Dirty Debt Secrets, Part 2- Conquering Debt

In Part 1 of Dirty Debt Secrets I shared my personal story of how I got in over my head with credit card debt. It’s never something we consciously set out to do, but without proper monitoring and having a budget in place it can easily get out of hand. Before we know it we’re drowning our sorrows in a bottle of wine on the couch wondering how we could have been so careless. I am very much still in the process of my debt payoff, but have noticed what key things helped me make some major progress. So put the bottle of wine down and log into your account because it’s time to tackle that outstanding balance! Yea it sucks, but you know what’s worse? Not doing anything about it.

How I’ve Been Conquering My Debt Payoff

Read this book, no seriously read it.

If you’re facing debt issues, both big and small, then Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” is a must-read for you. In this book he offers no-nonsense advice and strategies for how to manage and pay down your debt. Best of all, it’s packed full of success stories from people in WAY worse situations than you, so you can feel a little bit better about yourself along the way. One of my favorite strategies of his is the Snowball Method, which is especially effective when your debt is coming from a few different places and not just one source. Instead of tackling all outstanding debt sources equally, or focusing on the one with the highest interest rate first, Dave recommends putting your most efforts into the smallest amount of debt first. Pay that off, then move onto the next smallest, adding the amount of $ you were paying on first one now to the next source of debt. By starting with the lowest amount of debt first and working your way up it allows you to have mini wins along the way. Obviously keep paying ALL of your debt bills each month, but really focus in and pay in as MUCH as you can to that one with the smallest balance. I used this method since my non-student loan debt was located in a few different places and it really helped me to stay motivated. Nothing feels better than seeing that $0 outstanding balance, it only hypes you up to put as much as you can toward the next source so you can get that next win. Since starting the Snowball Method I completely paid off two different sources of debt, and I’m telling you, it’s addictive. I am now down to my one last area of non-student loan debt, and in the last 6 months have paid off 70% of it. It is actually exciting now to drop a few hundred $$ after a paycheck onto my credit card and see that balance jump down more and more.

Start Saying No and Decrease Your Social Spending

Remember in Part 1 when I mentioned how no one likes to be the cheap friend, the one who has to say no? Well it’s time for you to embrace your frugalness and the word no! If you want to make REAL progress in paying off your debt then you won’t be able to do all the things your friends do, wear the latest fashion trends, or drive a nice new car-  and you need to start being comfortable with that. Each time you stay in instead of going out, just order 1 drink instead of 4, or turn down an invite to a concert, that’s more money in your pocket to put towards getting rid of that debt. If your friends are true friends they will fully understand and support you. If they don’t understand and still pressure you then they suck. Kidding, but not really kidding. When I was still living in Atlanta one of my close friends and I loved just chilling on the couch on a Saturday night with a bottle of wine together. WAY cheaper than going out, we didn’t have to spend money on uber, and we got to be in our PJs.

Pretty much any night where you can get drunk with good company in your PJs and barely spend money is a fantastic night as you get older.

Decreasing my social spending also became a lot easier when I came back from Europe and was no longer living in the city. I was living with Stephen, about 35 min outside of Atlanta, and our days were usually made up of work, cooking at home and just spending time together. I would still get into town, see friends and have a social life- but it was less frequent and a hell of a lot easier to spend less when I wasn’t living so close to all the fun. I could no longer just uber from home for a night out, which meant I had to drive, which also meant I had to limit the amount of drinks I ordered. All of those factors together made saving money on social spending a much more doable task for me.

Reevaluate Your Rent Choices

A huge influence on the success of my debt payoff came from giving up my apartment and no longer living on my own. Rent and all the bills that came with it were my biggest monthly expense followed by my student loan payments. Rent is usually most people’s biggest monthly payment, and if there is anything you can do to decrease it then definitely consider it. I had already gotten rid of all my furniture and 70% of my ‘stuff’ before traveling overseas, so when I returned it made staying with Stephen an easy transition for both of us. Stephen teases me now because when we first started dating I said I was NOT going to live with a boyfriend, it’s even more funny now that I live across the world with him. But in the long run it made sense to break one of my ‘rules’ in exchange for a long term financial advantage. I am not saying everyone should go move in together, seriously don’t even consider it if you can’t see this person as a lifelong partner, but sharing the burden of living expenses can help a lot so you can put more money towards debt. Another option is living with a family member, even if it’s just for 6 months or a year, so you can make those bigger payments. After Stephen moved back to Australia I lived with my mom for a few months until my move so I was able to continue with the higher debt payments. I couldn’t believe I was living with my mom again at almost 30 years old, even if it was only temporary. But sometimes you need to swallow your pride and get creative with options for cutting large costs. The year I spent not having my own place saved me over $12,000 which I was able to use elsewhere. Not too shabby. If these are not doable options for you then look at how to still decrease your living expenses- ditch the cable and just rock the Netflix, move a little bit out of town or get a smaller place where rent is cheaper, get a roommate instead of living by yourself. There are always ways to cut costs, you just have to be a little creative and get outside your comfort zone. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

 

Having an understanding and super supportive partner.

I could not have asked for a better support system than my boyfriend Stephen. I remember before I opened up about my debt situation with him, I felt like it was this major baggage I was embarrassed to ever mention. Have you seen the episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where Lily doesn’t want to tell Marshall about all the CC debt she’s been hiding? Yep, that’s how I felt. I thought exposing this secret about myself would be a total turn off. I’m sure no one WANTS to date someone in debt (especially credit card debt), it’s way easier to be with someone with no money baggage. We talked about it a little, but later into our relationship we started to have open discussions about it- exactly how much it was and what to do about it. His influence, money outlook and support has been the #1 thing that’s helped me come this far. Stephen is the perfect example of someone living within their means. Like me, he didn’t have someone to pay for his education or support him during those young adult years, but the way he handles money is something I aspire to be like. I mean for crying out loud we’re talking about a guy who lived off of $1,200 total for 3 months while traveling around France and Spain surfing, living in his car. He doesn’t believe in spending money he doesn’t have, to the point where it’s slightly annoying sometimes. He does have credit cards now, but it is solely for gaining points to use for flight purchases and he only charges to the card if he has the money waiting in his checking/savings account. Definitely the way a credit card should be handled.

On a recent trip to Melbourne Stephen and I were talking about future vacations (I know right, talking about the next vacation while on vacation). He is also a travel addict and maintains a separate savings account just for traveling, because you know, he’s responsible and stuff. He said I should look at my budget and think about how much I could actually afford to set aside each month for future trips, no matter how small, so we could figure out finances together. I told him it really doesn’t make sense for me to put anything aside for traveling, at all, until my credit card debt was GONE. If in the next few months he wanted to go somewhere, he would just have to go alone. For me to say that was a huge step forward. He was really proud of me, and together we worked out a way for me to be 100% CC debt free by the end of 2017. The plan includes me completely cutting out ALL unnecessary spending- no shopping for the house, no buying clothes, getting my nails done, eating out, nothing until the debt was gone. All of my income right now is going toward regular bills (phone, student loans, health insurance, etc), setting aside just a tiny bit for necessities like gas, and then everything else goes towards the credit card. Seem pretty hardcore? Kind of, but the way I am looking at it is it’s short term pain for an amazing long term gain. Stephen is completely holding me accountable for this commitment, and having someone who knows my situation and who supports me without judging has been key for keeping me on track.

 

Get a Debt Gym Buddy

You know how they tell you having a gym buddy will make you go to the gym more often than if you were attempting to go all on your own? You have someone checking in, asking you to join them and holding you accountable. Make someone in your life your debt gym buddy. For me that person is Stephen for sure. Your partner is the perfect person to be your debt gym buddy since they are already such a big part of your life. If you haven’t already, open up to them about your situation and ask them to be there to cheer you on and support you when you’re feeling like giving up. If you’re living the single life consider confiding in a close friend or family member- let them know what you’re dealing with and that you want their support with making it happen. I also confided in a few close friends of mine when I decided to get really serious about my debt and it felt really good to be transparent. If you and your partner are both in similar debt situations, then you already have your debt gym buddy! Just make sure you are both staying accountable instead of going back down the rabbit hole together.

 

Get a Side Hustle

Side hustles have become a growing trend these days. So many people have them and it’s a fantastic way to earn extra cash when your salary is limited by one employer. All those years I was working full-time for one company I almost always had some sort of side hustle to increase my overall income. Over the years I’ve had side jobs for graphic design, social media, marketing-  I even went back to waiting tables at some point for a couple nights a week. It can get exhausting, commuting, working an 8 hour day, and then having to work more at night or on the weekends… but it’s worth it in the end. You can choose to either use that side income only for debt payoff, or use the extra money for your regular spending so you can put almost all your main income toward debt. I’ve kind of flip flopped over the years how I’ve structured it, usually in the past the extra income was used for traveling or something I didn’t actually need. My first international trip to Costa Rica with Under30Experiences was paid for by side projects. Since I left the 9-5 and started working for myself the side hustles and main income kind of all got mixed into one- my business. But I still have my main regular clients which support all of my living expenses, student loan payments and credit card payments. But now the little, not-so-regular projects are all going straight toward, you guessed it, the credit card!

 

Hitting $0 and Moving Forward

This coming New Years will be a milestone for me because it will be the first time in many years I’ll be starting a year with no credit card debt. That goal alone is what makes shutting down any little spending thoughts that creep into my head so much easier. I am dying to decorate my new home office, to get a few more lamps and pieces for the house, and OMG my nails look like sh!t and need a professional makeover. But it’s these small choices to say no and put my money elsewhere that is making it possible for me to be done with the CC debt at the end of this year. Once that balance hits zero and my next paycheck comes in you better believe I’ll be at the nail salon and buying some damn throw pillows. But after this year my debt journey is still not over unfortunately. Next up is the student loan debt, which I will tackle full force. Okay, so I probably won’t be quite as hardcore about cutting spending as I’ve been lately, but my goal is to double my monthly payments to speed things up. And when that day comes when I am completely, 100% debt free, O what an indescribable feeling it will be.

Dirty Debt Secrets, My Story- Part 1

Credit card debt is like a dirty little secret we carry around with us and don’t want anyone to know about. Like if we don’t talk about it it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. On the surface it looks like we have our sh!t together and life is grand. But in reality, we cringe everytime we have to face our account balance- we have no extra money and the thought of fully paying it off feels impossible.  It wasn’t always like that though- at first we felt in control, only really spent what we had or what was on its way, and paid it off each month. Then our budget gets tighter, emergencies pop up we don’t have the cash for, we get used to seeing a regular CC balance and start only paying minimums each month. We thought we were more responsible than this and could manage things better, then the feelings of shame and disappointment settle in. I have gone through this and felt this way for years now until finally I was ready to face my secret head on.

In this post series I am going totally transparent with you to share my own experience and advice on overcoming. I realize this is opening myself up for criticism and being viewed as irresponsible, a failure, immature, the list can go on. But I know I am not those things, even though certain choices I’ve made in the past may have been. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we reflect on them, make changes and grow in a positive direction from them that shows who we are. I hope this resonates with anyone who has found themselves in a similar situation, and if you aren’t making changes already make this your “sign” to do so.

Some of you may be thinking, OOO so that’s how she went off traveling through Europe! I can proudly say that trip was completely paid for by me, no credit cards allowed. By that time I was already frustrated with my debt situation and was determined to not let the amazing Europe experience be tainted by the regret of more debt later. I was extremely frugal 90% of my time overseas and spent cash I actually had. I could have eaten out WAY more, gone to the bars at night, done more shopping or stayed at nicer places. I treated myself once in awhile, usually my last night in a city, but day-to-day I was a total cheapo! If you think you need a lot of money to travel Europe, you’re wrong.

My Dirty Debt Story

Like so many others I already had/have student debt from college. I’ve been working since I was 15 (technically 12 if you count babysitting) have been 100% on my own since I was 18, put myself through college, paid for all my art supplies (can you say $$$), my own rent and all of my own bills. I used to be jealous of friends of mine whose parents were able to put them through school, who didn’t graduate with a huge burden on their shoulders, who didn’t know the feelings I was feeling. Maybe if I had that I wouldn’t have been so tight financially and wouldn’t have been “pushed” into “needing” a credit card to get me by (notice the quotation marks because it’s total BS what we tell ourselves sometimes). First of all jealousy is a wasted feeling- we are all different and you should never hold negative feelings towards others who are simply in a different situation than you. Second of all, instead of feeling sorry for myself I should have been feeling proud, how freaking badass was I for making it happen all on my own all those years. I remember calling my mom for money ONCE- I was $50 short of making rent and had no other option. Another time I almost ran out of gas driving, I had no money to get gas until I worked again waiting tables. The only money I had was a tiny amount in a savings account I only had access to via a written check, which gas stations don’t take. I didn’t have a smartphone yet to transfer money right then and there, I just sat there in the parking lot feeling helpless. Luckily my car made it home, barely, and I was able to transfer some cash from my computer and get refueled. Definitely some poor planning and a learning experience. While it was hard, really hard sometimes, I look back now and see how it pushed me to be resourceful, a really hard worker, to be more determined, and it instilled in me that your life is YOUR responsibility. But towards the end of college and after, when I should have really been budgeting, I made a different decision.

When I first got my credit card it had a $800 limit and for a while everything was just fine. Now it has a $14,000 limit, even though I never asked for or approved a limit increase. At some point I should have told them to stop periodically increasing my limit, but I ignored it and just let it happen. I got to the debt breaking point when it reached around $10k and knew I couldn’t continue to block it out of my mind. I don’t even want to know how much interest I have paid now, it would just be depressing. I would say around 25% of the debt came from things I genuinely needed but didn’t have the money – things like mechanic bills to fix my car and keep it running. The rest, it amazes me how so many small things can get out of control. If you know me personally you know I am not strutting around in the latest fashion trends, designer clothes, perfectly manicured from head to toe,  or have a nice, new car. So where did all the money go?

After college I got my first Jr. Designer job, and was slowly climbing that designer ladder (which as you can probably guess usually is not a high paying one by any means, until later… maybe). I learned quickly if I was going to be as successful as I wanted I would need to push my career path into another direction, but more on that later. A few years later I got my own apartment and was roommate-less for the first time. I have such mixed feelings about this now- on one hand living alone was one of the best experiences for me. I absolutely loved it and feel during that time I learned so much about myself and really grew into my own. In a lot of ways I became someone I am truly proud of during that time. On the other hand, I was not financially ready, and so the snowball of debt seemed to pick up speed from there. I already was carrying some CC debt that wasn’t paid off beforehand, now add on all the expenses of living alone, with a less than impressive income, while keeping almost the same spending habits- not a good recipe. I really don’t regret living on my own, but I should have had a well constructed, strict budget instead of ignoring it.

I 100% got accustomed to and was maintaining a lifestyle I could not afford yet. It’s the dinners and drinks with friends at cool places around town too many times, buying a round of drinks when I had no business doing so, taking uber too often, going on a few little trips and paying for airfare, car rentals and dining out.

Shopping a little and telling myself because it’s cheap and it’s a deal it’s fine, when in reality, it’s NOT a good deal when you’re charging it to a credit card you have no ability to pay off.

None of it was extravagant, but when you’re in CC debt anything extra is outside your means. No one likes being the cheap friend, the one who has to say no. The one who maybe should eat at home before going out and just come out for a beer instead of that o-so-yummy glass of N.Z. Sauv Blanc you really want… which is twice the price of a beer… which you order anyways… and then order another… and then maybe another. At some point something’s got to give when you’re living outside your means, but at the time I was not ready to give it up yet.

When the debt reached around $10k and I started to be honest with myself about the problem I was in the midst of transitioning my career into what I really wanted. Working for myself remotely, with freedom to take the business wherever I chose instead of being confined by an employer- waiting for that next step up or the next little raise. Also around this time I was preparing to leave for 3 months in Europe. I am sure many would wonder how I could been considering going to Europe at all in my situation, but I had this overwhelming need inside of me to experience the world. I knew I could always use money as an excuse to not go and it would never happen. I made sure I was so careful to do it without the help of credit cards and working remotely along the way made that possible. I made a promise to myself for those 3 months abroad I would keep my minimum payments going, but when I returned my focus was getting rid of that debt and changing my lifestyle. Literally the best decision I ever made- the trip changed me, added so much richness to my life beyond any amount of money, and I returned feeling so fulfilled and ready to knuckle down.

While overseas I remember feeling so disgusted and frustrated by the amount of money I was being drained of by debt each month. Partly the credit card but also the student loan debt- just all of it. I was robbing myself of feeling successful because so much of my income was gone immediately. I would think about all the things I COULD be using my earnings for, but I had to pay off my bad choices before being able to live that way. In part 2 of Dirty Debt Secrets I’ll be sharing with you what has truly helped me make big changes towards CC debt payoff, and debt payoff in general.

Have you found yourself lost in the debt downslide? Are you in a similar situation now and continue to ignore it? Maybe your debt is much smaller than mine was, maybe it’s WAY bigger. Regardless though make this your time to start making positive changes in your life to rid yourself of that burden. Comment below with a declaration of change for accountability, or reflect, be honest with yourself and stay tuned for Part 2.

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Settling in to Life in Australia

G’Day Mates! Kidding, I am pretty sure I can’t get away with saying that anytime soon. It is now exactly a month since I’ve been here in Australia and I am loving it so far! I know, total shocker right. The weather has been fantastic since I arrived, our house is a five minute drive from multiple beaches (hopefully getting a bike soon) and it’s been really nice for Stephen and I to reconnect and spend quality time together after being apart for 2.5 months. And I mean a LOT of quality time together, we barely know anyone around here…

Moving usually comes with its ups and downs and moving countries definitely is no different. Living in a different country puts you more out of your comfort zone because your norms are totally flipped around, sometimes literally flipped like driving on the other side of the car, AND the road. I am lucky to be in an English speaking country so it’s not as big of a transition as moving elsewhere in the world, but it still comes with plenty of new experiences. Today I am sharing some of what I’ve experienced in my first month of living down under. And since I prefer to end of a happy note- let’s begin with the not-so-easy stuff.

Shopping- Where do I go?

O how I miss you Amazon, Target and TJ Maxx- you have no idea! We do have a version of Target and TJ Maxx here but it is just not the same. You can’t compare to the amazingness that is our Target in the US or the absolute ecstasy that is Amazon Prime. I read Amazon is coming to Australia in 2018 so if that happens I may cry out of pure happiness. Shopping has been an adjustment for me for sure- I am having to relearn where to go for what I need. We are also living in a small coastal town, not very close to a major city, so when you’re trying to buy EVERYTHING for a house and don’t have many store options around (and you’re super picky) it can be frustrating. We’ve taken a few trips up to the Gold Coast which has 1000x the places to choose from. It’s come in handy when I can’t find what I am looking for around here, but it’s an hour away. For example, I looked everywhere for the perfect sectional couch- I had this idea in my mind for what I wanted but I could not find it. If we were going to shell out some decent cash for this piece of furniture I wanted it to be right. We ended up finding it, in the Gold Coast, and since they don’t deliver down here we have to make the trek all the way up even further to their warehouse in Brisbane to get it. Not convenient, but in the end it’ll be worth it. We actually pick it up tomorrow, AHHHHHH, so goodbye camping chairs finally. I realize this might be completely petty of me to be frustrated by shopping choices, but after living in Atlanta for so many years, with almost anything I could need/want easily accessible, it’s been an adjustment for sure!

Starting Completely from Scratch

Usually when you move your belongings might be unorganized in your new place for a while, but at least you HAVE stuff. You know, things to eat off of, places to sit, a bed. This past month we’d bought everything from appliances to plates, to a bed and clothes hangers- all the way down to the salt and pepper. I will say I feel extremely fortunate because of Stephen we are in a position where it hasn’t been a financial strain, but you’d be surprised how fast the home budget disappears. After all the shopping we’ve done the house still feels empty to me, and for someone who is extremely visual it’s not so easy. My surroundings really affect me- I am distracted by the blank walls, the empty rooms, and have ideas swirling around in my head constantly I can’t do anything about yet. If you saw my last apartment you know I like stuff around me, knick knacks and art makes me feel at home. But I am learning to be more patient and let them come together over time. I think the addition of the couch tomorrow will make a huge impact and let me settle down a bit. Also our shipment from the US containing artwork and more personal things for house arrived in Sydney by boat and should be coming to us next month- yay!

BEACH BEACH BEACH!

Some people are mountain people, some are city people, some are beach people. I’m probably a little combination, but coastal living is so ingrained in my being and who I am. Living near the ocean is something I’ve been wanting and dreaming of for as long as I can remember, and now it’s a reality. And not those beaches where it’s literally just sand and then condo, condo, condo- yea they’re nice sometimes but that’s not the environment I wanted (sorry Destin and PCB). Goodbye annoying spring breakers, frat guys and too many families crowding up the beach! No offense to the families but spring breakers and frat guys, get your shit together and act right.

Here in Australia and in particular our area, the beaches are private, expansive, clean, natural and peaceful. I’m usually at the beach a few times a week- either for a midday run/break from work or for a walk with Stephen when he comes from work. Last week after a busy day of errands we packed 2 beers, left the shoes at home and just sat on the beach for a drink, admiring the water and thinking how thankful we are to have this so close to home.

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination, and bring eternal joy to the soul.”
— Robert Wyland, marine life artist

Working 100% Remotely at Last

Back in Atlanta many mornings consisted of dreading the alarm, rushing around getting ready for the day, sitting in my car for 45 minutes, office for 8 hours, car for another 45 minutes, then cramming in errands and more work at home just to hopefully enjoy a little bit of down time before doing it all over again. Even though I was working remotely while traveling around Europe, when I returned it was back to the in-office grind on a regular basis. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, I had taken strategic steps away from it but then circled back in order to make larger dents in my debt payoff. It was worth it, but I was so ready for the lifestyle change.

These days I am typically up by 6:30am for a coffee, then open my laptop to begin work around 7am. The morning is prime time to talk to my US clients because of the time difference so often I have a call or two first thing in the morning, then the day’s schedule is up to me. Despite the distractions of our empty house just waiting for a makeover I’ve found I am much more productive working outside of the office. No more people popping in for little things and interrupting my thought process- I feel I can actually FINISH things faster and be more efficient. Depending on my mood I’ll work from the dining table, my office or sit out on the front balcony like I am doing right now. I love having the freedom to work when and where I want, to take breaks when needed, and to be able to do errands during the day to places that are only open until 5pm. It feels great, and is definitely the type of lifestyle I have been after for a while now. My office, like much of the house, is still pretty sparse, but I have plans for a big collage inspiration wall and my prized Apple monitor should be arriving from the US next month.

New Beginnings and More to Come

The other day my mom cracked me up on the phone- she said “so what else is new besides, you know, your entire life”. Shes right, it’s literally like stepping into a new life (one that includes no dryer and me hanging all of our laundry on the clothes line outside, but that’s another story). I hope you’ve enjoyed a little look into this new life in Australia, and I can’t wait to share so much more! A few things I have planned coming up are a home tour, DIY projects around the house, a little closer look into relationships, and how you can ditch the “norms” of society and go after what you really want in life too.

Stay tuned, stay positive, and for God’s sake have a glass of wine, you deserve it.

For a more regular, behind the scenes look make sure to follow Sauvignon Blue on Instagram!

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Final Thoughts About Moving to Australia

It’s hard for me to believe I am officially moving out of the United States TOMORROW! Earlier today I made it to California for a little rest and relaxation before my big flight out. These past few weeks in particular have been a whirlwind of doing my best to keep up with work and getting things in order for the move- things like selling my car, cancelling insurances, getting new global health insurance, plus so many others things I never even thought about. At times it’s felt extremely hectic… I don’t remember the last time I just had one day or even an evening to myself to relax, then add on some unexpected doctor visits and let’s just say stress levels have been a bit high. Lately I’ve been able to enjoy a few wonderful quality-time trips and many dinners with close friends and family which has made me feel so very special and loved. Overall I am feeling surprisingly prepared and very excited… EXTREMELY excited!!!

A lot of people have been asking me a few of the same questions so I thought I’d share those along with my final thoughts- good and bad- about the fact that I am leaving this hemisphere and moving to Australia.

Where will you be living?

We have a house!!! We will be living in East Ballina, right near the border of New South Wales and Queensland… about 2 hours south of Brisbane near the Gold Coast. I can’t even explain how lucky and grateful I feel to have a beautiful home waiting for me. Stephen did a great job finding our new home- going to all the open houses on his own and keeping me updated along the way about the properties. Even though HE is the actual homeowner he’s made me feel so involved and he truly values my opinions and what I wanted in a home. In addition to an open floor plan, outdoor living and 2 bathrooms, it was really important to me to have 3 bedrooms. Since I will be working from home 100% and when people visit it will be for extended time (2 weeks) and not just for a weekend, the separation of home office and guest bedroom was key in my mind.  I am pretty sure he nailed it, plus it’s only a 6 minute drive to the beach!

What will you miss the most about the America?

Obviously I will be missing my family and friends very much, so let’s just get that no-brainer out of the way! Lately I’ve people have asked me, what food will you miss? I really can’t think of one… Australia has amazing seafood, sushi, burgers, Indian/Chinese food and honestly the cuisine is not that different there. The only one I could really think of is Mexican food since apparently they just haven’t gotten it right down there. When it really comes down to it the thing I am going to miss the most about America is Amazon Prime, and no I am not joking! The past few months I’ve become quite addicted and it’s saved my ass while being so busy and having no time to drive around to stores. I’ll actually have to go to a store to buy stuff now?! #firstworldproblems

Are you going to look for work there?

The type of visa I have to live in Australia right now is a 1 year Work/Holiday visa. Under this visa I am allowed to be employed by a company for up to 6 months and then would need to switch companies, but I am not allowed to have Australian clients under this visa. Given the nature of my work and how I’ve purposefully set myself up to have clients and not to be someone’s employee, I will not be looking for work there during this next year. I am fortunate enough to have gained my U.S. client’s trust to continue working for them abroad, plus I may have a few ideas up my sleeve for the future so stay tuned ;). If you’re interested in traveling to and living in Australia yourself, you will need a visa (yes you will need a visa for a 2 week visit but it’s easy and like $50) and can find more information HERE. After this first year Stephen and I will then apply for a partner visa, and once approved I will then be able to open my business up to potential Australian clients!

How does your family feel about you moving?

I am pretty sure no parent would choose for their daughter to move across the world. Although I know my parents and siblings are excited for me I know it is not an easy thing to grasp, especially for my mother. Unlike if I was living anywhere else in the United States they now won’t be able to easily jump on a plane to see me and visa versa. Despite the sad feelings everyone has been incredibly supportive and proud of me for putting myself out there to take this risk. They definitely see the wonderful opportunity to experience the other side of the world, and I know I couldn’t have made the decision to go full hearted without them behind me. Deep down it kills me to know I am choosing to do something that is turning my mom’s world around, but I know she also wouldn’t want to stand in the way of this huge life change. No matter what change in life is hard, but only amazing things come from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

What are you most excited about?

Of course first thing is seeing Stephen DUHHH. But second is for sure coastal living. Throughout the years I’ve kept a list of life goals, both short and long term, and moving to the beach has been on my list for as long as I can remember. I was determined it would happen at some point but I wasn’t sure exactly when or how. Well now I am about to live not only 6 minutes from the beach but in a country that has over 10,500 different beaches! Insane. It is not only the beach itself that attracts me to the coast but it’s the entire lifestyle, vibe and mentality. Honestly I am not one to lie there and bake in the sun all day (hello skin cancer!) but instead I just simply love being by the water.

Then I must say I cannot wait to decorate our new place. We are literally starting from scratch so this will be the first time in my life so far I will be able to actually design a space, instead of just finding a way to make a bunch of random crap I’ve had for years work together. I am definitely not someone who wants to go blow money on all new things- I love finding cool second hand pieces to give new life to. I’ve seen my mother on so many occasions find the most amazing deals for under $50 that easily looks like it came from Pottery Barn or wherever everyone is shopping these days. We definitely want to invest most in the staple pieces like the couch, dining and outdoor living- but all the other pieces will be fun DIY projects I can’t wait to share on the blog!

Final thoughts?

Part of me is still in awe this is all actually happening. Right now as I sit in my friend’s kitchen overlooking their beautiful backyard and views of Anaheim Hills, it feels like I am back on another vacation to southern California. Except this time I have way more luggage and no return ticket. I’ve made HUGE changes in my life during the past two years and none of them have happened out of luck or by chance. I know they’ve happened because I’ve refused to limit myself to the normalities and pressures of others. I’ve been told I am unrealistic, that I should be getting a normal job with benefits, that it’s crazy to move so far because for THEM it’s scary. I’ve talked to friends about the fear behind taking certain risks in life and I think so many can’t get past that fear. I will tell you, it gets easier and easier to jump in and go for it.

The last thing I want to share is how incredibly touched and lucky I am to have such amazing friends and family in my life. The out pour of support and excitement I’ve received from everyone the last few months has been indescribable. Next blog post will be written from down under so stay tuned!

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”
Winnie the Pooh

 

Packing up the Past and Beginning New

Time is flying by- the apartment is almost all packed and our things leave on a sea shipment to Australia tomorrow. It’s hard to believe Stephen only has a few days left in America and I only have a couple of months! If I didn’t get rid of enough stuff before Europe last year I’ve really paired down now. A big move like this makes you reevaluate what really matters to you- instead of toting around a bunch of crap you don’t really care about. Around 80% of my belongings are gone since the beginning of last year and I’ve given away half my clothes. But moving out of this apartment is more than just getting rid of more stuff. I am not a very outwardly emotional person I tend to be very chill and even tempered, but I am definitely very sentimental.  Every move is almost a mini end to a life chapter, as it’s ending and the space starts clearing out I can’t help but reflect back on all the many things that happened during that time.

My last apartment was my first place all to myself and I loved it. It was the place where I became single again– even though it wasn’t the greatest moment at the time it is something I am SO thankful for now. I started traveling a lot and discovered new and exciting things about the world and myself. I grew my career, explored new ideas and made the decision against many people’s advice to leave the comforts and safety of a 9-5 to pursue something more than just working for someone else’s goals. It was where I was living when I met Stephen which led me down this crazy road to now moving across the world.

Fast forward a year and I am letting go of another sentimental place. Even though it’s not technically mine, I just kind of nudged my way in here after traveling for 3 months ;), it still holds a lot of memories just like the last one. I remember the first time I came to Stephen’s apartment, he made me the most delicious dinner that is still my favorite to this day and gave me books about Australian culture and traveling in Southeast Asia for Valentine’s Day. Funny how those two books will be quite useful now. Over the past year and a half we’ve laughed a lot in that apartment, made countless meals together (tapas night is one of our favorites!) and we’ve had many packing parties the night before a trip (by packing party I mean just us two packing our suitcases with a bottle of wine). Traveling in the Basque coast of France and surfing in Costa Rica may have been amazing and fun,  but it’s the everyday, tiny things that really connect us. We would talk about our dreams and aspirations for the future in that apartment- essentially it’s the place we fell in love.

He had a big map of the world covering one of his walls, and although now it’s been taken down for the move I used to stand in front of it often. Before Europe I would stare at all the countries I was about to see- places I honestly never thought I would have been going to any time soon because I thought I couldn’t afford it or would never be able to take enough time off work to go.

Then I learned anything is possible, you just have to get a little creative and push yourself beyond your comfort zone to get what you want.

After Europe I would stand in front of the map, reflect back on all my memories and dream about all of the other places around the world I would love to see next. Stephen had pins stuck in across the map for all the places he’s been- everywhere from Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa, the U.S. and Central America. I couldn’t wait to add more to my list but I was so happy to have made a dent in my world traveling goals. I would look at how big the world is compared to our little corner of the United States, but at the same time how small it is thanks to today’s world and technology.

The past few month I’ve been standing in front of the map, but staring at one particular place- Australia. I would get butterflies in my stomach thinking about how much of it I have left to experience, and how finally I will be living close to the ocean- something I’ve wanted my entire life since we left California. I looked at all the surrounding countries– Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and New Zealand- and how I can’t wait to explore that entire part of the world. I am definitely sad to be leaving the apartment, but I am so ready for this next adventure.

Whether it’s a particular person, job or home- we have to let go of certain phases of our lives so better ones can begin.

 

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Shutting Out the Noise and Trusting Your Gut

Anytime you make a big life decision you are bound to encounter the “gray area”. Not all decisions are black and white, and usually you will have to take the leap in one direction knowing there are pros and cons to both sides. You wonder if you’re making the right choice- what if it doesn’t turn out how you thought? What will others think? Will you have regrets? There is constantly so much noise happening inside our heads about decisions we make and which way we should take our lives. How do you turn down the noise and know what’s ultimately right for you? I dealt with this noise a lot when making the decision to move with my boyfriend across the world to Australia. I am so happy to say I am past the confusion and into the “all-in, never looking back, don’t give a damn what you think phase”. I must say, it’s the best place to be. So what was my noise all about with this decision? Where do I start…

NOISE #1- Where is this relationship going?

Stephen and I had to start having more discussions about how we saw our future, our expectations, timelines and what we want for ourselves. It is so important to know what you want for YOU before completely compromising everything for someone else. We both come from divorced families so a happy ending is a goal we take very seriously (not THAT kind of happy ending you perv). I already knew our relationship was wonderful and he makes me smile and laugh on a daily basis, but we couldn’t be naive to deeper topics. I won’t go into every little personal detail, but before I was able to consider this move we had to check our boxes and know our foundation and goals were solid.

NOISE #2- Wow that’s like, really far away and a really long flight.

This was pretty much the reaction from 75% of people when I began talking about moving. I understand it’s a normal and valid reaction! But oftentimes people react to the idea of something by thinking about themselves first- not you. They start to think “how would I feel doing that, would I ever choose to do such a thing”. I had to remind myself that we are all different- we have different interests, goals, priorities, and ultimately a different idea of what life should be. Don’t get stuck on the opinions of others without remembering that what works or doesn’t work for them won’t be the same for you, and that’s okay. Many of my friends or family members would never consider moving so far- but that doesn’t mean I can’t.

Other people’s opinions are not your own. The worst thing you could do is to make an important life decision based on the consensus of those around you, only to look back later and never have followed your heart.

For me, this whole distance thing is all about perspective. Okay I know it is a long flight from Atlanta to Australia – so I’ll figure out a flying routine to make it easier and deal with it on that one day instead of making that small fact my focus. Also those flights can be pretty pricey too. Well that’s just more motivation to keep building my business and increasing my revenue. **cough** business expense to come see clients **cough **. Thank you tax write offs! Stephen has always told me “you can be anywhere in the world within a day”, and he’s right. Why would I let one day stop me from experiencing the other side of the world and being with someone who has become such an important part of my life? I asked Stephen recently if he was nervous- it could get complicated in the future with our families being on opposite sides of the world. He said it’s not scary- it’s exciting! It’s all about perspective and that is just one of the things I love about him. It’s so refreshing to be with someone with an open mind to possibilities without limits.

NOISE #3- You’re moving that far without a ring on your finger?

Wouldn’t it just be such a lovely little story to share on facebook- we get engaged and then run off to Australia together. Well life is not about fairy tale endings or a facebook reveal (even though they’re fun sometimes). This topic was one where I felt the most pressure from others, and one I had to really sift through the noise to find out how I really felt. I felt that I SHOULD be saying I couldn’t make that big of a move without that commitment and it would look bad if I didn’t. Stephen and I had very open talks about this and neither of us believe in taking that leap just because of a situation if we weren’t ready. He felt it was really important I go and experience what I would be committing to first… I just felt confused.

For a while I couldn’t quiet the noise in my head. I knew how a lot of people would react, and I knew I would have to defend my reasoning if I chose to go. Then I realized- why should I ever have to defend this serious of a decision to anyone? Marriage is a huge decision- its bigger than Australia, its bigger than the judgement from others. I also started to realize a lot of the people who did really feel I should be engaged first haven’t first-hand experienced divorce in their life. I would never wish that on anyone, and especially wouldn’t want that for my future (WAY future) children. When you’ve dealt with divorce it can leave you extra cautious and slightly jaded. Friends of mine who have experienced divorce first-hand were all on board with me making sure this is what I really want for myself first. Once I let go of that external pressure and noise from others a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Go for it. Make moves and take risks. You have to at least try.

I think I knew immediately deep down I would end up moving with Stephen when he told me he had to move back, but I still remember the moment I officially let myself say YES, I am 100% in. Most days Stephen and I chat on the phone on our way home from work. That particular day while we were talking I remember saying “I have to at least try, how could I not even try?”. From that moment on the noise was gone and I was all in. This reaction can apply to so many decisions in our lives. Earning a degree, finding a more fulfilling job, going for that promotion, starting to date again, telling someone how you feel, traveling more, turning your dreams into reality… you have to at least try.

You know how the saying goes- with great risk comes great reward. My great reward just happens to come with kangaroos and a sexy surfer.

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The Details on My Move to Australia

Since this is the first time I’m announcing it on the blog… I am moving to Australia!! This week my visa was approved so the fact that it is official-official is still crazy to me. All that is left now is to book my one-way plane ticket!

Some people might be wondering, why Australia? If I haven’t been been able to catch up with you this past year and a half the first thing to know is my boyfriend is Australian. He is on an expatriate program with his job for 2 years in America and we met last January after he’d been living in Atlanta for about 6 months. And yes… he has an accent. People always ask me this but to be honest I stopped noticing it after a few months- it just becomes normal! It has been fun to get used to some Aussie slang- something that will come in handy in a few months.

Since we  started dating I’ve known moving to Australia at some point would be a possibility for me if our relationship continued to move forward, but it’s almost surreal now that it’s actually happening. We found out in February they needed him back there in a few months for work and after some conversations and soul searching I knew I had to go too. I definitely will be expanding on this whole decision making process in the next blog post because I went through an emotional journey to get to where I am now. I think some of you will find it relatable and helpful if you’ve been faced with your own tough life choices. For me it was a decision that was both difficult and so easy all at once. I had to shut out the world noise and trust MY judgement- not everyone else’s. More on this coming soon 🙂

Anyways, back to the official moving plans! Stephen will head home in June and I plan to make the big move sometime in August. Our location is determined by where he was placed for work so we will be about an hour south of the Gold Coast, about two hours south of Brisbane near Lennox Head and Ballina in NSW. We will have to wait until Stephen gets out there in June and starts house hunting to know exactly where we will end up in that area, another exciting process to share later!

The country is extremely beautiful in this area- I remember being mesmerized by the lush landscape and beautiful beaches when we were there last September. I have been a beach bum at heart my entire life, I’m sure it’s due to my southern California roots. Those who know me know I have been on a mission to move to the beach for FOREVER, but over the years there have been different factors that stopped this from happening. Looking back I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I never picked up and moved back to California, or over to Florida or Charleston. If I hadn’t trusted my gut to be patient and stay put in Atlanta just a little bit longer I would never have met Stephen and most likely wouldn’t be about to move to one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Not only am I excited about living in Australia, but the traveling we will be able to do in that side of the world is a huge bonus in my mind. New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia are just a few on my list 😉

Are we going to live in Australia forever? I have no idea. This was another big factor in my decision to move in the first place- I needed to know that if later down the road I wanted to move back to the U.S. Stephen would be open to that. Thankfully he is 🙂 but for now I am only focusing on this next step and am allowing myself to be open to whatever comes next over the upcoming years. I think when you try to plan too much ahead you end up being closed off and ignore potential amazing opportunities that come your way. You end up feeling like you’ve let yourself and others down if you change your mind. Well, I want to be able to change my mind, go with the flow and allow the universe to take me where I am meant to go. To be honest the idea of a “forever home” kind of freaks me out- I am a big dreamer and don’t like to put limits on myself and future possibilities. Luckily I found someone who feels the same.

I can’t believe I only have four months to go before the big move!! I know it is going to fly by and I’ll need to get in as much family and friends time as I can. I will 100% be coming back to Atlanta regularly, I am pretty sure my family would kill me if I didn’t come back minimum once a year.

This won’t be a “goodbye” to everyone, but more of a “catch ya later mate”!

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What Living in a Van Taught Me About My Relationship

This month my boyfriend and I flew across the country to San Francisco, rented a camper van and set out to explore the area for 10 days from Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Big Sur and Yosemite National Park. By camper van I don’t mean a camper. I mean a van… that you live in. It’s funny how friends of mine had such different reactions to the idea. Some were like “OMG I could never!”, the concept of the van or even camping for that long was incomprehensible. Other friends reacted completely opposite and thought it was such a fun, economical and cool idea. I’m glad I happen to be in the group whose up for an adventure. I grew up taking camping trips across the country with my family in our pop up camper, so when Stephen threw the idea out there I was in.

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Now let’s get into the relationship part. Traveling is a great way to learn a lot about the person you’re dating- you’re both in an unfamiliar place and at some point are bound to be faced with unexpected situations. This brings out the good, the bad and all the in between sides of your partner, and I find it actually to be very helpful in seeing if the relationship is a strong one. What better way to test your relationship than living in a van, just the two of you, for 10 days. Not that I went into this testing ours! We had traveled many times before this in the US and out of the country. But the van aspect definitely added an extra quirky twist to this trip, and along the way some observations and thoughts crossed my mind.

#HIGHFIVE FOR PROBLEM SOLVING

The first night of our trip we were rearranging the inside of the van to make our bed after dark. The camper van is set up so the main seat bench and table reconfigure to make a surprisingly comfortable queen size bed. We had left Atlanta at 5:30am to catch our flight so needless to say after a long day of traveling we were exhausted. During the bed making process we were both outside and shut the doors… and were locked out. Somehow we locked the van with the keys… and our phones… inside.

We both just looked at each other for a second- damnit. We were in the woods with no keys, no phones and no way to get to any of our things. Immediately we both went into problem solving mode. I walked over to the campers next to us who were hanging out at their site, asked to borrow one of their phones, and began looking up the roadside assistance number I remember the camper van rental company mentioning. Stephen right away asked one of them for a tent stake to try to basically break into the van. Less than 5 minutes later I hear “we’re in!”. Somehow they managed to get into the van with the tent stake and save the night.

What was important to me about this was neither of us blamed the other, was mad or upset… by nature we both immediately thought of the best ways to fix the problem, stress-free. #Highfive for problem solving.

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WE DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY, AND THAT’S OKAY

Everyone has their own way of going about their day and everyday tasks. The first day we stopped at the grocery store to stock up before going to our first campsite. After loading up the cart we got to the van to unload the bags. Seems like a completely normal thing, what could go wrong right? Well… we had an issue. Stephen wanted to completely unload and organize all the groceries where they belonged in the van, right there in the parking lot. His very efficient stance on the situation was “why do things twice, let’s put it all where it goes the first time”.  My view was “why spend any more time in the grocery store parking lot than we have to? Let’s throw the bags in, get to the campsite and take our time organizing there”. There was a small, *calm* disagreement that afternoon in the parking lot of the SaveWay in Aptos, California.

Was one of us right? No… we simply just go about certain things differently. It doesn’t make sense trying to argue who is right and who is wrong when in the end it doesn’t even matter. We compromised, put away the cold things in the fridge, and organized the rest later at the campsite.

PATIENCE NEVER FAILS

If you’re spending 10 days straight together there are times you are bound to annoy the other person. We had the most amazing time and are extremely compatible, but our trip wasn’t without its moments on both sides. I remember Stephen trying to park the van on this very particular angle I wanted so it would be the most ideal setup with one of our campsites. Since the backside of the van opens up with the whole cooking area its important it’s placed so it flows with the site layout (at least to me that stuff is important!). I know I can be very picky, so there was a lot of moving the van this way, then that way, and then back this way. I could tell I was getting on his nerves, but he really remained patient with me and we got it set up perfect. I was happy with our space, and he was happy it was over so he could build a fire and relax with a beer.

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Another time he wanted to stop and take pictures at this well known surf spot in Santa Cruz called Steamer Lane. That day is was extra chilly and windy, and I didn’t have a warm jacket on. I wasn’t in the mood to walk up and down cliff’s edge taking pictures of waves and surfers, and more waves and surfers… and waiting for the next set of waves hoping a surfer would catch an epic one. But I sucked it up, put on a happy face and paced along the water’s edge with him as he snapped away. He was excited about it, it made him happy, so I remained patient until he was ready to go.

Being patient with the other person is extremely important to a happy relationship. You won’t always want to do the same things, and you will get frustrated with each other at times. Don’t let those emotions boil over and ruin the moment.

No relationship is flawless. There will always be things you don’t agree and everything won’t always be picture perfect- even if you do end up with some pretty perfect pictures. I would do our whole 10 days in a van all over again anytime, Stephen jokes with me that it was just a warm up for a MUCH longer trip in the future. We will see if that ever comes to fruition, but I am confident we will be able to tackle whatever comes our way.

Have you ever experienced similar situations while traveling with your partner? Share your stories in the comments below!

 

 

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Top 3 Pros and Cons of Returning to the U.S.

In only two days I’ll be back in the U.S. after three months of traveling around Europe. I realize I have so much more to share from my trip on the blog. There are so many more locations to show, so much more advice to offer and stories to tell.  But given that I’ll be leaving this amazing place shortly I wanted to share some things that have been heavy on my mind with the timing. Part of me is sad to be leaving Europe, although legally I have to. Remember, only 90 days Americans are allowed to be out here! But the other part of me is looking forward to returning home.

TOP 3 Things I Will Miss About Europe

1. The Rich History & Culture

I think this is an obvious one, but it’s an inevitable one. There is so much history and depth all around you here. I love how old the buildings are and how stories of each place I’ve visited go so far back in time. The fact that I stood in on a hill where Rome as a whole began, and was inside a building that was built around 125 AD is nuts. People in Europe also are on a different time table with how they carry out their day. It feels so much more relaxed, and like people are fully enjoying each day. But I mean, how could you not with a little afternoon siesta, or drinks every night with friends in the piazza. But overall it made me feel like a lot of people in the U.S. (not all!) are ALL about work. Working long hours to buy more things they don’t really need, and to pay for bigger things they almost never fully enjoy because they’re tired from working. Personally, I’ll take quality of life over fancy things.

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2. Public Transportation & Walking

I seriously don’t want to go back to driving. I love taking public transportation everywhere! Between the metro, the bus, the train, an uber or a taxi, I’ve had no problems getting around this continent. Not to mention all the walking has made me feel more in shape, and I’m sure I’ve lost a little weight too. Overall I just feel healthier, and although there are cities in the U.S. that also operate this way (think NYC, Chicago, etc), unfortunately I do not currently live in one. Plus its more than just maneuvering easily around a city in itself, but country-to-country its been pretty easy overall. Yes there have been times where I’ve been exhausted and don’t feel like walking anymore, I’ve been pissed off at the local bus for being late and making me wait for a while, and I’ve been crammed in a hot metro train. But overall I would choose to live in a city where the public transportation was commonly used by all than in a driving city any day. Unless it’s the beach… I’ll drive everywhere if I get to live near the beach for sure 🙂 Most important of all of this, is how easy it is to get around from one culture to another. I am in love with how connected and easily accessible all these incredible places are.

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3. Food, Coffee and Wine

It’s a no brainer the food is fantastic out here. From tapas in Spain, to fresh pasta in Italy it’s a foodie’s dream (as long as you stay away from the tourist trap places!). But more than it being delicious, it seems much healthier overall. I will say, Atlanta is not short on some amazing restaurants and pretty much any cuisine you might be in the mood for. But there is just something special about enjoying food where it originated from. Also even the regular produce you’ll find at say little markets around town seems fresher and better than in the US… not to mention cheaper. I remember being in Barcelona with only 5 euros left and I was determined to make two healthy and delicious meals out of it. Walked across the street from my flat to this little market and boom- ingredients for not two but three yummy, healthy and filling salads. In addition to the food, the coffee is WAY better. Stephen always has said this and part of me thought he was being slightly stuck up about it. No… he’s totally right. And last but not least- its so affordable to drink wine out here. I paid 2 euros for a glass on wine on the beach in Malaga, and in most places dining out a good glass of wine is between 3-6 euros tops. Score all around.

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TOP 3 Things I am Looking Forward to in the U.S.

1. Spending Time with Loved Ones

This is another obvious one! I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a few treasured friends out in Europe along the way, had my boyfriend visit for a week in France, and have met some amazing people these past few months (shout out to my favorite Aussie and Toronto girls!). But there is nothing like sharing jokes and uncontrollable laughs with good friends and family who have been there for you through ups and downs in life. I am also SO ready to spend some quality time with my boyfriend. Only 5 months into our relationship I said ‘see ya!’ and left the country… poor guy haha. I can’t tell you how excited I am to simply cook dinner and relax on the couch with him, and to continue to build on the foundation I feel was only strengthened by surviving months apart from each other. Plus we’re heading off to Australia for 2 weeks shortly after I get back so of course I can’t wait for that!

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2. Working on the Biz #Girlboss

I know, have I lost my mind?! WHO looks forward to working??? Apparently this girl. Only a short time before leaving for Europe I officially started my own company, which combined with some amazing clients of mine allowed me to travel internationally while working along the way. I am so thankful for the ability to do so, but I am mentally ready to buckle down and really build my business. This may seem slightly contradictory to what I mentioned earlier about Americans being workaholics. There really must be a balance, and the main difference I feel is I am not simply working my ass off to pay for expensive, pretty things. I am truly passionate about creating a business that’s uniquely me, and exploring other parts of the world has only inspired me in ways staying in a comfortable and familiar bubble can’t. Plus when you’re your own boss no one can tell you that you can’t have a glass of wine with lunch or that you’re out of vacation days. Apparently I’ve never quite liked being told what to do, and no mom… I am not an alcoholic. I could go on and on about this topic… but for now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

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3. Reliable Wifi and Using My Phone Like a Normal Person

Before coming to Europe I assumed I would be getting a SIM card in each place I went so I can just prepay data for it. After a few days in Spain I decided forget it… I’m going off the grid. Well, obviously not off the grid, but I have been wifi only these past three months with my phone. At times it was challenging, but I will say I’ve perfected screen-shotting directions before leaving the house, and learned if you preload the maps in Google Maps it will still follow you around town after leaving wifi. Some tips I can share later 🙂 But there were definitely difficult moments having no phone access, and almost more than that was when the wifi connection I did have wasn’t good quality. For someone who is working remotely this whole time on my computer, you can imaging the frustration this led to. Yes Italy…. I am referring to you. You and your unreliable internet. Needless to say, I am going to feel like I won the lottery being able to use my phone in the U.S. without hunting down networks and buying a drink/coffee only so I can bum their wifi to look up how to get home.

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Most Importantly, this Isn’t Over

I honestly don’t see me coming back to the U.S. this weekend as an end to an incredible experience, it’s more like taking a little break. I’ve heard a lot of people say “at least you were able to get this out of your system”. For me traveling isn’t a vacation I take once or twice a year, or something to get out of my system. It’s one of my biggest passions in life, and is a huge part of why I wanted to work for myself/remotely in the first place. The ability to work across the ocean, from another state, or even just from my bed with a cup of coffee and pjs if I choose is a huge benefit in my mind. With Australia happening in September, a few small U.S. trips later this year, and 2017 wide open, who knows what other adventures I’ll get myself into.

Have any of you felt some of these same feelings coming back to the U.S. after being abroad for a while? Leave a comment below and share!

Also, stay tuned for all the rest of my Europe stories and travel suggestions coming to the blog soon!

 

Top 5 Questions About My Eurotrip Answered

The time is finally here! I arrived in Barcelona, Spain early this morning and have spent my first day settling in and exploring this new beautiful city. It’s such a nice feeling to know I’ll be here for a few weeks, so instead of rushing into touristy things I can take my time and really get to know the city at my own pace. Since letting friends and family know about my plans to travel around Europe for a few months I’ve been approached with a lot of the same questions. Before I start posting all about my soon to be had experiences, I wanted to take the time to openly answer some of these questions. You never know, some of them could potentially help you take a similar leap in the future if your heart desires.

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#1- How can you afford to travel around Europe for 3 months, PLUS Australia and beyond?

Let me start by saying something that may make me look like a total crazy person. I am not traveling off of a savings account, or a lump sum I’ve been putting away. I knew if I were to wait until I had a big stash to travel off of it most likely wouldn’t happen. With what seems like never-ending student loan debt, plus other monthly obligations and debts that have compiled over the years, I could always find a place for that little extra money to go (plus a girl’s gotta have a few nights out here and there!). I’m sure most of us have experienced this… the cycle of excuses for why its just not the right time or we can’t afford it, and before we know it, it’s 5 years later. Since letting go of my apartment at the end of March, I am now traveling off of my monthly income, working remotely from my laptop, and using what used to be rent and utility money to pay for my lodging in each country. Plus  occasionally staying with friends in certain places to give myself a little break. Since I am staying in apartments and homes instead of a hotel or a hostel, the access to a kitchen means I don’t have to eat out every meal, which helps keep eating costs lower.  I LOVED having my own apartment and still miss it, but at the end of the day you can’t always have it all (actually you can pretty much never have it all so just get used to it), and right now I am choosing travel over having a home of my own. Now if I can just avoid the shopping then I should be in good shape 😉

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SauvignonBlue-Barcelona-4#2- What are you doing for work?

This past March I register my LLC and in April finalized my business bank account, making me an official business owner! My company is called Savvy Chic and I offer graphic design, marketing, social media maintenance and beyond to small-medium size companies. I have kept my past full-time employer on as a client which has helped with the transition, and have acquired a few other steady clients as well, so far solely through referrals. I may be in a completely different country from them working, but at the end of the day my clients come first, before any European fun. Because without them I wouldn’t be here today, checking my emails in a little cafe in Barcelona right by my apartment. The recent past has shown me if you work your ass off, are loyal and earn people’s trust, so many doors and possibilities could open for you.

Now let me just tell you, it’s freaking terrifying taking the leap to go on your own, especially being an independent, non-married woman. It’s much easier having that same paycheck come in every month, not having to worry and make things happen on your own all the time. But those safety jobs don’t always let you live in Spain, France, London, Amsterdam, Italy or Croatia now do they? Some may, but most office jobs don’t. Risky? Definitely. But big, crazy, exciting things like this don’t happen sitting in the same office 9-5.

 

#3- Where are you staying?

Out of the 3 months I will be here I will be staying on my own in airbnb’s most of  the time, with friends in London and Amsterdam for just a week each, and then with my boyfriend in an airbnb apartment we rented in Biarritz, France the week he comes to visit. I know a lot of people have stayed in hostels to save money, but since I am working this entire time and have expensive technology with me I really needed the personal space and security. There are so many options on airbnb as far as price points, locations, types of properties, and if you choose to stay in a room in someone’s place or rent the entire place to yourself. I am very happy with my decision to rent a room in a Colombian woman’s apartment for June. Since it is my first time in Europe all together I like the idea of starting off the trip with someone knowing if I come home each night. It makes me feel safer and not totally alone. Plus you really get to experience what it might be like to LIVE in a place like this. I’m sure you’ve seen all those airbnb commercials recently saying things like “don’t just GO to Paris, LIVE in Paris”. Might be slightly cheesy, but it’s true. It’s fun having my own keys to a old little 3 story walkup above a bakery. And don’t forget about the financial savings! My lodging with her for an entire month, in a wonderful area of Barcelona, was only $767… less than what I used to pay for rent in Atlanta, GA. Try getting that at a decent hotel anywhere.

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#4- How does your boyfriend feel about you leaving the country?

Have I said before that 2016 has been a crazy year? If someone were to have told me January 1st of this year that a few weeks later I’d be dating an amazing guy who is totally supportive of me traveling around the world, I would have told you you’re out of your mind. In fact, I think maybe 2 weeks before we met I wrote a blog post about being happily single… funny how that happens isn’t it?

Anyways, the conversation of me traveling abroad for an extended time came up early on in the relationship, and luckily he couldn’t be more supportive. After his years of living in London, traveling all around the globe, and since he isn’t even from the US to begin with (yep I snagged an Aussie, hehe), he totally understands my uncontrollable wanderlust and desire to see the world. I don’t know many men who would want to continue pursuing seeing someone who after just a few weeks tells them they’re wanting to leave the country for months. I just happened to find one that did! Neither of us wanted to go the ENTIRE time without seeing each other, long distance is never easy, so he’s meeting me for a week long stay in France. I know he’s secretly hoping, well more like openly hoping, that after the 3 months in Europe I’ll trade in some solo travel for trips with him. I’m fine admitting I’m totally okay with that idea, and it’s already coming true with our trip back to Australia in September 🙂

 

#5- How are you packing for 3 months worth of travel?

Last but not least! I’ve been getting this question a lot recently leading up to my leave yesterday. Believe it or not I packed all clothes, shoes, and toiletries into a 45L  backpacking backpack, plus a messenger bag to hold my laptop and electronics. Obviously for over 3 months I’ll be doing laundry here and there as needed, but since my trip is open ended in a lot of ways I didn’t want to deal with lugging a huge rolling suitcase around some cobblestone streets, or wherever else the journey is going to take me. The mobility of a backpack when traveling by airplane, bus, train, and on-foot is completely worth the sacrifice of traveling with less overall, and I like the security of it being totally strapped to me. So far so good!

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I would love to answer any more questions you guys may have about the trip, about remote jobs, and/or about taking the leap to work for yourself! Feel free to comment below or email me at sauvignonblue@gmail.com. And don’t forget to check back soon to see how my first experience in Barcelona has been going, with plenty of pictures to go along with the story.

I’m Outta Here

Well, it’s official. I have my first month booked living in Barcelona, Spain and I will be leaving in June! I can’t believe it’s around the corner, but even more so I can’t believe I’ve decided to leave the security of a full-time job, sell most of my things, and travel around the world on my own, open-endedly. Friends of mine have called it adventurous, I’m sure others think I’m totally insane… but either way this lady is heading to Europe in less than 3 months without a return plane ticket. I’m sure you’re wondering how in the world I ended up here, so let’s do a little recap!

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I have always dreamt of traveling anywhere and everywhere, soaking up the different cultures and scenary. To me, that is a huge part of what life is all about. The world is way too vast to stay in this western hemisphere bubble and not go experience all the places I’ve heard about and seen pictures of. Unfortunately this thing we call REAL LIFE has gotten in the way of those dreams for far too long– putting myself through college, never taking more than maybe 4 days in a row off work since I was 16, and you know… pretending I actually have a savings account for years. I’ve spent most of my adult life just trying to hold it all together on my own, and the idea of spending thousands of dollars (plus taking extended vacation time away from work) to travel abroad simply wasn’t a realistic thing in my mind to do. I’ve taken a decent amount of long weekend getaways back to California, NYC, Colorado, other places around the US and then Costa Rica last December in an attempt to fulfill my wanderlust, but that little travel bug inside me just wasn’t quite satisfied.

I know so many of us feel this same way, but few actually do something about it. We get stuck in the day-to-day routine and before we know it, years have flown by.

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Photo: Sauvignon Blue Instagram

I came across a travel group that selects 75 people to travel around the world together working remotely. You spend a month in each of the 12 countries throughout Europe, Asia and South America, totaling a whole year of travel. You are required to have your own remote job to support yourself, the program does not provide this for you, but given that I’m in the design/marketing field I knew somehow there was a way I could make that happen. Without hesitation I applied, not thinking anything would come of it. About a month later I had made it through to the final round Skype interview. At this point I was fully picturing myself gallivanting around the world, immersing myself in the different cultures and making new connections. Then in February of this year I received the news… I was accepted as one of the 75 people to leave in June, out of over 50,000 applicants!

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Photo: Style Me Pretty

I was ecstatic and almost couldn’t believe I was about to be going on this adventure. I was given 2 weeks to make my decision and give my down payment to hold my place for the trip. After making a budget and lists of everything I needed to cover before the trip (huge down payment, travel insurance, plane ticket to first location, visas, passport renewal, etc) plus the monthly dues paid to the group to cover all our transportation and accommodations, I was feeling totally overwhelmed with the overall costs compared to the reality of my finances. Not to mention I hadn’t fully secured my 100% remote work income yet. What if after a few months the remote job wasn’t working out and I had to leave the trip? All of these fears were flying through my head while under pressure to make a decision by my deadline. I wanted to be smart with my money and use it wisely, instead of completely draining myself and going into more debt.

Guess what? I declined the offer… but for something WAY better.

I started researching how much it would cost for me to do a similar idea totally on my own- the cost to stay an entire month in some countries through airbnb, transportation costs between countries, etc. I found I could literally pay for 3 months of Europe travel with just the down payment money alone this group was asking for. Not only would I be able to travel abroad while working remotely on my own for less than HALF the monthly cost of going with that program, but I would be able to select the countries I really wanted instead of having to stick with their itinerary. The choice was quite obvious to me, and the next day I officially declined the offer and set out to plan my own world travel adventures.

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I’ve decided to focus on Europe for the remainder of 2016 and begin my solo travels in Barcelona, Spain. There are SO many places on my list to explore in Europe, and there is no way I will ever make it to all of them this year! Be sure to check back for future blog posts about other locations I’ve chosen and more travel plan details. Not only will June be the start of this crazy experience, but I am also utilizing this time to jumpstart this blog, Sauvignon Blue, into a travel focused blog. You’ll be able to keep up with me through the ups and downs of life on the road- being on my own in places I don’t speak the language or know a single person. I’m fortunate enough to have some friends and connections around the globe to meet up with along the way, but this journey is not only about discovering new places but new people too. And of course you know there will be countless pictures included 🙂 Be sure to follow me on Instagram @SauvignonBlue for daily snapshots, and let the journey begin!

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The Good, Bad & Totally Awesome

Every year we go through ups and downs in life. Actually forget every year, every week or DAY we go through ups and downs! I find myself wondering, when is everything going to just come together in this magical moment where I feel totally complete and settled? The reality is it never will, because life is a freaking never-ending roller coaster.

Now that doesn’t have to end up being a negative thing! After reflecting over the good and bad parts of 2015 I realized I can change the way I look at the “bad” and turn them into growing experiences. Phrasing it like that doesn’t sound so awful, right? This kind of thinking can turn your bad moments into good in the end, and in the end your good moments will become nothing short of  totally awesome.

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I’d love to share with you 2 specific hard times of mine in 2015 that I turned around into good… because life is just too short to carry around negative energy 🙂

#1- Letting Go of Colorado

I previously shared this experience with you on the blog, but if you need some catching up I was planning on moving to Denver, CO when my lease ended in April 2015. After taking another trip to Colorado in January I was ready to start a new phase of my life full of  gorgeous mountains, learning how to snowboard, and enjoying a young, eclectic city. Right around that same time we were going through some changes at my job. I was presented an amazing opportunity when, with the hiring of additional part-time employees, I began managing a design, marketing and social team to build our company brand. At this point I was already so focused on Denver, picking out options for downtown apartments, totally envisioning myself living the CO life, and I didn’t want to give that up.

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After a seriously honest conversation with my boss, I came home and cried my little eyes out over a bottle of wine (which for me means it’s a big deal, I don’t cry easily!). I had this pit in my stomach and knew deep down I needed to stay, but letting go of that dream and everything I had envisioned for my immediate future was truly challenging. In a way, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing a goal I had been talking about for months. As I would eventually come to realize, ended up accomplishing a completely different goal instead.

Reflecting on the situation I can 100% say I am happy with my decision. That “bad moment” of 2015 ended up a turning point of my career. In a matter of 9 months I grew more professionally than I ever expected.  I gained confidence in my eye for design and visual aesthetics, learned how to manage a creative team, completely elevated the look of our brand such as product packaging, the website and styled photography.  Overall  I grew into a whole new level in my career. Instead of focusing on the immediate gratification of moving, I invested my time over the past year into something that will carry me forward in so many positive ways in my future. After all,  while the opportunity of moving never really goes away, some career moves only come around once.

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#2- Yep, I’m Still Single

At this point I’ve been single for about a year and a half. For some that may seem like nothing, for others that may seem like forever. For me, it’s like this awkward in between feeling. The “bad” part about this is obvious- not having that companion in life to be with you through those ups and downs… someone to celebrate your highs, comfort you in your lows. Obviously you have your family and friends but it’s not quite the same. Being in a relationship means you have someone with whom to share cooking nightly dinners, cozying up on the couch,  taking vacations, and spending holidays together.

I think one of the worst parts of being single for a while has been having people say things like, “you’re not dating ANYONE?” or “it’s okay, you’ll find someone soon” or “better hurry, all the good ones are getting taken!” or “shouldn’t you start thinking about marriage soon, you’re not that young anymore”. I’m not even joking, the last one totally happens. Usually these comments come from people a generation older than me, I think it’s a different mindset and timetable these days. The one I had to laugh at the most was “you know, your child bearing years are coming up, maybe you should be taking finding a man more seriously”.  WHAT?! I’m 27, give me a little break here. It’s easy to let comments like that get to you and make you feel self conscious, especially when everyone around you, including your ex, is pairing off.

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I prefer to turn this “bad” situation into a GREAT one (cue Beyonce’s Single Ladies right here). Being single this year has allowed me to focus more time and energy on my own dreams without having to adjust them for someone else’s. Not just the actual time spent working on things like this blog and other projects, but the mental time to reflect on myself and what I really want out of life. I’ve also learned through casual dating what I like and don’t like in someone… a very important thing to know when choosing your life partner! I know the time will come when I’ll no longer be a single lady. But in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying this precious alone time to further develop my own talents and values, while keeping an eye out for that 1 special guy who gives me butterflies, believes in me, challenges me to be better, shares my taste for adventure, and keeps me on my toes in a good way.

And for my fellow single girls out there who need a little pick-me-up…  pour yourself a glass of wine, blast this song, and have a little solo dance party. Kind of cheesy?? Yes, for sure. But you can’t deny it helps turn that bad moment into a totally awesome one.

 

Going Solo for New Years

Let’s face it… New Years Eve when you’re single is always a gamble. When you’re with someone it’s always exciting to figure out your plans for the big night. It doesn’t matter if you end up with a group of friends at a party or just cozying up on the couch because all that really matters is you’ll be sharing that midnight kiss and starting a new year together. Since I was 16 I spent almost every NYE that way (long term relationship kinda girl right here!), and it’s my favorite way to spend the holiday.

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Fast forward to this year and I found myself in a little dilemma. Not going to lie, I enjoy being single! The total freedom to do what I want when I want is great, and at times I feel almost too busy to handle a relationship lately. BUT unless you have a group of single friends, NYE can sometimes leave you feeling like the 3rd, 5th, 7th or even 11th wheel. So this year I found myself trying to figure out how I really wanted to spend the new year.

After debating between a few different options around town I somehow ended up browsing some rental units on Airbnb (best travel lodging website ever!). I came across this cute little oceanfront condo in Florida, not too far of a drive from ATL. AND for being oceanfront it was a great deal, so 30 minutes later I booked it. My NYE went from potential party time to packing my suitcase and cleaning my apartment but it was ALL worth it! Not to mention I totally dodged the post NYE hangover. I was going to be spending the first few days of 2016 relaxing, reflecting, cooking delicious food, and enjoying a few glasses of wine all with a full view of the ocean. Not too bad aye?

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Now as far as New Year resolutions I am not a big stickler. I enjoy writing some down, goals are ALWAYS a good thing to have in life! But I am also very aware life doesn’t stick to a year timetable… you have to go with the flow of know when to make things really happen and when to be patient. After arriving in Florida this afternoon I sat on my balcony overlooking the endless blue water and reflected on the happenings of 2015 and my visions for 2016. Check back for the next blog post of last year’s lows/highs and future goals!

2015 Favorite 9

Everyone’s been sharing their top 9 from 2015 on social so I figured I’d do the same! Instead of going with top 9 “liked” photos I went with my top 9 favorite moments or experiences from 2015.  It was been a year of ups and downs as every year is, and I am very grateful and proud to be where I am beginning 2016 🙂

#1- Colorado Lovin’

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#2- New York State of Mind

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#3- RAW Natural Born Artist Show

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#4- St. Augustine Mother-Daughter Trip

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#5- BELLA Magazine White Party in the Hamptons

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#6- Home Makeovers and Blog Progress

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#7- California Dreamin’

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#8- Hola Costa Rica

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#9- View of the Year

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