Tag: Hawaii

How to explain gaps in your resume because of travel

I have over 15 versions of my resume on my hard-drive. Being on-the-go full-time for 4 years was an incredible experience, but I am not independently wealthy. I had to work along the way to finance my travels. Many of those jobs were in the hospitality industry which exist worldwide.

My experience is all over the map. Depending on the job I was looking to get, I usually had some explaining to do.

Here’s a version of my current resume:

Resume Jillian Blog

As you can see, my experience is literally all over the board. It starts in Illinois, takes me to Hawaii (two different islands, now living on a third), back to the mainland in California, to Colorado and Wyoming. This doesn’t even account for a year I spent on the east coast in Philadelphia or my gap year where I traveled to Australia and Thailand.

Typical reactions I’ve received:

1. Why all the moving?

2. Hawaii? Why would you ever leave there?

3. What’s in Wyoming?

4. Looks like you’ve had a lot of fun! (This one I like!)

5. If I hire you, you aren’t just going to up and move again are you?

In my years of trying to get jobs and interviewing with every personality type you can think of, I’ve devised a way to make my travels work to my advantage. I want my prospective employer to see my frequent moves as as positive, not a negative.

Just to let you know, more than half the time, there is a stigma in the professional world when it comes to frequent travel. Some employers might let on that they think it’s cool and they wish they could travel. Some more positive interviews I’ve been on, owners and interviewers actually recount their travels with a gleam in their eye: they “get it.” I’ve actually got my job in southern California by just walking in the restaurant and handing my resume to the owner. My travels and world experience impressed him so much, he wanted me on the team. He was a world traveler himself and knew firsthand how travel makes you a more well-rounded employee.

I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!
I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!

More often than not though, people in the “real-world” are usually in a bubble. They can’t understand why you would choose to live in a jungle in Hawaii or still can’t comprehend WHAT, exactly, Wyoming has to offer. It becomes a little exhausting explaining myself to people, but hey, I DO need a job after all!

Many of my jobs have been “seasonal.” Many people I talk to don’t even know that seasonal jobs on the mainland exist. A seasonal job is one that lasts for just that, the season.A great resource for seasonal jobs is Coolworks.com. You work a summer in Yellowstone National Park, then the job ends. Then you work a winter in the Colorado Rockies at one of the ski resorts, then come April, that job ends. It’s a great way to see beautiful places all over the country while making money. It requires frequent travel, interviewing and job hunting for your next gig.

Why WOULDN'T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??
Why WOULDN’T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??

Making the leap OUT of the seasonal world causes you to encounter employers who don’t understand the seasonal lifestyle and wonder why you’re a vegabond that can’t hold down a job. For those people, you have your work cut out for you.

Here are some tips to get you through an interview where you have to explain gaps in your resume because of travel:

1. Make travel seem essential: When someone starts the conversation, “Why all the moving?” that doesn’t exactly sound like the most welcoming invitation to hear about my galavanting. In fact, it sounds like a threat, like they’re standing arms crossed waiting to judge my response. I found that the most effective way to soften up my interviewer is to make the strong argument that travel was essentially required for my jobs.

My response: Because the hospitality industry is world-wide, opportunities, often better opportunities, are presented to hospitality professionals who are willing to relocate. I don’t have any children and find it easy to take promotions and new positions in new locations. Plus, I have a Journalism degree, so on the side I’m a travel writer. I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and more. I wouldn’t be able to pursue my writing or advance my career if I didn’t take new jobs all over the country.

These publishing bragging rights didn't exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown
These publishing bragging rights didn’t exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown

2. Highlight the positives of travel and how it translates to “real world” experience: I always get the question in an interview along the lines of: “Tell me about a time where you couldn’t get along with or see eye to eye with a fellow employee. How did you handle the situation?” When you travel the country or the world, you’ve probably problem-solved your way out of some gnarly situations with all types of personalities. Use this to your advantage!

My response: (Start off with a specific anecdote). When you travel as much as I do, you are presented with unique problems in which you have to solve in order to survive. You meet a variety of different personalities from all over the world. I’ve become really good at reading people and getting along with others from all walks of life. Travel has opened my mind to different ways of living and respecting others’ opinions and ways of doing things. I believe my experience leads me to be an excellent team player with an open mind who is focused on nothing more than solving the task at hand quickly and efficiently.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences: It’s pretty obvious that you’ve traveled based on your resume. There’s no reason to hide behind a wall of shame. You should be proud that you’ve been able to organize a life where you’ve been able to achieve individual goals. Highlight that. All travelers, especially solo travelers, are self-starting individuals who are smart, savvy and usually great leaders.

During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm. I managed bookings, reservations, managed volunteer work shifts and more!
During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm, I managed bookings, reservations, lead volunteer work shifts and more!

4. When in doubt, turn the conversation around: If the specific job you’re looking at doesn’t involve travel one bit and the person interviewing you is looking at you practically dumb-founded, chances are this isn’t the right job for you anyway. In order not to thwart an opportunity, take the time to interview your interviewer. A lot of people fall in the trap of thinking an interview is all about drilling a candidate. Make sure you ask questions and interview the company. You need to know that this is the right fit for you, after all. Here are some sample questions I like to ask when it’s time to take the focus off myself:

a. What is your company culture like here?

b. What benefits do you offer your employees?

c. How does your company invest in the health and wellness of your employees?

d. What do you like about working here?

Letter d almost always puts the interviewer and I on a level playing field. I love asking that question! It usually catches my interviewer off-guard and makes them ponder, usually rather uncomfortably, what they like about working at said company. I get to sit back, smile, relax and learn about their experience and gauge whether or not this company is the right fit for me.

Overall, I’m not afraid to ask the hard questions during an interview. I’ve had so many jobs that I know what I’m looking for in a position. Travel has led me to experience many different work cultures, some excellent, some bad, and I’m able to read a company’s vibe pretty well during an interview.

The point is, don’t be scared to interview just because you have a non-traditional resume. Chances are the right person will come along and see your world experience as a huge asset. That is the person you want to be working for anyway: someone who recognizes your talents and values that you care about personal growth and experience.

5 Must-Eat Cuisines in Hawaii

Must eats final

They don’t call it paradise for nothing. Hawaii is well-known for it’s incredible year-round weather, scenic beaches, nice people and aloha spirit. But when it comes to food, Hawaii has some of the most diverse and delicious cuisines from all over the world. Because Hawaii’s population is made up of settlers from the east- China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines and from the west, a rich local food tradition was born. Without further ado, here’s my list of the 5 must-eat cuisines in Hawaii:

1.

CHINESE (1)Perhaps no cuisine ups the ante more than Chinese food in Honolulu. Forget about your greasy neighborhood Egg Fu Young joint. Honolulu serves up some of the tastiest Chinese dishes, from chow fun, lobster prepared your way (I prefer black bean sauce), minute chicken with cake noodle (only found in Hawaii) and dim sum that rivals Hong Kong. Leave your preconceived notions of what Chinese food is at the door, because Hawaii’s Chinese food will definitely impress you.

2.

JAPANESEIf you thought Japanese food is synonymous with sushi, you’re only half right. There are so many other amazing dishes and concepts that comprise Japanese cuisine. Pictured above is a Japanese-style hot pot- a mouth-watering amalgamation of tender meats and fresh veggies slowly simmering in a spicy broth. Pair it with some beer, and now you know why this popular and fun way to eat makes for lines out the doors. Hawaii also has udon (thick hot or cold noodle) restaurants, places for yakitori (grilled meat skewers), sukiyaki (another version of hot pot cooking) and butter yaki (similar to cooking in a hot pot, but everything is cooked in butter instead). Of course the sushi quality in Hawaii rivals that of Japan, so don’t forget to indulge in raw fish while in Hawaii.

3.

HAWAIIAN

You would think this would go without saying, but you must try Hawaiian food in Hawaii! So many people come here and don’t even know what Hawaiian food is. They are missing out. Here’s a list of some popular Hawaiian dishes: Chicken long rice, haupia (congealed coconut custard), lau-lau (pork wrapped in taro leaves and steamed), kalua pork (cooked underground), lomi lomi salmon (cubed raw salmon salad), pipikaula (dried, seasoned beef like beef jerky only tastier) and poi (pounded taro root pudding). You might find some variations of the aforementioned items at different fast-food or even sit-down restaurants, but nothing beats an old Hawaiian grandmother serving you her recipes in a traditional Hawaiian restaurant. Try Ono Hawaiian Foods on Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu. 

4.

-POPThink you know a thing or two about good BBQ? Unless you’re talking about Korean BBQ, you don’t. Korean food is my favorite cuisine and here’s why: there are innumerable flavor combinations possible from one simple sit down meal. A typical Korean dinner entails several different types of meat you grill on the table yourself (social and fun) and never-ending bon chon, or side dishes. Picture kimchee (fermented cabbage), salad, daikon radish kimchee, boiled potatoes, gochujang (fermented spicy/delicious bean paste), sprouts, noodles, rice, fish cake, cabbage…the list is literally never-ending. Pictured above is a Korean BBQ plate lunch consisting of barbecue chicken, beef and kalbi (the king of meats, also the tastiest), a variety of veggies, white rice and mac salad. Believe me, you have to have Korean food in Hawaii. They know what they’re doing.

5.

Local

Local style is a term for anything locals like to do. That’s no exception to food. Local style food can be pretty much anything the locals like to eat, from ahi salad with mango salsa (pictured above), to spam musubi (spam on top of rice wrapped in nori), hot dogs, saimin (noodle soup) fried chicken, li hing mui (Chinese salted dry plum) candy, mochi, and shave ice. When in Rome!

Hiking the Wa’ahila Ridge Trail

Hiking the

Sometimes, I get overly ambitious.  This morning and I woke up and said I wanted to go for a hike. Leave it to my boyfriend (and Hawaii local) Jonathan to take that sentiment to a whole new level and bring me to the Wa’ahila State Recreation Area to the Ridge Trail.

I knew it was going to be a somewhat difficult hike from the beginning, as to get to the trail head, we had to drive up and up Saint Louis Heights, a notoriously steep neighborhood. Tucked in the back of Ruth Street was the trail head.

Ridge

Legend has it that the Wa’ahila Ridge trail is home to the sleeping giant of Manoa, Chief Kauhi. Because of a lover’s spat between the beautiful princess Manoa, the gods eternally condemned Kauhi to spend the rest of his days contemplating aloha (grace) and pono (righteousness) along the top of Wa’ahila Ridge.

The trail is easy to follow with pink ribbons delineating your course. The entirety of the trail to the summit Mt. Olympus will take about 4 hours, but a great 2 hour (4 mile round trip) hike offers sweeping views of Honolulu.

The landscapes of Hawaii always surprise me. One minute you’re sweating as if in a desert, the next you’re in a breezy pine forest. This is where your hike begins.

FullSizeRender (3)

About a half-mile incline later, you’re in the middle of the valley face-to-face with some up and downhill boulder climbing. You certainly won’t need rappelling equipment, but there is some real rock climbing involved in this trail. I would never attempt this hike in the rain or right after it rains, as the ridge can be slippery and one false move will plummet you over the cliff.

Going down!
Going down!

Luckily after the boulder climbing ends, the trial evens out and twists and turns through some of the densest strawberry guava tree forests I’ve ever seen. None of the trees were fruiting at the moment, but I’ll be sure to come back when I can get my fill of those sweet tropical fruits!

Through the thicket, onward and upward
Through the thicket, onward and upward

Next you’ll be snaking your way up the mountain, taking the trail marked on the left through some more pines and visible roots. The good news is that the hardest part of the hike is over. Ready yourself for some fun and funky landscapes and amazing views.

Me and my pup Pono goofing around
Me and my pup Pono goofing around

After taking a water break and posing in this cave, it was up we went. Just a mile further will lead you to a grassy clearing where you can bask in the glory of a hard-earned view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.

I think I see my house! Just kidding, it's behind that crater on the left.
I think I see my house! Just kidding, it’s behind that crater on the left.

This is where we stopped, 2 miles up. You can keep trekking onward to Mt. Olympus for stunning views of the windward side. It’s so steep, you have to climb a rope to get up!

For this hike, I would definitely recommend going when it’s dry and not too rainy. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and save energy for the hike down. Boulder climbing going down isn’t always easy on the quads and knees.

O’ahu pleases once again with a hike that was challenging enough to get me out of my head and into a space to enjoy nature.

The non-stick figure girl’s guide to looking sexy in Hawaii

1

I’m not skinny. I live in Hawaii where the average temperature is around 80 degrees year-round. That means when the temperature’s rising, so is the pressure to look your best.

Unlike stick-thin model types and avid surfers (whom I adore and am jealous of, by the way), I weigh  200 pounds at 5’9″. Bikini weather year-round is scary for a plus-sized lady like myself. How will I hide my cellulite without looking like a librarian?

Here are some do’s and don’ts for looking sexy in paradise, or just about anywhere you find yourself:

DO play up your natural attributes:

icecream

For the love of God, we don’t need anymore Kim Kardashians running around. Ditch the lip collagen debate you know you’ve been having with yourself. Save your smoky eye for a night out at the club. During the day, go light on the makeup: a little mascara, powder, blush and lip gloss is all you need. If you have curls leftover from a day at the beach, re purpose them with a high ponytail.

DO keep it classy and sassy:

Keep it Classy

The last thing you want to be called is cheap, am I right? As much as you think your butt hanging out at Safeway is heaven-sent, for heaven’s sake, cover up! Have some pride in how you look when you go out. You don’t have to dress to the nines to go to the grocery store, but a well-dressed person exudes confidence and authority. Dress well and you will earn the respect you deserve!

DON’T be afraid to show some skin:

SHow some skin

Shake what your mamma gave you! Just because you have a little cellulite or don’t have a perfectly flat stomach doesn’t mean you’re not sexy. Break out those short shorts and show off a little leg. In fact, I think imperfect bodies are way more interesting, and often times more sexy, than perfect ones!

DO accessorize:

Break out those hats, watches, belts, purses and anything else that completes your outfit. Believe me, the little touches make a big difference. A nice belt across the waist creates the illusion of a smaller figure while hats and jewelry brim with fun and excitement!

Don't forget to

DON’T be afraid to have your own style:

WORLD YOU LOVE

Not everyone so easily fits into the mold of what’s cool and trendy. For me fashion is about being confident and loving what you wear. On the islands, the attire is more laid-back. This is one of my go-to outfits: Jean shorts, a loose-fitting tee, trucker hat, and of course, peace sign!

Hope you found this post fun and inspiring! Not get out there and start looking your sexiest!

How to drink like a local in Honolulu, Hawaii

*SPOILER ALERT* This is not a post for the best place to drink a tasty, yet over-priced Mai Tai while fighting for a table at Duke’s in Waikiki. While there is a time, place and clientele for that, I’m gonna spill my ultimate itinerary of a perfect night out with the locals.

—————————————–

You’re going to need fuel for the night ahead, so start at Yakitori Glad (766 Kapahulu Avenue), a popular Japanese tapas restaurant. Everything, and I mean everything, on the menu is $3.90! Pro tip: Order the large Kirin draft, as the small Kirin draft is also $3.90, just smaller.

What could be better than cold beer and grilled meat?
What could be better than cold beer and grilled meat?

Make sure you order the salt and pepper chicken kabobs, the shrimp, the ahi poke (diced, marinated raw Ahi Tuna), the chicken stuffed mushrooms, stuffed green chili peppers and the wasabi beef skewer.

Now that you’re fueled up and ready to go, head over to Honolulu’s industrial district to Honolulu Beer Works (328 Cooke Street) for a hip, warehouse watering hole serving their own small-batch brewed beer. Pints will run you $6.75, but the beer is great quality, the community seating and ambiance is great and the service is top-notch. Go for a pint of the Sheltered Bay IPA or the whimsically named Animal Farmhouse Ale.

Bottom's up!
Bottom’s up!

If for some reason you didn’t fill up at Yakitori Glad, Honolulu Beer Works has a small, but ono selection of local kine grinds (delicious food).

No need to get back into your car for the next stop. Walk over to Bevy (661 Auahi Street), an eclectic, artsy hand-crafted cocktail place. Pro tip: Make sure you come during happy hour which runs Mon-Sat 4-7 p.m. Here’s why: You can get local beer for $3 a pop, or just start living the high life like I did. I had a $5 glass of champagne and Jonathan had a $5 gin champagne cocktail. Top it all off with $1.50 oysters on the half-shell and you should start feeling mighty fine.

Start snapchatting your friends how hard your life is.
Start snapchatting your friends how hard your life is.

You have to be loosened up by now, but it’s not time to call it a night yet. Next stop? Brew’d Craft Pub (9th and Waialae) is a cool neighborhood spot with a beer selection that rivals many good craft beer bars on the mainland. Pair awesome beer with upbeat funk music and you have a recipe for a fun night. Choose from 20 rotating taps and over 200 bottled beer. We shared a 22 oz.  Big Island Holy Humulus IPA and couldn’t resist an order of their bacon fat fries with homemade ketchup. Round two was some other delicious IPA whose name I can’t recall. Maybe it was time to pack it in.

NAH! The last stop on your itinerary is Karaoke Hut Sports Bar & Grill (909 Kapahulu Avenue). I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t divey, but at this point in the night, this is exactly what you need – trust me. After a few cocktails, nothing is more fun than passing around the microphone to belt out “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” You can rent a private room for $30 an hour or just sing out in the bar space. The beer selection is meh, but at this point, you should gladly switch to Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light anyway.

Pass around the mic!
Pass around the mic!

And there you have it. Make sure to take an Uber home and call it a night…Or just do like the locals and keep drinking once you get home!

The Colors of Hawaii

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing I love the most about living in Hawaii, but one thing’s for sure: the colors here top the list. I never knew life could be so vibrant, beautiful and colorful. Here are some photos that I’ve taken in the past few months that show just how diverse and the color spectrum is here on a daily basis:

KohalaThis photo was just a typical sunset at Kohala Beach on O’ahu, but I love the orange and black contrast.

hiking
Hiking the Kuliouo Ridge Trail

There’s so much greenery in Hawaii all times of year. This was taken in February. The reason why we get so many rainbows is because it rains nearly every day and it’s sunny a lot, too. In order to get that lush green tropical rain forest, we have to endure our share of rain storms.

View from the top at Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
View from the top at Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Sometimes cloudy days lend themselves to great shots. Here’s the payoff view from the top of Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail on the east side of O’ahu. I think the most stunning colors are the water and greenery.

Ahi Sashimi Salad at Kona Brewing Company
Ahi Sashimi Salad at Kona Brewing Company

I hate to tell you, but if your Ahi Tuna isn’t that color, you’re just not living. This Ahi Tuna salad at Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii Kai was worth every penny of its $22 price tag. I love the various colors. It’s truly a work of art!

Waikiki Sunset
Waikiki Sunset

Before moving to Hawaii, I felt amazed and jealous of all those sunset shots I’d see floating around Instagram. Then one day while casually walking down the street in Waikiki, I looked to my left and saw that it was so easy to capture the beauty that is Hawaii. The shadows and natural back lighting make photographing beautiful sunsets a no-brainer. I love the clouds’ indigo/deep purple hues in the background.

Diamond Head View
Diamond Head View

It’s almost hard to accept how beautiful the colors in this moment were. I was treated to a spectacular sunset this evening and the cotton candy sky against verdant green Diamond Head were nearly enough to make me weep.

My absolute favorite
My absolute favorite at Waikiki Beach

Here’s a rule of thumb: when the sun dips into the sky, wait around 10 or 15 minutes and see what happens. Patience was a virtue this night as I captured the most ethereal, stunning color spectrum I’ve ever seen. I still can’t believe it’s real.

sistersAt the Kaneohe Sand Bar, the contrast of light blue and dark blue ocean waters against the dramatic backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range is something to behold.

Koko Marina
Koko Marina

Like I mentioned before, sometimes cloudy skies give way to amazing shots. I just adore the color of the water, the white boat and the ominous clouds over the mountains. Paradise.

Rainbow from home
Rainbow from home

No Hawaiian photo shoot is complete without at least one photo of a rainbow. When you least expect it, you look up into the ordinary sky (well, ordinary by Hawaii’s standards) and see a vibrant rainbow. There’s a reason why the rainbow is on the Hawaii license plate. No matter how commonplace rainbows might be, I’m still thrilled to see one and I’m often taken aback at how colorful and peaceful they make the atmosphere.

Getting settled on Oahu, Hawaii

Almost 2 years in the making, my move to Oahu has finally come to fruition. At the end of January, myself, my boyfriend Jonathan and our dog Pono made the journey back home to the Hawaiian islands where we first met over 2 years ago.

Taking our dog to Hawaii was a feat in itself. We had to endure a 4-month waiting period because Hawaii is a rabies-free state. After getting our dog’s blood work done on the mainland and waiting, we were finally ready for takeoff on January 21st.

Pono flew well, and Hawaiian Airlines took excellent care of him. By the way, Hawaiian airlines is the best! Their seats are a soothing blue color and they play relaxing Hawaiian music when you are boarding the flight. They gave us a cheese and fruit platter and served everyone a “snack”: Maui onion chips and a free Mai Tai! I definitely recommend flying Hawaiian next time you visit. They will start your trip full of aloha.

We arrived at Jonathan’s family’s house in Honolulu. They put us up for several weeks while we hunted for an apartment. Jonathan’s mom and aunt are Korean, so we feasted on amazing dishes during our stay, including her one and only gochujang crab stew:

You can't even comprehend the deliciousness
You can’t even comprehend the deliciousness

Not to mention, his dad, who is Japanese, steamed 2 whole Opakapakas (Pink Snappers), then served them up with Chinese parsley, onions, green onions and crisped the skin with hot oil. This picture is before he set off the building’s fire alarm with the oil’s smoke:

Hawaiian pink snapper
Hawaiian pink snapper

After a few short weeks staying with Jonathan’s family, we were lucky enough to find a 1 bedroom privately owned condo in the Kapahulu neighborhood of Honolulu. We just love it here!

I can get used to this view from our lanai (balcony)
I can get used to this view from our lanai (balcony)

Of course, being on Hawaii, we had to hit up the beach. Pono has never been to the beach in Hawaii, so we wanted to take him somewhere he could stretch his legs off the leash. We took a trip to Bellows Field Beach Park in Waimanalo. It was a cloudy Sunday, but even a cloudy day in Hawaii is amazing.

You can see Pono on the left hand side of the photo exploring
You can see Pono on the left hand side of the photo exploring

A few days later, we decided to cruise up to the North Shore through Haleiwa town and to Waimea Bay Beach Park. In the winter, the waves and the wind make the beach not suitable for swimming except for aqua-man-like folks and brave surfers. The waves were crashing against the shore and a caution tape closed off much of the high-surf areas of the beach.

Waimea Bay Beach Park
Waimea Bay Beach Park

From the North Shore, we cruised around to the east side and visited Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe. I loved this place because it has great views of China Man’s Hat, and its relatively quiet, uncrowded and secluded. Not to mention the behemoth Ko’olau Mountains flank this beach park, making the scenery extraordinary. The waves are gentle because of a break wall, and there’s plenty of interesting creatures roaming about, including crabs, birds and roosters.

Jonathan and Pono enjoying a nice beach walk
Jonathan and Pono enjoying a nice beach walk

 

Me in front of China Man's Hat
Me in front of China Man’s Hat

 

The Ko'olau Mountains just across the street from the beach
The Ko’olau Mountains just across the street from the beach

Overall, an amazing day in paradise. We look forward to getting more and more settled into our new home and exploring more amazing places on this beautiful island. Aloha!

Kualoa Beach Park
Kualoa Beach Park

Overcoming the Four Letter Word

Nothing’s certain. Nothing’s perfect. The time is now.

So often before I took the leap of faith and starting traveling around the world solo, I wanted all the stars to align. In my mind, I fancied every aspect of my life lining up in perfect harmony so that it would make sense to quit whatever I was doing and travel. After all, I had what all college graduate Americans had: a decent job, an apartment and a modest budget to purchase the important things, like a night out at the bars to forget about the monotony I signed up for.

I was living in Philadelphia, working a restaurant job and daydreaming, as I cleaned tables, of faraway places, places I would surely never see, especially on a waitress’ salary. When dealing with a difficult customer, I’d imagine taking a zip line through the rainforest somewhere, maybe Costa Rica, or even Hawaii. Hell, I’d take a zip line in my own backyard if it meant a few moments of serenity.

This yearning inside of me was new and in my mind, fairly controversial. . I was afraid and that four-letter word, fear, held me back.  How, as a woman, could I travel the world extensively solo? I would probably get raped, or mugged, or worse, end up back at home, empty-handed, broke and unhappy. These are the scenarios your worst enemies plot out for you. Unfortunately sometimes your worst enemy is your own psyche.

I took to the internet and gained an immeasurable amount of confidence. I discovered Matador Network, a travel writing community and signed up for their courses. This way, I could not only put my journalism degree to use (finally!), but I could gain some valuable insight and resources into how to make a round the world trip possible.

Through my travels, I learned that the power of manifestation is the key driving force behind our life’s biggest ambitions. I yearned to travel. It hurt how bad I wanted it. I saved up and signed up for my first US Passport. I didn’t know where I was going or when, but I was going.

I then emailed a childhood friend who had been traveling alone around the world since high school. I scrolled enviously through her Costa Rica and Thailand pictures. I emailed her asking in my naiveté, “How did you do it? Do you have any advice?”

She told me, and I would subsequently tell people who emailed me asking the same thing after my travels, the only thing holding you back from traveling is you.

A lot of people have the misconception that to travel you have to be rich. This isn’t the case. With resourcefulness and a bit of savings and bravery, you too can make your dream of traveling a reality.

After mustering up confidence, I was ready. Where should I choose first? The world was an awfully big place. I had never traveled internationally besides Canada and Mexico. The scope seemed so large and I was woefully overwhelmed.

Then it dawned on me: I could go anywhere. I didn’t have anyone to tell me “no” except myself. That realization sparked the enormous boost of self-confidence I had needed. My adventurous spirit was alive and well. I no longer had to wait for all the stars to align, because perfect isn’t real.  I manifested the most perfect situation for me to take a leap of faith. I was brave. I was ready.

I decided on one of the farthest places from home I could think of: Australia.

I researched ways to save money while I traversed the land down under. I organized a few home stays and hostels. The rest I would figure out as I went along.

As I was sitting on the long flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and think that I was starting my journey of self-discovery while kicking fear’s ass.

Fear is the most debilitating emotion there is. It puts ideas in your head that you aren’t worthy, that you’re stuck where you are. Fear makes you believe you are less important, weak, scared and futile.

I decided to throw fear out the window and start doing my own thing. I was starting with Australia.

When I arrived on the other side of the world, by myself, backpack on, all I could think as I headed into the warm, February air was “I did it.”

I took a bus to King’s Cross and checked into my hostel. From there, I didn’t immediately fall asleep because I was so wired from the 18 hour plane ride. I took to the streets, camera in hand, and started to get a better idea of what Australia was all about.

A few hours later, I collapsed into bed. The next morning offered a pleasant surprise: befriending other travelers.  A girl from Belgium and I hit it off right away and decided on a day excursion to one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, Bondi Beach.  As we walked along the coast to Coogee Beach, stopping along the way for a dip or a taste of gelato, I was in awe at my “luck.” How did I end up here? I wondered.

A view from the Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach
A view from the Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach

In front of my eyes were such beautiful sites, so many amazing, kind people. Is THIS what I had been afraid of? Having an amazing time? Meeting people from halfway around the globe who share similar interests as me? It all seemed so silly now. It’s true that nature loves courage.

From Sydney I continued my travels north to Brisbane. I stayed with a lovely young couple, their daughter, and a French exchange couple. In the few weeks I stayed there, I learned about Australian gardening, canoed, went on a day trip to the Gold Coast to watch some of the world’s best surfers and saw the first of many kangaroos.

After my stint in Brisbane, I craved more. I took a flight up north to Cairns. I wanted to see and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I wanted to be the only person I knew personally to witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World. My thought was, “If not me, then who?”

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

I also wanted to take my bravery a step further and do something I saw people online in the travel writing circle seemed to do with ease: couchsurf.

I wrote a few couchsurfing requests from a hostel in Cairns and was accepted by Nevan, a 20-something world-traveler and aspiring skydiving instructor. He took me in for 10 days it was one of the safest, most sincere encounters of my life.

While staying with Nevan, we cooked, went to the beach and explored the rainforest village of Kuranda together. I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased and was during the time I was able to have one of the best days of my life snorkeling with sharks and various precious sea species in the Great Barrier Reef. 

Through couchsurfing with Nevan, I met Linnea, a fellow German traveler. She and I became quite close in the short time we had together and she even joined me on a rainforest tour in Cape Tribulation. The day ended in a giant rainstorm where we played in the rain and jumped in puddles. It was the quintessential carefree moment. I loved the way Linnea was always humbled and pleased by life’s “real” moments by exclaiming, “This is life!” or “This is really living!” It’s not every day you hear that.

Nevan, Linnea and I at Kuranda
Nevan, Linnea and I at Kuranda

When I finally left Australia a month later, I already felt like a seasoned traveler. Nevan told me to bring one thing back to America with me – a message to other fellow travelers. He told me to be an ambassador of international travel to my friends, family and anyone who will listen. He said:

“For so long, the world has been looking at America. Now it’s time for America to look at the world.”

The Gold Coast, Australia
The Gold Coast, Australia

Since my trip to Australia, my wanderlust became insatiable. I traveled all over the U.S., lived in Hawaii for a year and visited Thailand. By overcoming my fears, I discovered my life’s passion. Following your bliss and overcoming fear can produce some amazing memories and ah-ha moments. Fear is one four-letter word I won’t let hold me back. I’d only be restricting myself from the uncertainty and beauty this world has to offer.  And now, I know better.

5 benefits of long-term travel

The co-founder and CEO of Airbnb.com Brian Chesky has a lot of interesting ideas regarding the future of travel and the industry as a whole. He said that the industry is undervalued and travel as we know it will change. Gone will be the days where travel is seen as your 2 week escape from the real-world. Rather, travel will be the real world. With people becoming more mobile than ever, earning their living via the web anywhere on Earth, there is no reason to stay in the same city or even country for your whole life. As the world is opening up, becoming more accessible and with the advent of peer-to-peer companies like Airbnb.com, now more than ever, there are more reasons to ditch the desk and start seeing the world.

The benefits of long-term travel are numerous and as it becomes easier and more cost-efficient to travel more often, there is no reason not to consider hitting the road for longer-spurts. Below are 5 benefits of long-term travel:

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1. You achieve a great sense of place: First impressions are everything. When you walk off the plane in Hawaii, you smell the sweet, succulent flowers and feel a cool ocean breeze sweep across your face. Then you are whisked away to your hotel and rental car where you barely give a second thought to what exactly ARE those sweet, beautiful flowers or learning about the trade winds which make paradise cool and breezy. When you stay a bit longer you make connections. No longer are you left to wonder why a place is the way it is. You take leisurely strolls through upcountry where the flowers grow wild. You have time to get a library card and research local flora and fauna or volunteer at a local farm. You take up sailing and learn about the trade winds. You have enough time to become the essence of the environment you’re experiencing. That’s something you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

2.  Your memories are more engrained into your being so that you can carry them around with your whole life: When you spend longer than a week or two somewhere, it becomes less of a vacation and more of real life. When you retire and start really traveling, you have less years to carry those experiences around with you. But, if you do long-term travel while your young, the fantastic memories you have stay with you and influence your entire life ahead of you. The value of your travels are then ten-fold.

3. You tend to make long-lasting relationships that stay with you for a lifetime: Making friends might be easy, but maintaining and keeping them is something that requires time and effort. Rarely do you make life-long friends with somebody in passing, but just stay a while and make it a habit to maintain the relationship and now you have something that will resemble a lifelong friendship. The friends you meet in your travels, especially the ones you have taken time to really get to know are especially valuable to your future. You can meet up with them later and stay with them in their new place of residence, reconnecting and reminiscing about the old times. They help preserve and keep your travel memories alive.

4. You learn insiders’ and locals’-only secrets you might have otherwise overlooked: I spent 3 months in the Yellowstone National Park area before I saw a grizzly bear. There were many people I met that hoped to see a grizzly bear in the short 5-7 days they were on vacation. And 90 percent of them did not experience seeing a bear, sometimes the main motive of their trip. I waiting patiently for my first grizzly encounter and it was worth it: I fished for trout along a riverbed with two young adult grizzlies in a locals-spot I didn’t even know about until a local clued me in. Had I not been there as long as I was, I may never had had that life-enriching experience. Same goes for intimate little spots that give your destination its character: the delicious shrimp stand in the country, the small little swim hole tucked in the woods, the unspoken happy hours at corner cantinas you may have just walked past. The secrets are endless and unfold before you beautifully IF you are patient enough to wait for them.

5. You learn what it’s like to really live somewhere as opposed to visiting as an outsider:  We spend most of our life trying to fit in. We want and crave acceptance. So why is it enjoyable to spend your precious leisure time feeling like an alien? While it’s fun to be a tourist once and while, more often than not, the locals hate you, but tolerate you because you stimulate their economy. If you stick around, making connections and meeting people, no longer are you alien. You are accepted and an integral part of the fabric that weaves through the community. Gone will be that painful feeling like an outsider, eating at the most expensive places because you don’t know any better. Soon, you will be the local giving visitors recommendations, feeling wiser and more enriched for it.

Life as I know it

I would like to say that I just got done traveling extensively this summer, but I’m sure part of landing in San Diego is part of my travels as well.

Part of me embarking on the road for so many years now has been to improve my travel writing and enrich my life with experiences. Ever since I left Chicago in 2010, I’ve been a lot of places and have seen a lot of things.

I signed up for a travel writing course through MatadorU, which sadly, I’m only 50 percent done with. Part of my goal of being in San Diego is to get back to working on my writing. In any case, when I first started the course, I was a little miffed over what to write about. I was a travel writer who didn’t travel. I had no idea what to talk about. How could I describe a scene from a faraway place if I hadn’t been to one?

In any case, that’s when I made the decision to travel more. Extensively, curiously, endlessly. Since then, I’ve been all over the place, but I haven’t done too much writing about it.

Since I’ve last updated, I spent the summer in Wyoming. I was shocked and surprised to end up there, but it was a beautiful summer. I was living IN the Shoshone National Forest, surrounded by amazing trees, wildlife, hiking opportunities, padding/rafting, and horseback riding.

Our backyard and playground
Our backyard and playground

Jon and I’s relationship is stronger than ever. We have been together a year now, and we also added a new addition to our family: Pono. He is a 1-year old Australian Shepherd mix who is completely high energy and the epitome of puppy. We love him.

I hate to say that I’ve been to busy to write, but it’s true. Yesterday and today were the first time I hadn’t left the house in months. We’re usually traveling around, letting the dog run around somewhere, connecting as sort of a family unit. I feel like for the first time in a long time, I have something to take care of besides me. I have a man and a pet. We go places and do things together and it fulfills me immensely.

This lil' guy
This lil’ guy

At the same time, I haven’t given up on my goals of writing. I want to tell you all of the amazing things I’ve seen and done. I want to explain to you what Stand Up Paddle Boarding the Snake River was like (somewhat terrifying, but invigorating!). I need to explain to you guys how lovely Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are. I want to reminisce about driving cross-country 3 times in 3 months, the Badlands, Oregon, the coast of California. I still need to write about how I feel about Colorado.

The Grand Tetons
The Grand Tetons

There was a time when I felt frustrated with the mainland USA. I traveled abroad and lived in Hawaii for a year. It wasn’t until I got back and really saw America first hand (slow and intentionally) that I realized that is truly the best country and I’m proud of it. Jon and I drove through so many back roads, fished in rivers with no one around for miles, shared a river fishing experience with two juvenile grizzly bears. We watched the sunset over peaks of giant mountains and cruised on pristine lakes next to the most amazing mountains in the country. We’ve eaten our way around the U.S., trying to avoid the corporate McDonald’s road trip by eating local and finding the best food we could along the way.

Who are those little buggers?
Who are those little buggers?

Then we landed in Southern California, and that’s where we are now. For the first time in a while, we have a kitchen again. Our dog has a backyard to run around and we are nesting. It’s breezy and beautiful here. The seafood alone is great. I take a look at my life and sometimes wonder how it is that I got so lucky. How I get to travel and experience so many amazing, exotic, breathtaking moments. How I get to taste the best foods, live in the most amazing locales and have such a happy existence.

sushi
One of the better meals we’ve shared

It’s then I realize that I’m following my bliss. I opened my heart a long time ago, as scary as it was, and listened to my true desires. I wanted to expose myself naked to the world and experience. I didn’t care if would be good or bad, I wanted it. And boy, did I get it.

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place now. I’m looking for work, somewhat desperately after spending a small fortune traveling so much. It’s back to the “real world” for now, but I vow to keep my travel memories alive by writing about them.

I finally pitched an article to a travel-zine which I haven’t made time for in over a year. I was putting it off, feeling anxious and reluctant. Then I thought about all of the incredible emotions I’ve experienced and the trips associated with them and wrote them down. And now, proudly, I can say that I have a travel repertoire. I am no longer scratching my head over what to write about. Now the hard part is which travel memory to write about. I guess that’s a first world problem.

It’s good to be back on the blog and good to stretch my fingers and my brain again. I look forward to putting some more of my thoughts out there, no matter if trivial, vain or enlightening. This is me. This is my life. And I’m going to share it.

Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park
Me and my little Pono, Badlands National Park