Featured

Why you should bathe baby elephants instead of riding adult ones.

Who would say no to the chance of a lifetime: playing with baby elephants.

There are many opportunities regarding elephants Thailand. You can do everything from simply looking at them to riding them. Elephants have been the national symbol for Thailand for ages. Holding great significance to the Thai people, elephants have long been used during battle, for various jobs (such as hauling logs), and as a type of tourism.

I opted to spend the day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for my elephant fix. There is no riding at this facility, only mud baths!

Why, you ask, did I not go somewhere where I could ride them?

Riding on the backs of Giants

When picturing elephants in Asia, the mind immediately goes to an image of people riding elephants through the jungle, the natural habitat of the Asian Elephant.

With tourism demands increasing, the need for more domesticated elephants grew and grew. To support the never ending need for Elfies (selfies with elephants), elephants quickly became a commodity. An elephants gestation period sitting around almost two years (21 months), breeding domesticated elephants was too slow going. Where else could one acquire elephants?

You guessed it – from the wild. You’re most likely familiar with the concept of poaching elephants for their ivory, with over 100,00 elephants being killed in just three years. A less known issue is the capturing of wild elephants to support the growing tourism industry. This has lead to a severe endangerment of wild Asian Elephants.

Elephants, like all wild animals, are not just going to be like “oh yeah, hey human, let me do whatever you want and just forget my eons of evolution and instincts!”. Elephants especially, never forget.

The most desired wild elephants are babies, having been taken from their mother as soon as possible and then confined to a cage or a hole in the ground to reduce movement.

The baby elephants are then starved, deprived of sleep, beaten with clubs, and pierced & tortured with bull-hooks (also known as ‘elephant-goads’) to break their spirit. This process is called Phajaan or “the crush”. If you’re feeling morbid, here is a video of the process. I could not finish it. However, I did look at a picture.

img_3481
What type of person could hurt this little guy? The kind I want to kill with my bare hands.
As the elephants grow older, they continue to live their lives in slavery and fear. Even if the organization you are looking at claims to be ethical and treat the elephants well now, the domestication process was still the same. Bull-hooks are often still used behind the scenes to assert dominance, and as a control mechanism throughout the day.

Additionally, and I know it’s hard to believe because of their size, but the elephant spine is not meant to support the weight of humans, much less a bench with multiple people seated on it. Same goes for Zebras – just because they look like horses doesn’t mean they are for riding.

EVEN IF elephants had evolved to be ridden, many organizations make the elephants work long hours without breaks so that they can make more money. Humans nor animals should ever be subject to this.

What makes Elephant Jungle Sanctuary different?

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a family run business that prides themselves on acquiring elephants from organizations that previously used elephants for riding. Often times, the elephants have served decades as riding elephants (elephants can live to be 100+!), and are no longer able to work. This is usually the only way to free the elephants from their slavery. Every now and then though, a compassionate success story does shine through – but this is hardly a normal occurrence.

About an hour and a half from Chiang Mai, the sanctuary has 6 different camps with different groups of elephants. I was picked up from my hostel and driven out to our camp – camp number 6 (the best, obviously).

During my day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, (which cost me 50 USD) I was educated about the history of the elephants, in addition to information about why the activities that we will be doing are different – they are not only ethical, but helpful to the elephants.

My day with the elephants included meeting the babies, feeding bananas to the adults, and giving everybody mud baths! Did you know that elephants can only sweat through their toes? This can make it very hard to cool off, which is where mud baths come in. The mud assists with wicking away excess moisture and provides a cooling element.

After bathing the elephants in mud, we moved to the rinsing pool where they are rinsed off with natural running water. This further aids the cooling process and makes sure that any remains of possible elephant feces have been washed off. Yes, the elephants sometimes poop in the mud pool. Everybody poops, guys.

I have to say, I had some concerns about the elephants being forced to take these baths and get in the mud, but the goofs were playing it in before the group ever got to that part of the itinerary. It is obvious that elephants have emotions, just like us.

img_3452
Bashful elephant.
I also had concerns about the same group being forced to bath multiple times a day.When I worked in the service industry, my hands would become chapped from washing them so much. It seems logical elephants would suffer from similar conditions. After speaking the the volunteers, I learned that each group only has one bath per day. Boasting a herd of over 50 elephants, there is plenty of dry skin to go around!

After the feeding, playing and rinsing we were served a delicious Thai lunch and the chance to talk to the volunteers. I asked them all kinds of questions about their time here, the elephants, what other industries are like in Thailand and how I can help. I’m considering coming back here for a week later in my trip to volunteer.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary supports a happy and healthy lifestyle for the elephants. Think of it as a retirement community. The elephants are gently guided, respected and loved. I had a wonderful experience here – and the photos were free!

Despite the upbeat and happy environment of the sanctuary, and the playful nature of the elephants, if you look into their eyes closely, you can see that they will never forget the previous pain and anguish they suffered.

How can I help?

Weighing in at multiple tons (around  200 lbs at birth), adult elephants can consume up to 300 lbs of food per day! That’s like one of me plus an average sized adult!

You know what I’m about to say don’t you? Money makes the world go round. Donations will make the highest impact.

I encourage you to donate to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary since I can personally vouch for their intentions. However, there are many other organizations that are just as legit that could use your dollars.

I want to help, but I can’t make a donation!

As someone who always seems to be on a budget, I totally understand! Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways you can help these beautiful and intelligent animals. ❤

  • Share this post!!!! Please for the love of God, sharing is caring. You never know who might have a special place for elephants in their heart, or who might be feeling generous for the day.
  • Spread the word about elephant mistreatment. If you know someone who is going to travel to Thailand, mention your newfound knowledge. If you ever hear someone say “I’d love to ride an elephant!” gently try to educate them. Most of the time, they simply do not know much of the information I’ve shared with you today. Hell, I almost rode an elephant myself because I saw pictures of a friend doing it when he visited Vietnam. I admit, it looked fun!
  • Do not ride elephants if you ever have the opportunity. Back home in the states, this goes for the circus, festivals and various carnival attractions. I will try to have an open mind and not judge you if you do it everyone has their own ethics I guess.
  • Volunteer to help animals in your hometown. Elephants aren’t the only ones who need our help!

I know this was a bit of a bitter-sweet post folks. Before you go, I have one last note about animal tourism, specifically tigers because they are still very under represented.

Want to follow me on my travels and learn about being a responsible tourist?

Join me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below – glad to have you behind me! 

xoxo ❤

Advertisements

5 ways being fat helps me travel! 

Yep, I’m writing a post about this. I’ve got some curves and I’m owning it!


Some people (myself included) question my physical ability to do a trip like this. For example, in San Francisco, the hills and 4 flights of stairs to my apartment kicked my ass. But I did it, I showed them who was boss.

Yeah it’s a picture of a picture.
Whenever you look at pictures of people traveling, they’re always super thin, athletic, fit people – I am not those people. I am me, and me is out of shape and loves food! Despite that, my body is proving to be a great tool for me on this trip and I’d say that my curvy figure is even helping me!

How being “fat” is helping me in my travels:

1. I’m less likely to be kidnapped…I think…

I’ve always struggled with my weight. Let me rephrase that, I have always been above the ‘average’ weight and BMI of most Americans. When I was younger and chubby, my mom gave me a good tip: “If someone tries to kidnap you, just go limp”. When you struggle you’re still standing and it can be easier to move you. If I were to just dead-fish it..could you lift 230lbs? No, I think not. Good tip, Mom!

2. I get to represent curvy chicks (and dreads as a bonus).

Yeah, that fat chick just climbed those stairs. Yeah, that fat chick is going to one of the hottest places in the world. Yeah, that fat chick is ROCKIN’ her dreams. Suuuuck iiiit!

3. Keeping me warm and energized – lots of stored calories to burn over here!

Okay so the “warm” is counting against me on this particular trip LOL! However, if the plane goes down or if we get stranded, I’m going outlast all you bitches because my body is going to eat my [sweet] rolls! See what I did there? I’m also not one of those skinny chicks whose like “I’m so cold!” all the time. I don’t need the jacket of a man, I’ve got my own layers!

Also, body fat is all those extra calories that weren’t used. Calories = energy. I can use these up like wildfire when I’m out an about. I think I’ve sweat off 4 lbs already.

4. Everything is a workout. My higher starting point also makes it easier to lose weight.

This is an oldie but goodie. If I walk up 50 stairs with someone who weights half of what I do, I’ll burn more calories. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost 10 lbs already on this trip with the walking and the sweating!

5. I’m more immune to things! 

Not only because I love food and try all kinds (this helps with various tolerances), but I also have layers of fat covering my organs which makes them less susceptible to being penetrated by germs or bullets. Hey, science says so.

BONUS: I can ask for more food / dessert…because everyone expects it.

Yeah maybe it is shitty that they’re like “of courrrrrse the fat chick wants dessert” but you know what, I do. I’m going to use your expectations against you – BRING ME ALL YOUR CAKE.

noface
Sometimes I think No Face is my spirit animal..that’s why I have him as a tattoo!

Want to watch me eat my way through Asia and try weird foods like Durian? Find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below welcome! I love fellow foodies!

What do you love about your body shape? Boys, you can answer too!

xoxo ❤

 

 

 

 

Dear Bangkok,

Today was my first day with you, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I got off the plane, I could immediately feel the heat and humidity. I had heard that it would be hot as balls here, and coming from Chicago, I knew it would be a bit of an adjustment. I wasn’t prepared for drinking two huge bottles of water and still not peeing clear!


After landing, we went through customs, which was a breeze. They didn’t even charge me the $50 for my visa! I picked up my bag in your huuuuuge airport and immediately changed into shorts. Whew, such relief.

Coming from the airport, I took a metered Taxi cab. He had some trouble finding my hostel. We ended up asking two homeless guys in the area and they were incredibly nice and helpful to him and directed us to the proper area. I paid 300 Baht for the ride – so cheap! That’s about $7-9 USD for those of you back home in the states. In Chicago, I’ve never paid less than $30 to a cab driver for an airport run.

new road guest house
new road guest house

Arriving at the hostel, I was struck by it’s beauty. It was back off the road a ways (which is the way you seem to like it) in our own little alcove. I was happy to see that there was a local dog hanging around the area whom I sat and pet for a bit. He was dirty and boney.

My doggie friend
My doggie friend

 

I checked in and was kindly directed to my room on the 3rd floor. Apparently I just like to torture myself with rooms on higher floors.

My room is quaint, simple, and suits my needs perfectly. $18 for 4 nights, is a steal! Well played Bangkok. I immediately crashed from the 15 hours of flying and woke up at 6 am.

Coming back to the lobby, I charged my phone and had breakfast.

Breakfast buffet
Breakfast buffet

Then I went exploring.


My dog friend from the hostel followed me. I liked it – I thought maybe the love I’d given him meant we had a bond. We walked for a few miles and came across a street food vender selling some grilled chicken (it’s all chicken, right Bangkok?) and the dog started crying. Bless his soul he was hungry and wanted me to buy him food.

I didn’t. In fact, I immediately hailed a tuk tuk and zipped off with me crying a little because I felt like a horrible person. In my head I know I can’t save them all – or even one.


That’s a terrible feeling Bangkok. I don’t think it’s you, I think it’s a not-the-united-states thing. I’m going to have to toughen up that side of me.

I had the tuk tuk take me to the skytrain where I boarded to visit Chatachuk market. I met a Swedish lady who doesn’t like Chinese people while waiting for the train. I almost got on the wrong one until a Thai man grabbed me and said “this train doesn’t go to market!”. He had heard me talked to the Swedish lady. He was heading to Chatachuk as well where he owns a shop. We traveled together the whole way and then parted. We did a Wai together and I began my task of exploring the market.


Here I tried to avoid the “pet” section. I did come across it temporarily but had to leave when I saw dogs in cages that were no more than 2 ft hight. The dogs couldn’t even stand. No pictures of this because I want to forget it. I want to forget the caged animals and baby turtles locked alive in necklaces that will one day be their coffins. Bangkok, I heard that the market is sometimes used for selling illegally imported animals and cock fights, I wish I could convenience you there was a better way.


The market was an interesting experience for sure. It really was the biggest thing I’ve ever been to! So far, this is the only part of your city I think my mother would like. I was offered many 1 hour massages for 250 Baht ($8 USD) which I will be doing!


I had fun bartering with a shop owner for a pair of swishy pants I thought would fit me. They do around the waist…just not the thighs. Bangkok, do you have a butt? Apparently you, nor any of your citizens, do!

Oh your citizens. Bangkok, your people are so nice. You should be proud. All of the Thai women smile at me and then men wave respectfully. They are incredibly kind and helpful. I have asked many for directions and they all try to help me. One of them even helped teach me some basic Thai. I’m focusing on thank you – “Kop Khun Kai” and I try to say it often. Your citizens are so surprised and tickled when I say it.


In the US we are told as children to go to police officers if you need help. I got very lost earlier today and with the sun beating down on me, I asked a policeman for directions. He pointed me in the right direction but told me it was a very, very long walk from where we were.

I went to a nearby street and hailed a tuk tuk and showed him on the map where I wanted to go. The policeman saw me talking with the tuk tuk driver and came over and explained to the driver in Thai how to get where I wanted to go.

Bangkok, for having so many tuk tuks and taxis, they are surprisingly confused about navigating the city – Chicago cabbies shame them.

The policeman and the tuk tuk driver talked for a bit, and the policeman give me the thumbs up to get in the tuk tuk. Feeling confident, we zoomed back to the hostel (no, that’s not how I got my name)!

on the skytrain
on the skytrain
on the skytrain
on the skytrain

I learned yesterday that the Skytrain will sometimes stop to make sure it is not above the royal family if the King is traveling on the ground.

info board at the hostel
info board at the hostel

I admire and commend the pride that you take in your King. I have never felt prideful about my president. It’s cool we have an African-American president – that’s a big step for the United States as a whole, but that’s what I’m taking pride in…not Obama himself.

Bangkok, your city is beautiful. While the homes can sometimes look a..uh, bit…dilapidated, everyone seems very happy in them.

I love how much you love pink.

pink cabs
pink cabs

The monks here are also extremely kind. I ran into several while out and about today. I can tell that they are honored wherever they go. I think if I were in trouble, hungry, or homeless I would go to a temple and feel comfortable seeking help from the monks – even though I struggle sometimes asking for help.

After the market and some random exploring, I returned home to the hostel to take a nap. I woke up at midnight which is when I’m writing this post. I’m getting hungry! I’m going to go back to bed for a bit and get ready to take on another day. I’ll be having Durian today (on camera), along with some sushi. I can’t wait! Bangkok, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you smell of delicious food!


Thank you for welcoming me Bangkok, I look forward to getting to know you better.

xoxo ❤

If you’re interested in getting to know Bangkok better too, you can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below welcome!

 

No man is rich enough to buy pack his past

The real truth about my budget for 5 months in Asia.

I’ve had to make a lot of arrangements for this trip. All the way from the bank, post office, and final utilities, to coordinating with friends and paying potentially-sketchy internet companies on the Internet to unlock my iPhone (I’ll let you know how it goes once I’m abroad).

This usually requires giving a little context about the situation. When you ask your doctor for sleeping pills, antibiotics, and 6 months of birth control, they tend to ask what you need it for lol 😛

My typical response is “I’m leaving to travel through Southeast Asia for five months“. As soon as the words leave my mouth, I usually get a “Ohhhh I wish I could afford to do that!” “Ohh, I’m so jealous! I could never do that.” It’s a nice warm and fuzzy feeling that you too could share!

SPOILER: It’s not that expensive.

TRIGGER AND TANGENT WARNING: You can do it!

Guys, let’s have a moment together here. As friends, I have to tell you – you can absolutely go travel if you want. If you take the time to put it together, you absolutely can. It’s scary. It’s sometimes rough. It’s occasionally unstable and stressful too. Beyond all that though, it’s simply the bees knees. If you’re one of the people who says “Oh I wish I could do X”…go do it!  Make a ‘it’s all FUBAR’ plan, and go do it. Take it slow and ask questions if you have them 🙂

The only way to make it happen is to take the plunge!

Thanks for listening. I want you to be able to achieve your dreams. I want to empower you, be straight with you, and maybe even inspire you. Seriously, if little po-dunk-no-degree-out-of-shape-Zoom can do it, you can too.

Returning to the Budget:

All of you know that I’m a pretty thrifty gal. I buy used clothes and items. I’ve had the shirt I’m wearing today for at least 4 years. I don’t [often] go out drinking. I invest in video games that keep me home. My roommate and I kept a good system for groceries and cooking so I rarely have to eat out. Just having a roomate cuts down on rent and other costs of living.

11059440_10204521357099882_7649194371489146327_n
My roommate and me

This allows me to save a lot of money. I save my money like a dragon hoards gold. The curse of being a yard-saler (sailor?) … “maybe I should save my money for when I find something I really, really want.” Thanks mom for only giving me $2/week to spend at yard sales – save those quarters, girl!

Show me the numbers:

There were a lot of costs I paid ahead of time. This is my number one tip to you – pay as much as you can ahead of time. 

Everything I’ve already paid:

Grand Total of Pre-paid costs: about $1,400

I just want to note that my decision to quit my job and travel was well timed around tax return season. Large chunks of cash were incredibly helpful in allowing me to pull this off. Also, I sold almost everything I own which was a nice boost.

I’ll be leaving the states with about $4,500 in hand.

I’m not sure if that’s enough for 5 months in Southeast Asia or not.

I’ll focusing on cutting costs by getting two months free accommodation by working at a Cat Cafe in Vietnam and teaching English while in Thailand. I’ve also got plans up my sleeve to make money (more on that later). I tricked myself into saving some of this. Ultimately, you learn to live with what you’ve got so I think I’ll be fine!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I think my top costs will be.

  1. Transportation
  2. Food
  3. Lodging
  4. Entertainment
  5. Visas and other paperwork fees
  6. Re-up on supplies – shampoo, stomach medicine etc.

Naturally, my thriftiness will continue to prevail abroad as well as stateside. I’ll be staying in hostels, couch surfing, and taking my time. Essentially, a lot of busses/trains, no trinkets/souvenirs, shoddy accommodations, and street food. Also, no A/C.

It’s going to be about 122 days. Typically, most people recommend $30/day for Southeast Asia. With $4,500 that will be about $36/day. We should be good!

My FUBAR plan is a credit card with a $2,500 limit on it.

No matter what happens, I’m going to be true to my rules of the road and tell myself it’s all going to be okay – and it will.

Do you have any money saving tips for travel gear or while traveling? I’m all ears!

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

xoxo ❤

How to make the most of your adventure using intentions. 

What exactly are intentions and why are they worth talking about?

Heading to Burning Man on the #Cobrabus this summer, we stopped before the burn and did an activity called an intention circle. This was the first time I’d done one, but I’d heard of them. Essentially, everyone gets in a circle and takes turns sharing what they hope to get out of a particular experience. Until this point, I hadn’t consciously thought of what I wanted to gain from the awesome opportunity of attending Burning Man. I wanted to have fun, hang out with my friends etc.; but on a deeper level, what specifically did I want out of it? It really made me think.

Cobrabus
Loading the #Cobrabus with a pallet (100+ lbs) of water
Doing an intention circle empowered me to take more control over my experience. To work toward goals, to be mindful, and to get the most of out the burn. For this trip, I’ve been thinking about my intentions so that I make the most of this once in a lifetime chance.

This is also something that I would encourage you to do at home! It can be something big – like Burning Man, but it doesn’t have to be that serious. I do intentions for small things too, like when I go out for the day. “I’m open to new experiences and I’d like to meet new people”. Voila! It’s as easy as that guys, and you’ll be amazed at how differently things start going for you. 🙂

My intentions:

1. Develop a deeper appreciation for things I typically take for granted.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to have all the basic comforts. Friends, a roof over my head, multiple meals a day, unlimited access to water etc. Because I’ve never been without them, I’ve always wondered if I’m truly appreciating these luxuries. Can you really, truly appreciate having a roof over your head when there’s never been a time where you didn’t have one – know what I mean?

I’m purposefully visiting some more rural areas of Asia in order to see what it’s like to live without a flushing toilet, with power that goes out because of the heat, and where internet is limited, if not non existent. When I moved to Chicago, there was a whole level of poverty that I had never experienced in the affluent Beavercreek, Ohio. It was very eye opening and I want to open my eyes further.

squattoiletpicture
A squat toilet from Thailand. Exactly what it sounds like lol

2. Gather information that will empower me to make informed decisions on what is worth my energy for the next 50 years.

It sunk in a few years ago that there are things you sometimes need to ruthlessly cut from your life. Unhealthy relationships was the hardest for me, but when I managed to do it, I felt worlds better. Saying “no” and setting healthy boundaries is another that I still struggle with. I’ve been slowly trimming the fat over the last few years and am ready to go to the next level.

My previous job was really sucking me dry. It made me wonder if I could spend the next 50 years of my life working a job that was a daily uphill battle for me. Not that job specifically, but once it becomes ‘just a job’, is it worth it just so that I can fit into the cookie cutter definition of success? Maybe. Would it be better to blaze my own path defined by my vision of success: connections with people, simple living and adventure? Maybe. Each set comes with pros and cons, and I’d like to experience enough to make an informed decision.

3. Get off my anxiety meds

This one is important, and possibly unrealistic. I’ve struggled with a latent level of anxiety my whole life. My stomach reacts violently when something big is on the horizon – first dates, job interviews, and life changing choices. When I moved to Chicago, I wasn’t taking any medications since my anxiety would only flair up in spurts. Over time; the rush of the city, the constant watching of strangers, and the grind of my job took it’s toll, raising the threshold of latent anxiety.

This landed me on a daily regimen of anxiety medication which, honestly, makes me feel a little broken. I should be able to manifest calmness myself. Why can’t I just be happy and do it on my own like everyone else – why do I have to take a medication to be normal? I know, I know I never have hope of being normal. LOL!


I think that dialing my life back a little will help with this. I believe doing hard work with my hands, being in nature, and having new experiences will be very cathartic for me. Hopefully I can get a little more in tune with myself and learn to control my anxiety in natural and healthy ways…like smoking weed! 😉

4. Live the day to day life of a different culture

What is it like to live somewhere blazing hot and humid? In Thailand, drying clothes in a dryer is very uncommon and they import all of their beef. Aka, no hamburgers/crazy fucking expensive hamburgers!

Does McDonalds serve pad thai kids meals?

mcdtaropie
This is the ‘tarot pie’ from McDonalds in China. If you’ve not had tarot flavoring, it’s delicious! Very common with bubble teas. I would totally gobble these up in shameless American fashion. Photo: USA Today
I’m not just going to do touristy things (tourists are so annoying, yep I’m doing a little self hate lol), but go to movies and nights out drinking with the locals. Just like Chicago is a different lifestyle using public transit, I’m sure Asia will have a whole different way of living.

I can’t wait to see it and live it!

5. It’s okay to be vulnerable and trust others.

I can be a prideful person. I like to take ownership of things I’m doing, I like to be in control of the situation, and it can be hard for me to ask for help on things I feel I should be strong enough to do alone. I’ve learned that while traveling – well, just in general – one can’t always maintain this. You sometimes have to ask for help and you’re not always in control. My fellow control freaks know my struggle (you know who you are!) – it’s hard to let go of these things, but being able to learn the skill of letting go is something that will make the rest of my life much easier. Practice, practice, practice!

BONUS: Come back with as many stories as possible and have a metric shit ton of fun!

If you haven’t seen the movie “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, go rent it/stream it/download it and watch it. While the movie may be an extreme example of saying Yes to everything, I want to apply a degree of this idea to my travels. Like a thin, delicious layer of mayonnaise. “I am open to new experiences” is one of my mantras and I’m going to work it on this trip! Coming back to my rules of the road; yes I’ll try that food, yes I’ll go to that attraction and yes I’d love to meet that person. I’m going to walk through every open door I see. Immediacy!

 

 

Night of the man burn, 2015

If you were going on a trip like this what would your intentions be? Or, what have your intentions been for previous trips?

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

xoxo ❤

Side Walk Talk

pj5mh-vv
The coolest thing I’ve seen in San Francisco so far!

This post is a bit shorter than most, but I felt that this particular experience deserved a special call out.

Since quitting my job, I’ve been in San Francisco a little less than a week so far! I spent the day out exploring the city, which is an absolute pleasure – more on that later. I’m not really sure which direction I went (I told you I’d get lost), but I managed to get home okay and that’s what matters!

Walking down the side walk I heard a voice saying “Who pisses you off? What’s bothering you? Let’s talk about it.” Looking in her direction, I saw pairs of people sitting across from one another in lawn chairs, talking. I had to check it out.

img_2218
#sidewalktalk

We chatted for a bit about the #SideWalkTalk project. Their mission is to offer no fee counseling services for those that can’t afford them. As someone who could have used a service like this a few years ago (and still?), I mentioned that I was from Chicago and that it would be great to have this back home. She happily said “oh, you can!” and pulled out some information directing me to a DIY Kit for your own city.

It turns out that Chicago already has Side Walk Talk! Friends , if you could use some love and support please check out Side Walk Talk. Once (if) I end up getting settled, this is definitely something I would want to get involved in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mental and emotional health are both aspects of our being that are often neglected. Not only by society and the lack of resources and education as a whole, but on a personal level as well. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves other than the occasional salad or taking the stairs. Alright, maybe I’m projecting there, but I still think it’s a true statement to say: We could all take better care of our mental and emotional well-being.

I’ve struggled with depression myself, and anxiety is an ongoing battle for me. I have many people in my life who have been effected with either (or both) mental and emotional issues that could benefit from a service like this. What they are doing is amazing and needed!

I was incredibly inspired by Side Walk Talks and their mission and wanted to share it with you. If you need someone to talk to, I would encourage you to look for a Side Walk Talk in your area or to call one of the hotlines listed on the back of the card pictured above.

You’re not alone and you’re not broken.

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

xoxo ❤

 

5 ways San Francisco is making me a better person.


First, I’d just like to say that I love having this much time on my hands. Since I quit my job to travel, I get to take naps, make my own schedule, loaf around town, and work on my blog! Can I be retired yet? PUH-LEEZE? 

Now, on to my new relationship with San Francisco. This city has been making me a better person – both actively and passively – and it has been making me absolutely glow!

1. Walking is amped up – dem hills, man.

Whew, buddy! These hills are bitches – holy moly! I do my share of walking in Chicago, but when you add a huge incline it’s a whole new game. At one point, I had to stop and pretend to read a restaurant menu so that I could get a breather.

I was so wrapped into looking like I was very interested in ordering, that I didn’t notice the restaurant was out of business! Derp derp derp.

I’m not hating on the endorphins though! I’m feeling more energetic, challenged, and proud of how strong my body is. My two shitty knees “San” and “Fran” are getting better at the daily climbing of the four flights of stairs to my apartment. Also, I’m sleeping soooo much better.

 

view from sanfrancisco apartment
Totally worth the climb for this view!

2. Eating healthier – farmer’s market and produce stands abound!

When you spot a fruit stand or a farmer’s market, it’s hard to pass up the chance to stop and look at their wares. Often times, the food is healthier and cheaper! Also, you get to meet the caretakers of your cauliflower and oranges. Due to the year round lovely weather, these stands are very common throughout the city, making it so convenient to buy fresh every day!

This also makes healthy snacking much more convenient – I’ve been picking up tangerines for $.25 and enjoying them on the road. I’m eating a lot of tomatoes and roasted vegetables too – love, love, love! Not that I didn’t eat roasted vegetables in Chicago (my roommate Rachel and I made them a staple), but getting off the bus, shopping, then waiting for the next bus in the semi-chilly rain or wind is so much better than the scorching heat or freezing cold.

30937681
You cannot deny my logic.

3. Going green – public composting and pet waste bins.

San Francisco takes their waste disposal very seriously. All over town you’ll see anywhere from three to four different trashcans. Trash, recycling, compost and pet waste disposal.

3binsystem
The same color scheme goes for outdoor trash collection as well.
In the household of a Sanfranciscian, it’s common to have multiple trashcans and assumed that you know how to compost – I admit I didn’t know. I had to Google “what is compostable” (this adds a little respectability to my Google search history). Luckily, the little compost trashcan has images on it for those of us who would throw pizza into composting. THE PICTURE SAYS IT’S ACCEPTABLE!


I’m also getting a nice warm glowing feeling about being able to see my trash in this way. We have composting, regular trash, and recycling. You’ll notice that so far all of my waste is going to be recycled or composted. I admit that I’ve never recycled or composted in my life. First, I just wasn’t raised with it and secondly, I never thought I would make that much of a difference.

Seeing these results though, it’s undeniable that just one person can make a difference.

Do you recycle and/or compost? What about in cities that don’t offer it as a service? For example, Chicago doesn’t compost. Maybe we could learn a little something from San Francisco.

4. I’m more aware of nature.

This is one of the most enjoyable for me so far. Not that Chicago doesn’t have good parks or green spots, but, due to the weather in San Francisco, flowers are rocking here. Chicago had snow a few days ago!

Beautiful trees everywhere.
San Francisco seems to be more colorful in general. Trees, flowers, the houses – everything. You guys know how much I love color!

5. I’m nicer/less resting bitch face.

Everyone that I’ve talked to has been super friendly. This includes strangers in Walgreens, on the MUNI, at the airport – everywhere. I would describe everyone as very chill, artistic, expressive and open minded. Maybe it’s because of the huge concentration of burners here, maybe it’s the legal weed or maybe it’s all the vitamin D pouring into our systems. Whatever it is – no worries man!

Just chillin’.
The slower pace of San Francisco is really helping me unwind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s keeping the big city feel – but just so much more laid back. While San Francisco has its problems, they are more drug related than gang related. I haven’t seen anyone who is probably packing and I’m actually approached less here than in Chicago – including my last visit where I stayed in the Tenderloin. I do prefer tweakers to gangbangers.

Do you have a city that makes you a better person? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

xoxo ❤

 

 

I am strong. I am brave. I am broken. All at the same time.

It’s a beautiful day out, but I haven’t had a solid shit in weeks. My nerves are causing my whole body to tremor and shake. On the positive side, I’m just one more life-altering decision away from my goal weight!

My last day at my job is April 1st (no, not fooling!). The exact day I started three years ago – the longest I’ve ever held down one job. This static life is also probably what has driven me to this crazy point.

April 1st, 2016 will be the closing of one chapter of my story. Like any good story, there is good and evil. I’ve moved to Chicago, landed an incredible job I was way under qualified for, gone to Burning Man twice, and taken a month off to be a gypsy and travel out west on a hippie bus just to bum around California for a few weeks. I’ve also been so lonely that I’ve felt I’m never going to find that person, or worse yet, that I had and just wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve let my life waste away in front of the TV. I lost a good friend in an accident. I’ve gained the “Chicago 30”. I came very close to a cocaine addiction about a year ago. I’m walking away from all of this. I am strong.

The next few weeks are going to entail me selling everything I own in preparation to move out of the apartment that I have invested countless hours into making my home. With all my possessions in a backpack, I’ll say goodbye to my friends, family and comfort zone…to spend 5 months traveling alone in Asia. It’s my first time abroad (with a language barrier to boot), and my first time being on the opposite side of the world from everything I know. I am brave.

Many years ago in a land far, far away I was so broke that I was on what I’ve termed as the “spaghetti and weed” diet. These were the only two things I could afford and the only things I spent my money on that wasn’t bills. I didn’t have money to get fast food, much less go to burning man and travel. Money, and the lack of it, consumed my life. My goal became “acquire money so that I can acquire things” – because that is success, right? All of that changed with my move to Chicago and my new job. I got money and I got all the things – and travel too!

70,000 people every year go to Burning Man. Every single one of them will tell you “it was a life changing experience” – I am no different. This makes me feel a little cliché saying it, but really, it was a life changing experience. On the playa (where the event is held), there is no money. No possessions that don’t have a purpose. No technology to distract us. Only people, playa, and the freedom to be and do whatever you want.

Needless to say it was an experience unlike anything I’d had before. I was hungry for more which led me to many open doors. Over the last two years I’ve been processing the experience and allowing a slow change to take place. I stand before you now in a different skin than I had three years ago, and this new Zoom has different priorities.

You can imagine my parent’s reaction to this. Surely driven out of fear and concern, but raging nonetheless.

“You’re quitting your JOB?! They are so good to you, you better just stay there!” “What about money?!” “What about health insurance?!” “What about your retirement and savings account?” “What about your apartment and all your things?!” “Don’t expect to come crashing back here!”

I don’t know how to make them understand. I don’t care so much about money anymore. It’s a tool, but that’s all…just a tool. Possessions are nice, but they don’t love me back. A great job is good to have, but it is not bringing me any joy and I cannot transmute gratitude into engagement day after endless day. I don’t want any of these things anymore. I want adventure, change, connections with people, and happiness. I am broken.

Or am I? Or are you broken, Society?

It’s now one month until I leave. Between the nerves and the inevitable traveler’s diarrhea, I don’t expect having to put a lot of effort into pooping for at least the next 6 months. I truly believe though that it will be worth it to find out: ‘Is there anything out there in the big, bad world other than a 9-5, money and things?’

Come with me. Let’s find out.

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

 

 

I’m already feeling homesick! Uh-oh. 5 ways to keep in touch with home.

I haven’t even left yet and I’m already missing all your beautiful faces!

Am I totally screwed?

I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, loneliness is a legitimate concern. While I identify as an introvert, I can be socially acceptably outgoing. Also, as per Zoom-policy, I have a plan.

1. Blogging to stay connected with with my loved ones

I have a lot of supportive people in my life. Correction, I have an abundance of supportive people in my life. Seriously you guys, you fuckin’ move me. xoxo I hope that you’re getting as much out of our relationship as I am. ❤

I’m especially going to need that support throughout this journey. It’s important that we stay in touch! I’m not leaving, I’m just going. I look forward to making posts here and hearing your comments and feedback. If you’d like to see something, ask! If you want to know more about something particular – ask me! Any photo requests? You bet, just let me know. Let’s go hunting for happiness together, and bring some joy to the world – with style!

P.S If I somehow die on the trip, I want to be cremated, put into some fireworks and launched in a spectacular show. I need you guys to light some doobies and get your rock on – for me! Oh, and just burn my Mac. Please, for my parents.

2. Workaways

Recommended by a friend, a Workaway membership has been the best $30 I’ve invested in this adventure so far. I haven’t even left the states yet and I already have some gigs lined up that are going to save me way more than $30. Workaway matches you with hosts in over 150 countries. In exchange for what seems to average 5 hours of work per day, 5 days a week, you can usually get bed/room and some meals. Hopefully this isn’t a human trafficking operation front!

Teaching English for 4 weeks in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I get the evenings and weekends off in exchange for my own room, a fan, and two meals a day. Unlimited tea and coffee are also included – thank god! This is going to save me a bundle, allow me to really experience the day to day life, and provides good experience.. Also, on my resume it looks like I’m still working. Sneaky, sneaky!

chiang-rai-thailand-1
This is the ‘white temple’ in Chiang Rai. I can’t wait to see it for myself.

 

Playing cards with a local family in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi is the capitol city of Vietnam, and it looks beautiful. I’ve been communicating with a family there who loves, loves, loves to play cards! They had already agreed to host someone the days I was going to be there, but they wanted to meet me so much that my contact reached out to her brother. Her brother’s family also loves to play cards and they agreed to host me. His wife teaches English at a school on the weekends and works for an American company doing IT. In exchange for my own room and full run of the house, I have to practice English with them for 3 hours a day, and play cards with them at night. Rough, huh?

I can’t wait to learn some Vietnamese card games! Though, they don’t know who they’re dealing with (haha, dealing! no pun intended). I’ll take it easy on them – at first! 😉

hanoi-city-vietnam
This is Hanoi. What a unique, adorable city!

Working at a Cat Cafe in Hoi An, Vietnam. Again, I’ll be there for 4 weeks. For 5 hrs/day, they are renting me my own room in the city. I’ll commute to work and everything. I’ll be helping them with cat care, menu creation, and adding some speciality vegetarian dishes to their menu.

At least once I’m going to have wake the city up with “Gooooood Moooorning, Vietnam!!” RIP Robin Williams, I fucking love you, man.

tumblr_n7ikc1lfsu1t0bstpo7_r1_1280
Hoi An is small, but known for having some amazing shoemakers and tailors. I’m going to get a custom made swim suit and dress while I’m here.

The Workaways are already helping me feel connected! The woman who runs the school, Toi, is very friendly I can tell. Getting to know the staff, the kids, the guests and share the city with them all is going to be a great first step in connecting with others.

3. Couchsurfing

I am an avid fan of couchsurfing! My first real vacation as an adult was to Tennessee. Traveling with a college friend, we stayed with a couple and had the most wonderful time. They showed us around town, took us out to dinner and even gave us a key to the house. I’ve been involved in couchsurfing ever since! I’ve been hosting the last several years and have never had a bad experience!  I figure I might as well give it a spin abroad!

Couchsurfers love to share experiences and culture, so they seem like the perfect group of people to surround myself with!

4. Learning the local language

So, this one might be a flop. Up to this point, I’ve never been good at learning other languages. I took Spanish in high school just like everyone else. Granted, I was young and maybe not paying attention or caring as much as I would now, but still. That being said, I think that learning basic phrases in the local language will be a great way to interact with the community. A friend of mine recommended the Pimsleur courses, which I just  downloaded. Wish me luck on this one!

5. If you have any tips or ideas for coping with loneliness, or things that have worked for you on your travels, I would love to hear them! Please comment!

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

You can find me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebarwelcome!

xoxo ❤