I am meant for. For the first time, in a very long time I actually believe it. So even though today has been hard and yesterday was hard I can only hope to wake up tomorrow feeling more positive. But also reflecting on the hard days, making sense of my truth and reminding myself that life goes on and I will get through. It isn’t always going to make sense (which is okay) but I believe in myself and I have faith. Afterall, losing those two things would be one of the greatest tragedies. But I am confident that I won’t lose my way quite like I did a few years ago. Doesnt’t mean things won’t be hard but I won’t ever lose faith even on the hardest days.

_Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the staircase._ - MLK

Roll your windows down, it’s all behind you.

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You know how there are some places you visit and it instantly feels like home? Like a piece of you belongs there and its somewhere you feel like you’ve been coming to for years? Florence, Italy. From the minute I stepped off the train and walked through the magical streets I felt this sense of belonging. The cobble stone streets lined with mini markets and the colored houses, tourists and locals walking as one I felt like safe. Like this was the place where nothing bad could ever happen and that there would always be a place for me here. No matter where life takes me, I could always come here and I would undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms to the local charm and gracious people that wander the streets daily.

Florence was always a place I had wanted to travel to but not really at the top of my list of places to visit. Especially in Italy where there are so many places to visit. But throughout my ultimate 3 week tour of Europe where I planned to visit both Venice and Rome, Florence just happened to land right in the middle of my journey. So I figured instead of taking a 5 hour train ride why not stop over in Florence to break up the trip. I am SO glad that I did! I guess that’s the beauty of traveling on your own and without a plan. You can make adjustments as you see fit and go with the flow of things, which is kind of the motto of my life also. So it kind of worked out perfectly. Randomly stubmling upon one of the most magical cities I have ever been to just so that I wouldn’t be stuck on  a train for 6 hours. Proof that the universe truly works in mysterious ways. I fell in love with Florence the minute I got there. I even extended my stay there from two nights to three just so that I would have more time there. I just wanted to soak in the atmosphere and take in all the natural beauty of its culture and history. My favorite part was just walking around and seeing all the local landmarks. The great thing about Florence is that is quite small compared to other Italian cities so you really can see everything it has to offer in one day. The people are friendly and there is a good mix of tourists and locals to balance it out that you don’t ever really feel as though you are in a tourist – trapped city like you would in other places.

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Florence and all its beauty presented itself to me at the exact moment I really needed it. Prior to my arrival in Florence, I had gone through a pretty rough few days with someone that I loved and I never really realized how much Florence helped me to heal from that heartbreak until recently. Heartbreak is tough. But I think disappoint is even worse. We all experience heartbreak in various ways but being let down by someone you trust and care about is something that I really struggle with, far more than heartbreak. Knowing that someone has gone back on their word to you and has once again left you standing alone is I think what causes us as humans to be untrusting and causes us to put up walls. Arriving in Florence was my first venture on my own, I didn’t have friends or travel companions to distract me and there was no where for me to hide from the pain. I sat at an outdoor restaurant with an Aperol spritz observing the people walking through the markets feeling beyond grateful for where life had taken me but also sad at the fact that someone was supposed to be sitting next to me taking in this beautiful moment. I am firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I am forever grateful to have had that moment to myself. But it was still heartbreaking knowing that I wasn’t supposed to be alone and that someone else’s inability to love and keep a promise to me is what brought me to that point in time. It’s interesting how life knocks us around and pushes us to our breaking points; forcing us to deal with the hand that’s been dealt to us and the emotions that follow. But who we become as a result of the push and pull of life is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

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Florence saved me. It allowed me to cope and heal in ways I didn’t even know I needed. It made me tougher, braver and provided more clarity on the things I wanted and deserved. The quiet moments people watching, strolling through the cultured streets and taking in views of the city are the things that allowed me to move forward. Even though I was hurting, I also knew that the pain and disappointment I was feeling would pass and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in a very long time I was walking towards that light instead of running away from it. I become one with my emotions and felt all the things that you are supposed to feel when you get heartbroken. I found a piece of myself that was missing. I found peace. Florence holds a special place in my heart and I hope to go back there one day. Things are changing all around me but I truly believe that the magic and culture of Florence is something that can’t be altered. Like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.

The hills are alive.

I’ll admit the past few weeks have been pretty hard on me. The new year hasn’t had me feeling happy and hopeful at all. As I submerse myself into this transitional stage of my life, I have been left constantly pondering my actions and the direction I am headed. While deep down I know everything will work out in due time, the waiting game has proven to be more difficult for me than I anticipated. I need to stay busy and keep myself occupied (half the reason I started this blog). Sitting home in my quiet town watching mindless television and tirelessly job hunting has been one of the most daunting tasks of my life. I sometimes feel like this isn’t actually my life and I am stuck in this weird in between place of reality vs. fiction. Today was one of those days where I felt completely trapped in this weird in between. This land of the unknown. But then I remembered that even when I “had things together” I was still in the land of unknown.

I felt this the most when I ventured through Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg is hands down one of my favortie cities in the world. It’s smaller city but full of culture and vibrant colors. And of course, the Sound of Music! For anyone that knows me, it’s one of my all time favorite films so I was a regular kid in a candy store seeing all the iconic sites that  are seen throughout the film. If you ever go to Salzburg, you CANNOT leave without going on the Sound of Music tour. You will not regret it! It was on this tour that I got to experience the full magic of Austria and brought on this moment of “enlightenment” that I will never forget! Maybe it’s just me and the place I was mentally/emotionally in my life, but Salzburg has this magic to it. It’s hard to explain but when I was there I just felt this feeling of empowerment and freedom. I felt free.

I think this is something we often take advantage of. This feeling where the world is ours – no one is judging us or telling us we are inadequate. It is this feeling that opportunities are limitless and no matter life throws at us everything is going to be alright. Everything is working out exactly the way it is meant to. I don’t think I have ever felt so happy and so alive in any moment than I did in Salzburg. The moment is one I will never forget and one I often think of especially when things are tough and I feel hopeless. We were driving through the Bavarian Alps, with nothing surrounding us but forest trees and everything green. As we drove through the mountainside, my mind went completely blank – in the best way possible. There was nothing for me to do or think about; all I had to do was take in the picture-esqe views of the Alps. Out of nowhere we turned a corner and the mountainside opened up to expose a beautiful blue river amongst the trees. I felt tears well up in my eyes. I don’t think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than what appeared as we turned the corner. T’he bus parked and we got out to take photos. I stood at the edge of the cliff, admiring the natural beauty of this earth, as tears fell down my face. There was literally nothing for me to do but stand there and cry – tears of fascination, tears of joy, tears of freedom, tears of feeling. It was one of the most liberating moments of my life.

 

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In that moment, I became so overwhelmed with my life and the path my choices had taken me. To think that one year prior to this I was sitting at a desk in a job that I hated, plunging towards a rootless existence and life of depression. And now, I was standing in the middle of the Bavarian Alps on a clear, sunny day feeling hopeful and ready for whatever came next. I guess we all just need a reminder from time to time that we can have all the things we want. We just can’t let all the negative forces in our lives bring us down (lets be real we all have them). The past few months have been tough on me personally and somedays I feel more lost and unsettled than ever before. But then I remind myself of this day and suddenly I have a renewed hope that it is all going to be ok. Everything is happening exactly the way it is supposed to and this in between phase is just a part of the process that will lead me down the next stage of my life. While patience has never been my strong suit, I’m quickly learning that maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down a little bit and take in all the beautiful things around me. I have a lot of things to be grateful for and sometimes I get too caught up in the conventional way of things. I don’t need to follow anyone else’s path but my own and wherever it leads me is going to be the best thing for me. And if it’s not, I will overcome my fear and find the right thing. They say that everything happens for a reason and in due time it all makes sense. So, until that day I will remain open and grateful, eternally humbled by all the things/people I have and use the experiences I’ve had as a reminder that anything is possible.

Anything is possible.

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A’int no mountain high enough.

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As I begin the journey into the new year I find myself reminiscing more and more about the past year. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with some amazing memories that others only dream about. One memory has been on my mind a lot recently: my travels to Agadir, Morocco. Morocco is one of those countries that I’ve been interested in visiting and I always envisioned exploring the local markets of Marrakech or relaxing at a 5-star resort in Casablanca. Instead, I was headed an hour south of Casablanca to Agadir on a fact-finding mission while developing a start-up business with 3 classmates. While I didn’t get to explore the fancier sides of Morocco, I got something way more out of that trip and an experience that I will never forget.

A little background on our mission there, we were developing a sunstainable business to improve the world’s energy crisis and provide water to underdevelpoed communities through the use of fog catchers. Through our research we discovered that these fog catchers were found primarily in South America and Africa – specifically Agadir. So we set out to meet with a local non-profit that has been using fog catchers to gain more insights into our project and also see the fog nets in person. Little did we know this would turn into a 20-hour journey through the mountains of Agadir with little contact to the outside world. Thank goodness one of our partners was injured and stayed behind.

We headed out on our journey at 3am – we were told that the best time to see the fog catchers in action was early morning just after sunrise and it was going to take us a few hours to get to the top of the mountain where the fog catchers were located. There’s something peaceful about driving in darkness through unknown streets. The quiet calm of a new day approaching and mistakes of days past washing away as the sun rises. We parked the car at one point, got out and just looked up at the night sky. I don’t think I have ever seen the stars shine so bright nor have I ever felt as free as I did in that moment. As we continued driving, paved roads turned into dirt roads and we made our acent up the mountain. We were informed that we could drive most of the way through the mountains and would have to hike to the top (about 30 mins) to see the fog catchers. All in all, our journey was meant to last about 3-4  hours, what we got was…lost.

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Fog Catchers.

Of all the things in my life I never EVER expected that I would get lost on a mountain in the middle of the desert in Morocco. It’s like a scene out of a movie. Two Americans and a Belgian lost in the desert where little to no civilization existed. I could probably write a screenplay about our experience. We drove for miles and miles trying to follow a hand-drawn map that seemingly got us more and more lost. Finally, we saw a man on a donkey (yes, in this part of the world farmers and agriculture workers use donkeys as their primary mode of transformation) and of course this man didnt speak a word of English and stared blankly at us as we stopped to get his attention. Again, two Americans and a Belgian – if I was that man I would’ve been wondering WTF we were doing there. We drove along, at this point we were well past sunrise, tired, hungry and more lost than ever. We saw a little village with small houses and a family outside one of them. At this point, the Belgian got out of the car and tried to talk to the man living there – he was out last glimmer of hope in finding our way to the fog catchers. He walked around to the back of the house and I immediately thought ‘great, we are never going to see him again or the man will come back out and charge at us’. Again, it felt like a scene from a movie where the protagnist tries to get help and you never see him again. Luckily, he made it back to the car one piece sadly without any insight into where we were supposed to go.

We got back on the road and drove futher and further up the mountain. It’s quite terrifying and equally liberating to drive basically directionless up a mountain with no end in sight. We were able to get some cell reception and spoke with the man from the non-profit who orginally told us where to find the fog catchers. He explained to us that we had gone too far but there were another set of fog catchers near to where we were. He explained that we would soon come to a point where we couldn’t drive anymore and would have to climb the rest (about 30 mins). Little did we know we had already entered the part where we should not hve been driving. So we parked the car and walked in the only direction we could – UP.

The current time was 3pm, we had officially been on what seemed like a neverending journey through the mountains for exactly 12 hours. With limited resources and even less communication we wondered if we would ever find these fog catchers. But there was also this iinherent motivation in all of us to finish what we started. We had come so far that none of us wanted to give up but also we needed to be practical about our circumstances. If we didnt find the fog catchers soon we would have to retreat back to the mainland to avoid the setting sun that we had watched rise 8 hours before. We agreed we’d give it one more hour. If by 4pm we hadn’t found the fog catchers we would call it a day and make our way back down the mountain. It’s funny how the beginning of the end of something almost always pushes you to work/try harder – I swear in that moment we all walked a little faster and had nothing but determination in our eyes. Suddenly, as we continued to climb we turned a corner and there ahead of us – FOG CATCHERS! We had finally made it! The neverending journey came to an end and our mission was complete. We had found the purpose we had desperaretly been searching for all day. After gazing at these massive nets that almost looked like they could touch the sky, I turned around and I myself felt as if I could touch the sky. I looked out and saw nothing but mountains. It was one of those moments that completely takes your breath away and you can’t help but be thankful. Just like that, all the trials and tribulations of hours past washed away and it was all worth it. That view is something that has been imprinted in my memory forever and it a moment I will never forget.

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As the new year begins, I guess I have been reminded so much of that day because that one day represents what we all go through in years, months, and days. We have visions and plans of where are going and what we want; but something or someone prevents us from getting where we want to go. What do we do? Do we give up and do we fight through all the forces telling us we can’t and prevail? I’d like to think that we always choose the latter option but the reality is I believe more often than not we choose to give up. 2018 was a crazy year of ups and downs. Mostly highs (the highest of highs at times) but with those highs came a few lows. The month of Decemebr alone was filled with sadness, fear and all my insecurities came to light. But I decided not to let it get the best of me. I chose to fight. I started the new year perservering through all the forces telling me I can’t. I may not have everything figured out but I believe that everything is going to be okay. I will make it to the top, just like that day on the mountain. It won’t be easy but that’s life. It’s not meant to be easy. It is meant to push us and make us stronger. It is moments like that day that are a constant reminder that I can do anything and I can go anywhere. The possibilities are endless. It is up to us to take advantage of those possibilities and stay determined to complete every chapter of our stories.

 

London Calling

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I figured it best to begin with a city that means so much to me, London. The year I spent living there was one of the best years of my life, not only because of the people I met along the way but also because the city itself has such a vibrant culture to it. Sometimes I would walk through central London on the Embankment walk seeing the double decker buses cross over the Waterloo bridge or stare at Tower Bridge and pinch myself just to make sure I was still breathing and that this was my actual real life. Its a rare opportunity to be somewhere and have that feeling. That feeling where you are somewhere and yet somehow don’t believe that this is your actual life. I couldn’t help but feel lucky everyday.

London is one of those cities that has such character. There are always people out and there is always something to do. It is virtually impossible to be bored in London. Towards the end of my time there, I found myself running out of time just to go and see all the places/things I wanted to see. Whether you are exploring the Christmas markets or reading a book in Hyde Park the opportunities are endless and you can never really feel alone. People are quite friendly and most days you can pop into any local pub (they’re basically on every street corner) and have a chat with a local over a few pints.

It was a huge step for me to leave my life behind, pick up and essentially start over. I remember ugly girl crying to one of my closest friends a few weeks before leaving, saying of how crazy and stupid I must be to uproot my whole life thousands of miles away to a city a barely knew with no job and no friends. But what I have come to find is that fear was completely normal and that fear can either break you or make you. I chose the latter and am forever changed because of it (for the better, of course). Perhaps that is also why London has such a special place in my heart.

Living in London was certainly a life altering experience. There are so many things I learned about life and myself over the course of the year. I could probably go on forever about it my experiences there and what that period of life means to me. To summarize my experience, I will just say this. Life is about taking risks, as scary as it may seem, there is nothing more thrilling and equally terrifying than turning your into world upside down and plunging into the great unknown. But that is half the battle, the rest is easy. Once you take the plunge all that’s left is to breath and enjoy the view. Take in the silent moments and revel in the new opportunities that come from it. I like to think of it as jumping off a cliff. If you are brave enough to jump off a cliff than you have a choice to either soar into the unknown or you can crash and burn. The choice is yours. I made the choice to soar and although I may not have it all figured it out I am enjoying the flight so far!

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Hello, World!

Welcome friends and visitors! 

I’m excited that you’ve decided to join me on this journey. I decided to start this blog because over the years I have traveled to various places and seen some of the most wonderful sights. But I have never really had an outlet to share my experiences, positive and negative. This past year, I fulfilled one of my lifelong goals of living in London and traveling Europe. What I have come to find through my travels is that we all have a story to tell and our life experiences make up the chapters of our story.

This also sparked the meaning of my handle: Small fish Big pond. It simply means that there is a big world out there and if I’ve learned anything it’s that every path you take leads you to the exact place you are supposed to be in that moment. It rarely ever turns out the way we expect it but that is part of the magic of life. The world is our there waiting for us to see it and explore it. While I am only one person I can still leave my footprint on the world, whether it be by sharing my experiences, inspiring others to do the same or simply providing an outlet for  someone else to follow along as I conquer the world! 

So thanks for reading and following! I can’t wait to share some of the most crucial and pivotal experiences of my life with you!