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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A Peaceful Getaway in La Cala del Moral

I loved living in Barcelona, Spain for a month. The city is vibrant, active, eclectic and fun. There are things happening at all hours… I distinctly remember a group of people walking down my street at 5am drunk shouting songs while the sun was coming up. But I am not going to lie, after a few weeks I was ready for a little peaceful break from the busy activity of the city.  Before meeting Stephen in France I had a week break to go wherever I wanted, and after researching what would work logistically while still being affordable, I decided to stay in southern Spain, just outside of Málaga in a place called La Cala del Moral.

The picture below is the view from my bedroom, and is the reason why I chose this location. I knew I was going to be working a lot to get ready for taking a week off with my boyfriend, and what better way to buckle down and get to work than with this gorgeous view on top of the hill.

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After settling into my airbnb in La Cala del Moral I took a walk down to explore the beach. This was no ordinary beach, what I discovered were these beautiful cliffside walking paths that almost made you feel like you were on the edge of the world. Where all you could see at certain points was bright blue crystal clear ocean water.SauvignonBlue-Malaga-15 SauvignonBlue-Malaga-16 SauvignonBlue-Malaga-18 SauvignonBlue-Malaga-20 SauvignonBlue-Malaga-21

Something really unique about La Cala del Moral is this path that goes not only along the edge of the cliffs but through the land into tunnels. These tunnels used to be a railroad where the train would pass through the city. Now it’s a walking path where you can find people running, biking, or just strolling along with their friends and dogs. The tunnels take you from one beach to the other, with many opportunities to detour and enjoy those breathtaking ocean views.

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It was such a wonderful break from a busy city. I would work for hours at home enjoying the view, then take breaks to walk down to the water and take in some vitamin D. I will say staying on top of the hill overlooking the town did come with a price– the steep walk back home from the water! It was definitely a workout just getting home each day from the beach, but I welcomed the exercise to help me stay in shape.

During this week I made sure to also get into the main city of Málaga. Check back for the next post where I’ll share with you beautiful sights of Málaga, street art discoveries, and the best view in the city.

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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!

 

Spanish Day Trip- Girona, Pals & Costa Brava

After being in Barcelona, Spain for a few weeks I was anxious to explore some surrounding areas outside the city. A friend suggested Girona, a medieval town about an hour from Barcelona, and I also came across Costa Brava and its beautiful beaches. During more research I landed on a small group tour company who actually takes you to BOTH in one day! Plus a tiny medieval town in between the two called Pals. I signed up right away and was so excited to spend the day exploring these new places. And best of all… I didn’t have to plan a THING!

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The first stop in Girona was a city rich in history with influences from multiple cultures. Our guide gave us a introduction to the city’s history while walking through the streets, and we were then given alone time to explore on our own. I made sure to hike up to the gardens on top of the hill where there were multiple towers looking over the beautiful city and green hills in the distance.

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PALS

Next up was a tiny town called Pals. It is known for the rice it produces there, and most of the dishes with rice in the surrounding areas have rice from this town. We strolled around the streets and admired the countryside that was very reminiscent of Tuscany, Italy.

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Playa Calella De Palafrugell, Costa Brava

My favorite was definitely saved for last! Playa Calella De Palafrugell is a part of Costa Brava, and the views were stunning. The water was crystal clear, and the blue sea was a gorgeous contrast against the bright white city. Our group divided off for lunch where we enjoyed a few drinks with a perfect view. I was set on getting in the water, had been wearing my bikini all day under my clothes. So despite the fact that it was freezing water, I dove right in.

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My Barcelona adventure is almost over on the blog! Next up is the wine and tapas tour to wrap up my first month abroad in such an artsy and vibrant city.

 

Sagrada Família & Sailing Away

One of Barcelona’s most famous must-sees is the Basilica of the Sagrada Família, the largest church in the city designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although the construction of the church began in 1882 it is still unfinished… and it is insane. Your trip to Barcelona cannot be complete without seeing this amazing place– the details, combination of different architectural styles, and overall grand size of it is an amazing site. I was surprised my weeks in the city leading up to that point I never caught a glimpse of it, but after a quick 20 minute walk from my place my friend and I arrived. Be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time (only 15,00€)  because you are assigned specific entrance times into the cathedral- purchasing ahead will let you skip a big wait time to get in!

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If the outside of the Sagrada Família isn’t enough to make your jaw drop just wait until you get inside. It was so interesting to me that despite the fact the church is over 100 years old since its construction began, the inside felt extremely futuristic to me. I could probably lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours, and the way the stained glass was arranged it gave the inside a complete spectrum flood of light.

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Later that day we decided to experience another amazing site in the city and were determined to find a great rooftop bar nearby. We ended up deciding on the Skybar on the rooftop of the Grand Hotel Central and it was the perfect place to relax with a glass (or two!) of Spanish wine and enjoy the sunset.
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The next day we had reserved a spot for a brunch sailing trip with Sailing Experience Barcelona. After browsing a lot of sailing options available in Barcelona we decided on this one because #1 the price was right, #2 it came with free drinks, and #3 it wasn’t a total booze cruise. You know you’re inching toward 30 when the idea of a booze cruise sounds like a crowded boat with a group of young people getting too drunk and being super annoying. I mean we wanted to do some nice day drinking like everyone does, but we also wanted it to be a relaxing experience. After a few croissants, cheese and cured meats, we set off out of the marina with glasses of white wine in hand. Our skipper was wonderful, not only was she very attentive (even provided us with fleece jackets when it got chilly out in the water) but she was extremely knowledgable about Barcelona’s history which we learned about while gazing back at the city from the water.

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SauvignonBlue-Barcelona145When we returned safely to shore we took a short walk over to Barceloneta Beach, ordered  a bottle of Cava, and enjoyed some bubbles with more ocean views. For me it was so nice to actually take an entire day off from work, no laptop was opened that day. After an afternoon nap (much needed after a lot of sun and a little day buzz!) we ended the night with some delicious sushi.

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What did you think of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família? Pretty cool right?! The next day we went to another one of his famous places in Barcelona (another must-see of course). Check back at the next post to see our experience at the beautiful Park Güell.

Madrid Weekend Getaway

Last weekend I said goodbye to my new home in Barcelona for a few days to experience another city in Spain, Madrid! A friend of mine who I hadn’t seen since she moved from the U.S. to Amsterdam 2 years ago was there for work and invited me over to visit. Because that’s just what we do now… hangout in other countries… no big deal. I was excited to see another city and spend some time catching up over tapas and wine.

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She suggested we go to the Rooftop Bar of the ME Madrid Reina Victoria hotel, and it was the best place we could have started the weekend. The views were so beautiful, overlooking the plaza as the sun came down over the rooftops. We enjoyed a few glasses of cava with her coworkers and because we are girls and this is what we do, got a few pictures taken with the picturesque scenery. The night ended with plenty of laughs, countless tapa dishes and a few bottles of wine at Max Madrid, just on the other side of the plaza below.
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The next day while my friend was busy being an adult and working, I set out on my own to explore the city. Before leaving the U.S. and for the first few days of being in Spain I planned on getting a SIM card for my iPhone so I could use it like normal while away from wifi. WELL, I ended up saying forget it and did the unthinkable… I can only use my phone on wifi out here. I know right, unplugging from technology, am I insane?! First of all it has been nice to be forced to disconnect while I’m out and about seeing these gorgeous places, but there are times when it would come in handy, like when trying to navigate new places. So to solve this I used my tech skills, screen-shotted a map of Madrid focusing on the main area I would be in, added stars to a few specific places I wanted to see, and saved the image to my phone. Gotta be resourceful in times of need.

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I spent the day visiting all the places on my list plus stumbling across so much more. That is one of my favorite things about traveling– finding unexpected places. I tend to pin point a few key things but the rest is fun to encounter while you’re getting slightly lost in a whole new place. I will never be one of those travelers with a regimented, timed-out schedule, and I never want to be. Living fully in the moment is a key aspect of traveling for me, and too much planning sucks the fun and spontaneity out of that. There aren’t too many times in everyday life you can be so open and carefree so it’s important to cherish those times.

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Museo Nacional Del Prado
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Plaza Mayor
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Plaza Mayor

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Catedral de la Almudena

On my way to the Royal Palace Madrid I came across the Catedral de la Almudena, one that was not starred on my makeshift navigation map. It was my favorite place I saw in all of Madrid. I am a sucker for old churches anyway, they are so beautiful and detailed. But this one stood out to me because of the brightly patterned ceiling. Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with patterns so it was like this church was made for me. The soaring arches and ceiling took my breath away.

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Catedral de la Almudena
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Catedral de la Almudena
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Royal Palace of Madrid
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Royal Palace of Madrid
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San Jerónimo el Real

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Buen Retiro Park

These trees. were. ridiculous. I would love to meet the person who grooms these trees just so perfectly.

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Buen Retiro Park
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Buen Retiro Park
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora

After my friend and I enjoyed a delicious and refreshing sushi dinner (which I am now craving just by typing the word sushi), we turned the corner from the restaurant and stumbled across this freaking BEAUTIFUL place. Its like the time of day and lighting perfectly aligned for this picture to be taken. I can’t get over the architecture and the complimentary orange and blue colors happening here.

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The next day we were determined to enjoy yet another rooftop. But come on, you can never enjoy TOO many rooftop views. This specific place made it to pretty much every list for best views of the city, The Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes. I will say it’s very touristy up there. You have to wait in line to go up in the elevator, wait in a long line for drinks, wait in a line to leave. Lots of waiting. But the waits are totally worth these amazing views of Madrid. I never knew how vast the city was until that rooftop.

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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes
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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes
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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes

And because we are girls and this is what we do, we had to snap a few pictures to document the moment. Plus the light was absolutely perfect for some sunset snapshots, can’t pass up some good sunlight.

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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes

The next day I returned to Barcelona where I’ll be until June 30th! A day after Madrid my friend came to stay with me for the rest of the week and we saw some amazing sights around the city. Be sure to check back for the next post to see our time at the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, two iconic parts of Barcelona.

Balancing Work y La Playa

The day after arriving in Barcelona it was time for me to get back to keeping up with work. I’ve been asked a lot by people I’ve met out here if I’m here for work or pleasure, and I always answer with both. Do I have to be in Spain for work? No. Am I on vacation? Not exactly. I’ve had to find a balance between wanting to explore the city all day and making myself stay put to get my work hours in. It definitely makes it easier that there is so much to do work wise and my travels depend on getting it done, but there are definitely those times where I look out the window from my apartment on a beautiful sunny day and just want to close my computer for the rest of the day and go to the beach.

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I found in the early mornings or later evenings (when the sun isn’t directly in my eyes and on my screen!) our little patio is the perfect spot to enjoy the amazing weather while still knocking out some projects on our apartment’s wifi. It’s definitely necessary to switch up your environment when you’re working from home. When you’re not surrounded by coworkers in a regular office environment sometimes the change of scenery helps stimulate your mind and you can get more accomplished.

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Another routine I have started while working remotely out here in Barcelona is my midday break. Usually I throw on a pair of sneakers for a run, but other times just a casual pair of sandals for a walk around the neighborhood. With the time difference between here and Atlanta, GA I can usually get back from my afternoon explorations by the time everyone else over there is just getting to work- perfect timing. This has helped me break up the day while still feeling like I’m taking in more and more of the city each day.  And with SO many beautiful places to still explore there is always more to see.
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Once the weekend came I was ready to treat it like a true weekend. Now I did still open my computer for a few hours of work here and there, mainly just to make up some time  from earlier in the week during my travels. On Saturday despite the cloudy skies I made my way down to Port Olímpic, right next to Barceloneta Beach. Thankfully once I got there after 2 metro rides the clouds had moved past the beach and I still was able to get a few hours of sun in.

On Sunday I went to Basílica Santa Maria del Mar, what a beautiful interior of a church. I have a thing for cathedrals, they always make it to my must-see list when visiting a city. The architecture, soaring ceilings, stained glass and attention to detail is so beautiful. From there I took a walk back down to… you guessed it… the beach. 🙂 I can’t help it, I am in love with the ocean and needed to take full advantage of now living so close to it. Although my neighborhood in Barcelona is not right near the water, a nice long walk or a quick metro ride gets me there in no time. After another full day enjoying the sun it was time to wind down, get some tapas and prepare to get back to work.

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A Day of Firsts in Barcelona

Sipping the best cappuccino ever outside a café across the street from apartment in Barcelona, I’m proud of myself to finally be up before 10am. It’s taken almost a week to get on track with this new timezone, and I’m happy to say I’m almost there!  It’s been an exciting beginning to this three month journey abroad, and what would a solo trip be without something huge going wrong at the start.

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My flight from ATL to Barcelona was scheduled to leave at 5:30pm, so I planned to head to the airport around 2pm. Earlier that afternoon, all packed and ready to go, I decided to check in on my phone for my Air France flight. I got to the last step of the checkin process after entering my confirmation code and my passport information, but wasn’t allowed to check in because my trip apparently required a visa for the over 90day stay. I thought, okay well since I won’t be in Barcelona for the entire 90 days it’ll be fine, Im basically switching each country after a month if not sooner. Obviously I just needed to clear up this misunderstanding since I would only be in Spain for 30 days. After speaking with the embassy I in fact learned that as a US citizen you’re not allowed to be in Europe as a WHOLE for over 90 days (not just per country), and my flight reservation was for 95 days. They basically weren’t going to let me on the plane that day! To make matters worse I had booked my ticket through an external flight savings site, not the actual airline, so when I called to move up my return flight I was told they could not. About an hour or so later of playing cat and mouse between the two companies (each saying they were unable to change my reservation), I was finally able to change my ticket home to a week earlier.

Lesson learned… as a U.S. citizen don’t book a trip over 90 days to Europe, and don’t book your flight through an external site. I may have saved a few hundred in the beginning not booking directly with the airline, but I paid that right back to alter my flight.

I’ve been told with Southwest you can change your reservation for free, but you don’t always get to choose your preferred airline everywhere you go. Anyways, I was finally able to check in to my flight, and that rush of stress and panic slowly started to fade away. After a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc at the airport, I was stress-free and excited to travel across the Atlantic. 9 hours, 2 cheesy chick flicks and an attempt at sleeping later, we touched down in Barcelona, Spain at 8:30am. Customs was a breeze at the airport, since it was my first time in Europe all I had to compare it to was traveling to Central America… which requires paperwork and scanning all your luggage. After just a quick stamp of my passport, I grabbed my backpack at baggage claim and jumped in a taxi to go to my new home for the month. Luckily I had written the address on a slip of paper so there was so issue communicating to them where I needed to go. I seriously should have worked more on my Spanish before coming…

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We arrived to the Gràcia neighborhood in Barcelona and I was dropped off on this little pedestrian only street where my apartment was. The driver told me #20 was just right over there, so I started walking down the street. After then being chased down by the driver, he told me it was literally right on that corner and I had walked right passed it. Thank God for him because I probably would have walked the whole block, half awake after barely any sleep, and loaded up with luggage looking for this place. As I looked at the options to dial in my host lady on the buzzer, none of the names matched hers. I looked back at my info and saw her apartment was #1…. all the names had a 1 next to them. I started to just push all the buttons on the list, and after a few tries my host lady answered and let me in the building.

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The entry area and beginning of the stairwell is marble and colored tiles, so pretty and so old. I made my way up the tiny stairs which turned into terra-cotta tiled stairs, tightly winding up until I reached the third floor. Quite a hike I must say when you’re loaded down with all your belongings, but I was thankful I had decided on the backpack as opposed to a rolling suitcase. THAT would have been hell to carry up those little stairs. Maria was very sweet, brought me to my room, showed me all around her adorable, very traditional style apartment, made me a coffee (or cafe as I should say!), and walked me through the map of where we are located  and how to use the metro in Barcelona. After unpacking my luggage and settling into my room I set out to wander the streets of my new home for the month.

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Being that it was my first time in Spain, and Europe in general, I was entranced by the city as a whole– the architecture, all the tiny streets, balconies everywhere with people, plants and flags hanging from them (no hanging people, just hanging flags FYI). It was so beautiful and I wandered around for hours taking in the constant views of this vibrant city. The only thing I could compare it to at the time was being in NYC, but this was way more beautiful, cleaner and slower paced. People just strolling around, hanging out on benches everywhere, chatting away and sipping on their drink of choice.  I started with just my neighborhood of Gràcia, and ended up walking all the way down through the gothic quarter to the marina. The water here in Barcelona is so blue I decided I had to see the beach before returning home. After making my way through the crowds of Port Vall, I reached Barceloneta Beach where crowds of people were enjoying the sun and ocean views. I spent my first euros on some tapas for an early dinner, and after an exhausting first day I was ready to get back home to rest.

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Another amateur move of mine– I left that afternoon to explore wearing little sandals with absolutely no support, thinking “o well I’ll just be around the neighborhood”. Hours later my feet were definitely hurting so it was time for another first of mine– taking the Barcelona metro to my stop in Gràcia. With a little help of an elderly couple in the station I figured out which direction I was supposed to be heading and piled in that cramped train for the first time, exiting at my stop (called Fontana which funny enough is the city in California where I was born).  With the exception of a few hiccups along the way I was finally here, ready to really begin this journey of mine alone in a foreign country.

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.

Eurotripping & Down Under

I was hoping to share these plans sooner but the past month has been a whirlwind of out-of-town weekends, selling and giving away most of my things, packing up the important ones, saying goodbye to the first apartment I’ve rented on my own without a roommate, and becoming homeless. O, not to mention I’ve officially started my own business during this crazy time so needless to say… I’ve been a little slow getting back to the blog! I am SO excited to share with you my rough itinerary for the next few months, and even more excited to be leaving for Europe in less than 60 days. Is this real life?!

JUNE– Barcelona, Spain- entire month

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JUNE– Lisbon, Portugalweekend away

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JULY– Biarritz, France- week long vaca (with a real cute Aussie)

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JULY– London, England- week long stay

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JULY– Amsterdam, Netherlands- week long stay

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AUGUST– Rome, Italy- entire month

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AUGUST– Venice, Italy- weekend away

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AUGUST– Split, Croatia- weekend away

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SEPTEMBER– Australia– 2 weeks

So I have something to admit… I do in fact have a return ticket. I know I know… last blog post I mentioned not having one, but now I do and couldn’t be more happy about it. Turns out this Aussie guy is taking me home with him to Australia in September, so I will be returning to the States for maybe a week before flying to the completely other side of the globe. Goal #1- explore this beautiful place my boyfriend is from and meet some pretty important people in his life. Goal #2- See a baby Joey in a pouch.

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OCTOBER– Undecided

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NOVEMBERUndecided

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I need your help!

After Australia I will be back in Europe for 2 months to wrap up 2016, and I need your help deciding where to go! Do I want to soak up the culture of my O’Grady side in Ireland, sip wine in cafes in France, or wander the streets of Prague? The possibilities are endless and I’d love to hear about some of your favorite place around Europe.

Leave a comment and let’s figure this out!

 

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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5 Favorite Nightstand Books

Although my kindle is great and of course very practical, I am still a sucker for a physical book- the cover, turning an actual page, plus they always make for nice decorations around the house. I have a collection of books sitting on my nightstand, some I’ve read all the way through and some are still in progress.  From business inspiration to travel stories that make you want to take off around the world, below are my top 5 favorites!

1. #GIRLBOSS

Sophia Amoruso is nothing short of a total badass. This New York Times bestseller shares the inspiring story of how she went from hitchhiking to starting one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.

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2. What I Was Doing While You Were  Breeding

I wish Kristin Newman and I could be besties in real life, or at least vacation together. I mean, we have the same first name so that’s a great start right? In this memoir Kristin shares her inspiring and hilarious jet setting tales from around the globe. Just be prepared to buy a few plane tickets after reading.

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3. The 4-Hour Workweek

I first listened to this on audiobook during my long commutes to work back in the day. I loved it so much I bought the book years later and am steadily getting through my second read. The 4-Hour Workweek is a huge motivator and great resource to ditching the 9-5, living anywhere and joining the “New Rich”.

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4. Eat Pray Love

A classic of course! Live vicariously through one woman’s transformational life journey across Italy, India and Indonesia. I’ve read this book and watched the movie with Julia Roberts during good times and bad times in my life and it never disappoints. 

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5. Bossypants

What better way to end the list then with some much needed laughs with Tina Fey. I have brought this book on my last few plane flights and embarrassed myself plenty with laughing out loud in public.

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What books are currently on your nightstand?

 

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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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.