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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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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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 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.

Go-For-It Motivation

Time for a little motivation that will light a fire under your ass to go after what you really want in life. I recently began the process of a HUGE life change… leaving the safety and security of a full-time, office job to work on my own and develop my own company. For a long thing this has only been a daydream of mine, but despite the hesitation of those around me I’ve decided this year would be the year I start to make it happen.

It’s easy for us to get influenced by those around us. We feel like we need to conform to a certain lifestyle, certain job, or certain priorities. Some never have the guts to really take a big risk, and I can’t be one of those people who would look back in 15 years and wonder “what if I took that leap?”. Your friends, family, and colleagues can give you all the advice they want, but at the end of the day all that matters is what you feel in your gut is the direction you need to take. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of as I begin and carry through this new phase in my life. I’d like to share with you some quotes I love that keep my head up and my mind focused on what it is I REALLY want 🙂

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Surprise Endings & Beginnings

As I was just saying, plan as much as you want but life usually has it’s own set of plans in store for you. I was reminded of this truth big time a few weeks ago when I knew in my gut I had to put any moving out west plans on hold. After all was said and done, I decided  to grow and expand my career, right here in ATL. It was a very difficult decision to allow myself to make. I had envisioned myself living in Cali for many, many years and very recently was putting together plans to move to Colorado when my lease ended.

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This all changed after a very heart felt conversation with my boss about my desire to move. Afterwards I came home, poured myself a few glasses of wine and settled into all the thoughts and emotions running through my head. By the end of the night, I knew deep down I needed to be patient and stay put. Although it wasn’t easy for me to accept at first, I would never take back that decision.

Since then, our in office team has doubled in size. This little Graphic Designer became Art Director & Product Design Assistant, and plans for me to join in on international trips are already in the works. Talk about some exciting beginnings and future life adventures! Certain opportunities only present themselves once and I have a feeling I would look back and agree that this was one of them.

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Laguna Lovin’ & Cali Goodbyes…. For Now

August 25, 2014– The last full day of my newly single lady trip out to the west coast and I wanted to make the most of it! I was spending the day with my aunt… okay technically she isn’t my aunt at all, but to keep it simple I’m going to go with that. Aunt, friend, whatever… she’s someone who’s known me since birth.

I had to also drop my rental car off that morning so she met me at the airport. I was so sad to give back my favorite travel companion for the past week. Our daily trips to In-N-Out, the drive up the coast through Long Beach to Santa Barbara, cruising along the California hills blasting music, and all the while pretending it was mine. It was the perfect ride for this trip, and I was sad to turn in the keys! I may or may not have done some research about purchasing one of these guys when I returned home, but that’s as far as that idea went… for now.

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After dropping off the car we headed to Laguna Beach for the day. Back in high school when the reality show Laguna Beach was on TV, I remember my mom commenting on who stupid all their annoying drama was (agreed), but she always liked watching the TV show intro. Apparently the beach clips reminded her of growing up and her regular trips with friends from Long Beach to Laguna. She would tell me how she recognized the location shots and how she loved going there all the time as a teenager. I was excited to visit this gorgeous place for the first time, but also to visit another city that is indirectly tied to my past.

We parked the car and decided to start the day by taking a long walk along the water, taking in the endless views along the way. I love the rocky coast of Laguna and all the surrounding foliage. It feels much more natural than other nearby beaches I’d been to over the past few days.

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SauvignonBlue-LagunaBeach-4After our oceanside stroll we stopped for some super fresh quac and cosmos, still with that beautiful beach view. Over the next hour we sipped cocktails and talked about life, relationships, and future goals. I love how the older you get the less age matters in personal relationships. There I was, sitting with someone who is the same age as my parents and whose son is also my age, relating to each other and sharing stories and feelings as friends more than anything else. There were lots of laughs, a few tears, but most of all we cherished that time spent together in such a beautiful place. Over the next few hours we moseyed around through the streets, stopped in art galleries and cute little crafty stores, and continued to enjoy the day.

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A few hours later we found ourselves at this beachfront restaurant right as the sun was setting. We decided to grab another drink and some dinner to watch the sun go down, making it the perfect ending to not only an incredible day, but I week I will never forget.

As I watched the sky and its reflection on the water change over time, I thought about the journey I went through that week and the time leading up to it. What began as kind an escape from the reality of a recent sudden break-up had turned into a little bit of self discovery, and got me so excited for all the new possibilities in front of me. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the negative/sad feelings when life throws you curve balls and doesn’t take the direction you planned. I’ve heard stories from some of my girlfriends about just crying for weeks, even months after a breakup, not being about to see the bright side or move on for a long time. I am very thankful to know things always get better… and a lot of the time turn out better than you could have ever planned yourself.  With the bad comes something awesome around the corner, and sometimes you have to create that awesome for yourself instead of waiting around for it.

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That Real SB View

Like I said at the end of my last post, my new Santa Barbara friend recommended a few key places around the city I needed to check out before heading back to Orange County. One of his main suggestions was going to the courthouse… seemed like an odd suggestion to me until I arrived.

The entire thing was absolutely beautiful! I’ve always been in love with the Spanish-style architecture- the white stucco exterior, terra-cotta tile roofs and rounded archways. The courthouse has all of that plus ridiculously amazing ceilings, hand painted-tiles, luscious foliage and so many intricate details all over the place.

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One of the things Tour Guide George mentioned I had to do was to go to the top of the tower. As much as I was already in love with the courthouse already, the view from the top of the tower gave me goose bumps. When I returned to SB a few short months later I made a point to go up the tower again of course and the view still was just as amazing. I could sit up there for hours if I had the time.

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Any lingering feelings of sadness about my recent breakup- the reason why I ended up on this trip in the first place- were definitely gone at that point. At least the negative thoughts were. I sat up on the tower looking over this gorgeous place for a while, reflecting on my life. I thought about how some things which at the time seem so devastating and we don’t know where to go or what to do from there, can turn into something totally amazing. Doors open you might have never even imagined if you had continued on that same path.

It’s almost indescribable how I felt… so invigorated by life and its endless possibilities for my new future, while at the same time having this strong sense of peace and belonging. Like this is where I’m meant to be right now and what I should be doing. I will always love Charleston SC, where my ex moved to and where at the time, I thought was going to be my next if not final home. But Charleston never made me feel the way Santa Barbara does. I would have stayed up in the tower longer with that view if I didn’t have to get on the road in a few hours, so I made my way down to finish exploring the rest of the courthouse.

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