Tag Archives: inspiration

Learning To Be Alone

24 Apr

Hello, dear readers!

Well, believe it or not, I have just come back from yet ANOTHER awesome trip! This time to the Netherlands to visit my friend, the infamous Gillian, then off to Denmark for some solo travel. I just wanted it to be simple & relaxing, which it totally was!

However, upon announcing this trip I was faced with the same questions I always get when I travel alone: Why are you going by yourself? Won’t you be lonely? Don’t you want to share this with somebody else?

And I can completely understand where these questions are coming from because I, myself, used to ask them. 

While studying abroad I would meet people in hostels who had been traveling alone for MONTHS & it blew my mind! I asked them the same line of questions & their answers made no sense to me.

It wasn’t until I was literally forced to partake in solo travel that I learned just how incredible it can be.

(Statue selfie during my first solo travel trip to Vienna!)

I was living in Prague & applying for my Czech working visa. In order to get the visa I had to travel to the Czech embassy in another country. The company scheduling the appointment let me know that my appointment was in Vienna, Austria for the following Wednesday at 9:00am.

Since it was a work day & very last minute, none of my friends would be able to join me. I panicked. Would I get lost?! Would I be safe?! Not to mention Mama G was freaking out.

It was then that I realized I would just have to plan, prepare & book the ticket!

The travel & navigation went off without a hitch, my hostel was cute & the appointment went well. Afterwards I had a few hours to explore before my bus back to Prague, so I decided to venture to Schonbrunn Palace.

I spent the next couple hours walking around the palace’s massive gardens alone in a state of awe. It was almost meditative. And I realized how relaxed I was on my own exploring a new place. I wasn’t scared & I definitely wasn’t lonely. It was at that moment that I was completely sold on the idea of solo travel!

(Having a stranger take a photo of me in the “I” from the “IAmsterdam” sign!)

It’s not surprising that I would enjoy solo travel because I have always thought of myself as an extremely extroverted introvert. I equally enjoy the company of others & being alone. It’s a balance & something I have learned to grow into.

And I think we all kinda are.

When you are young you value quantity. The more friends you have, the better. Popularity can only be calculated in numbers & the larger your friend group is, the more people sitting at your lunch table, or asking you to hang out, the more you feel valued.

But as you grow you learn to instead appreciate quality. 

Your friend circle may decrease a bit when you realize who actually has your back. And suddenly the number doesn’t have to be so high.

It’s the same with romantic relationships.You eventually realize that a quality relationship is the most important type of relationship.

This is part of maturing & learning to be more comfortable in your own skin–which is exactly what solo travel helps one do as well!

Because the more I travel alone, the more I realize how much I enjoy it. Of course I like adventuring with loved ones, but seeing a city on your own is something that is so liberating.

Not only do you have absolute freedom to plan your own itinerary, but you can literally be anyone you want to be. You can be a social butterfly making as many new friends as possible or you can be a pensive loner, opting instead to venture to landmarks by yourself.

Plus, in a way, solo travel can sometimes put extroverts completely out of their comfort zone.

Instead of having long conversations with others, or relying on someone else to plan activities…you are forced to experience things all on your own. You also have time to reflect on any emotions or things you have mentally been running from; it’s quite therapeutic!

(Solo travel in Budapest allowed me to meet so many cool new friends!)

On my solo trip to the Netherlands & Denmark I did so many things alone that I would be too afraid to do alone here in the U.S. Like go to a restaurant alone, go to a park alone, even go to an amusement park alone!

And guess what? I still had so much fun even though I was by myself.

I wondered why don’t I ever do things like this alone at home? Because I’m worried about being judged by others, or concerned about looking like I have no friends?

That’s so dumb. 

So I have been actively trying to do more things on my own, & not just when I’m on vacation.

I, of course, am always down to do things with friends. But for too long I have avoided activities, events, parties, opportunities simply because I didn’t have a companion to accompany me. 

And I missed out on SO much!

So now I have no problem buying one museum ticket, one concert ticket, or one theater ticket. And you know what, dear readers? I don’t just use the protective shield of my phone to make it look like I was blown off, but I am actually enjoying the experience. 

There was a specific moment on my trip where I realized just how important this lesson was.

It was my last day of vacation & I decided to go to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen a.k.a. the 2nd oldest amusement park IN THE WORLD. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

I originally planned to just walk around the park, but decided at the last moment to buy an unlimited rider pass for the attractions. It was a bit awkward at first, being alone surrounded by children & families.

But I love amusement park rides & I hate missing out so I rode every single ride. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes & smiled until my face hurt.

I got to cut all the lines since I was a single rider & even sat in the front row of the park’s insane roller coaster! Of course it would have been nice to share the experience with someone else, but I didn’t HAVE anyone else so I just went for it!

(Single rider selfie in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen!)

Solo travel has taught me so much about myself & all that I’m capable of. It has helped me become more introspective & so self aware. And you know what, dear readers? I realized just how truly independent I am. And this lesson transcends more than traveling, it actually says a lot about my relationships with others.

For example: I have officially been single for a while & it used to be hard. I was lonely & craving human companionship. I went back to my grade-school “quantity” fixated self instead of caring about quality. The result was a few people who just weren’t good matches that I was using to fill a void.

Now I have become much more content with my single self & trust that things will work out how they’re supposed to.

And you know what? I don’t even feel “alone” because I’m really not. I am surrounded by so much beauty in the form of loved ones, a fantastic job & new adventures that are always on the horizon! And I am happy with that. 

(The elderly couple who took this photo told me I was so “brave”, I told them I just wanted to see Copenhagen!)

They say you must learn to love yourself before you can love others & I truly believe this. I also think you don’t need to be dependent on someone else for your own happiness. So consider this: how many wonderful things have you missed out on or postponed because of others?

How many times have you said “maybe next year”, “maybe someday”, “maybe when I find someone”?

Do yourself a favor & don’t let that happen anymore.

Stop waiting for your friends to save up to join you on a trip, & stop waiting to find a significant other to take all these dream vacations with. Because “maybe next year” could go on for a long time & soon, before you know it, you’ll be looking back on a life full of regrets.

If you learn to be comfortable with the idea of being alone & solo travel, I promise that life will gift you with so many new friends, memories & adventures waiting around every corner.

You just have to be willing to book that ticket.

JG 🙂

 

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Never Stop Exploring

2 Apr

Welcome back, dear readers!

So as you know I started this blog before my big move to Prague. It was 2013 & I was nearing my university graduation & had no idea what I wanted to do.

So in the single most important act I have ever done–I bought a one-way ticket & moved to a faraway land all alone for a year of ups & downs.

Fast-forward 3 years later to today, where I can honestly say that I am in such a happy place. While I am now living a lot closer to home, I still have made a point to surround myself with as much travel opportunities as possible.

Whether with family, friends, or solo, I made a pact to myself when I moved back to the U.S.: never stop exploring no matter what. 

No matter what others say & no matter what the news says–just keep going.

Even if you have to save up entire paychecks for plane tickets, take painfully long yet affordable budget buses cross country, or sleep on someone’s lumpy couch for a couple of nights.

It will absolutely always be worth it.

And it always has been.

But sadly while the past few years have been comprised of some of my best vacations abroad, they have also consisted of some of the most tragic world events.

Every day tells of another bombing or shooting or death toll; innocent lives are drastically being wiped out by evil.

It’s unexplainable, it’s incomprehensible…it’s terrifying.

So why would I still want to travel?

Why would I put myself at risk to be another statistic

Well, that’s simple: because travel has always given me so much.

It has given me global perspectives: shattering ethnocentric ideas, expanding cultural knowledge & fully allowing me to experience being “the other”.

(Quite noticeably the only Westerners in Hong Kong’s remote Ngong Ping village, Grampy & I just went with the flow) 

It has given me self confidence: learning to navigate new cities, new languages & unfamiliar customs all on my own.

(Living in a city with minimal English-speaking, I learned the Czech language basics fast. Especially when it came to pivo!)

It has given me my dream job, uniting students & families from all over the world to form life-lasting bonds.

(Wonderful exchange students my company brought to the U.S. & are currently living with volunteer host families)

And of COURSE it has given me all my wonderful friendships with so many extraordinary human beings.

(My Japanese “sisters” in Tokyo)

(My host mother & host brother, Simon, in Paris)

(My TEFL “family” in Prague)

(My friend Meaghan & I spending Xmas 2013 with the family of my French friend, Apolline!)

When I say travel is my passion–I mean it.

And when you are fully invested in a passion, you will let nothing else stand in its way.

And I won’t.

Think about it: some people have “risky” passions like extreme sports. Yes, there is possible danger, however, with proper education & precaution, the dangers minimize drastically.

The same way you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a race car without proper training, I would never travel to a foreign city without doing proper research.

Of course, any true traveler knows preparation is key. Making sure maps, currency conversions, accommodations & plans are finalized before moving forward. & A heightened sense of common sense can go a long way.

“Traveling smart” has saved me more than a few times abroad. Whether it be using my intuition about bad situations or being prepared should plans go wrong–this is my first rule of going anywhere.

(Though considered a “Second World Country”, Thailand had some of the nicest locals I’ve ever met)

As prepared as I am, every time I announce a new trip abroad, I am still always met by a response of worry & concern.

While sometimes it can seem understandable, I am still so sick of justifying my travels to people who know nothing about the destinations I’m going to.

To people who allow a heightened sense of media-induced paranoia cloud their logic. Reading exaggerated headlines & watching sensationalized videos that teach them that every thing outside their front door is a war zone.

& I’m sorry, but I refuse to buy into this mindset.

Don’t you understand? That is what terrorists want. They want us afraid & divided. They want us hateful & unable to continue our daily routines. They want us to scapegoat & point fingers.

Well, I don’t know about you, dear readers, but there’s no way I will let them succeed.

I will never stop exploring, asking questions & looking for answers.

I refuse to close my mind. I will not stigmatize 1.6 billion people for the horrendous actions of few. I will not panic about going to a city near Brussels when my own city has already had several shootings in 2016. I will not listen to politicians who use racism to further a disgusting agenda of hate. & I will never use blanket statements like “they” or “them” when discussing large groups of people.

(MEPI friends from various countries in the Middle East/North Africa!)

Because every human is different, & I refuse to believe that everyone is inherently bad…& travel keeps re-enforcing this for me. 

I have met with Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans who have an indescribable sense of faith in the wake of so much tragedy.

(Service trip with my High School to New Orleans in 2008)

I have had strangers in Budapest, Prague & Vienna (who spoke zero English) literally take me by the hand to steer me in the right direction when I was lost & afraid & alone.

 

(I only found my way around Austria & Hungary thanks to the kindness of strangers!)

I have had wonderful experiences in Tokyo, Istanbul & Paris that would not have been half as special if it was not for the overwhelming hospitality of local friends.

(Mike is from Chicago but he was the best tour guide in Istanbul! Thanks, brother!)

& I have met extraordinary human beings in every single city I’ve been who have shared delicious meals, informative pub debates, & deep insight into their beautiful cultures with me, an outsider.

(Like my Japanese sisters, I am also very close with the group of Brazilian students we befriended who were studying at my university in 2014)

So next week I will venture back to Europe alone. I will FINALLY be reunited with the cooler older sister I never had, Gillian, in her new home, The Hague. Then travel by myself to Amsterdam & Copenhagen.

And I have not an ounce of fear.

Because I will do what I always do. I will pack all my travel supplies: my maps, my converters & my clothing layers. I will print out all my itineraries, my plane reservations, & my hostel addresses.

& I will be aware of my surroundings.

Not a panicked hyper-awareness, but not a foolish lack of awareness–just simply aware.

Like I always am when I’m in a new city.

And I will be fine.

I mean, I get to explore two brand new cities! I will see the wold-famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens & the beautiful seaside Nyhavn canal & get to have some much needed pub talk with one of my best friends!

(See you soon, Gillian!)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few years, dear readers, it is that you cannot allow anything to dictate your happiness. 

No job, no lover, & absolutely no fear.

You must continue to venture on, to explore the unknown even when it can be terrifying. Because you never know what wonderful experiences or people may be waiting just around the corner.

Happy travels!

JG 🙂

 

 

 

The Other Side of The World

8 Mar

Whew. Sorry it took me so long to update you on my life, dear readers! I have been so busy traveling the world & then attempting to regroup from the jet lag from said travels! But now I think I’m finally back to normal, enough to tell you about some bucket list milestones I recently crushed including:

-Drink out of a fresh coconut

-Take a Japanese bullet train

-Visit a monk in a Buddhist temple

and…

TRAVEL TO ASIA!

If you know me/have been following my blog for a while you know that traveling is definitely my true passion & it seems like I do it a heck of a lot. Well, you’re certainly not wrong, but one thing to note is where I travel–to all the SAME places!!!

I definitely have my “favorite cities”, which I cannot get enough of. So I keep going back whenever I get the chance. I mean I’ve been to Florence 3 times, Prague 2 times after living there for a year & Paris a whopping FIVE TIMES.

It was time to venture some place new!

Also remember how I vowed to treat one person to “a special vacation” every year? Well this seemed like the perfect chance. But who to take?

If you recall, my last trip was with my Mom. She is truly my best friend & really helped me the most through my dog bite fiasco. We longingly planned adventures while I laid in a hospital bed & hoped maybe one day they’d come true.

Then they did.

Last October we took a girls trip to Dubrovnik, Prague, Paris & Florence! And it was the best. I lead, she followed. I spoke the languages, held the money, organized the tickets, passports, keys & directions…and she had one hell of a time!

And it was a success! So successful that I was pinching myself. No pick-pockets, no scams, no disasters, & no sickness (well, I stuck it out until the very last night!). It was pleasant too because, besides Croatia, I already knew all the places we traveled to so well. 

I was comfortable & familiar. 

However, as much as I absolutely LOVE Europe, I knew the day was coming: the day when my wanderlust would force me to wander into the unknown aka: anywhere but Europe, or in this case–Asia.

Ever since I was young, I have always been fascinated by Asian culture. Mulan was my favorite movie growing up, I learned to use chopsticks at a young age & a few of my exes even have Asian roots.

My desire to travel there grew the more I made wonderful friends hailing from this vast continent, specifically a group of Japanese girls that I worked with at my university during Summer 2014.

Once their program was over, the girls begged me to someday come visit them in Japan.

Little did I know that fate would step in & allow that to happen much sooner than expected.

(Summer 2014 with my girls <3)

So yes, I knew that my next trip HAD to be to Asia & I was freaking out. When would I go? Where would I go? Who would I go with?!

Not sure which of my friends would be adventurous enough, let along who could even get the vacation time, I considered my yearly travel rule. Who was next on the Jessi Dream Vacation List?

And then the answer was clear. Who else but the youngest 70-something I know. The person who not only helped me through all my lowest lows, but has always been my super hero…

My Grampy.

It all made sense. He was energetic, adventurous, & had told me Hong Kong was the top of his bucket list! Oh, & one thing you should know about Grampy is he has endless energy & positivity. He may be 78-years-old, but he still does backflips into the pool & loves a good dessert. He is the epitome of a kid at heart. 

Plus he could really use a vacation from Grammy sometimes.

So I planned & planned & then it was settled: I was officially taking my 78-year-old Grandfather on a 12 day backpacking trip through Thailand, Hong Kong & Japan!

Grampy was ecstatic once I broke the news & fully packed long before the trip.

Piece of cake.

Only not at all because I was so anxious. 

So anxious that I was freaking out a bit. I was venturing to 3 countries I have no familiarity with, on the longest flight of my life, eating exotic spicy food with most sensitive stomach & babysitting the most novice traveler 24/7.

See what I mean?

But I just did what I did best: prepared. I screenshotted directions, learned useful phrases, printed out tickets, wrote emergency contacts, organized folders & finally took a deep breath. Soon the day came & there was no turning back!

The next 12 days were just purely awesome…& I’m glad I allowed myself to realize that. 

Some takeaway things I learned on this trip based on my experiences:

1. I have never felt so safe. 

I mean this on a few different levels. First off: the crime rates in the countries we traveled to were insanely low & that was noticeable. In the U.S. you have to watch your back, in Europe you have to watch your belongings, but in Asia I felt at ease.

No one tried to approach us to scam us, no one tried to grab me (in a sexually harassing way), no one even stared at us due to our physical differences. Even in the suffocating crowded yet eerily silent Tokyo metro, no one batted an eyelash when we spoke English. And it was pretty nice. I was glad to not be on alert 24/7 like I usually am while traveling.

The cherry on top of this experience was when we were waiting for a ferry in Hong Kong & a Chinese man made conversation with us. My Grampy asked him if he had even been to the U.S. & he said:

“I was going to go 10 years ago but didn’t get to. I probably should have because now it is too dangerous there, it was much safer back then.”

The LOOK on Grampy’s face. Mic drop. Perspective.

2. We are ALL the same! 

While Grampy & I met many wonderful strangers in Bangkok & Hong Kong, the real highlight of our trip was venturing around Tokyo.

We ended up meeting up with those same Japanese girls I had taught a few years ago & it was awesome. Because originally when we met I was teaching them English & showing them around a small Rhode Island town, now here we were two years later & they’re showing me around this massive city speaking their language for me.

A very special travel moment indeed. 

They could have just met us for lunch, but no, these girls were A+ tour guides. They showed us landmarks, ordered us food, took us to traditional Shabu-Shabu dinner, sang karaoke with us for 3 hours & then gifted us with Japanese goodies!

Talk about some good friends!

The best was spending one of our last days on the trip in their home town Shizuoka, which is 3 hours south of Tokyo & near the famous Mount Fuji!

Girls, I can never thank you enough. My Grampy & I had the best time in Japan because of your kindness, you are truly my sisters for life ❤

3. Follow your instincts 

One of my biggest fears going into this trip was the unknown. I was afraid of getting lost, using unfamiliar money, metros, languages, hell even bathrooms. I was nervous about standing out so much & had absolutely no clue what to expect.

But then we landed in the sweltering Bangkok airport a 10pm…& I directed the taxi driver to our bed & breakfast with the directions I’d printed out. & Then I navigated not only the Hong Kong ferry system but also the metro, which, after 4 separate transfers took us to Lantau Island & the beautiful village of Ngong Ping to see the Big Buddha. And then, on our final day of the trip I figured out the Tokyo subway system, during rush hour to get to the MASSIVE Otematchi underground station & then find our shuttle bus to the airport just in time.

The funny thing about this trip is I realized it didn’t matter that I’d never been there before, because I already had all the skills I needed to find the way. 

My sense of direction, my judge of character, my intuition are all tools that I use whether I’m in Boston or Bangkok. They’re survival skills that all true travelers rely on wherever they go.

And if something goes wrong that’s okay too. 

If you don’t understand–ask. If you don’t know what to do–observe others. If you realize you’re headed the wrong way simply turn around. Don’t panic, don’t freak out, just take a deep breath & continue on, you are on vacation afterall, remember? 

So thus, our trip was a HUGE success! It went better than I could have ever hoped & Grampy had such a good time.

He drank all the mango juice in Thailand & laughed on the back of the tuk-tuks. He stared in awe at the massive Buddha on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island & slept like a baby in our luxury hotel (my one splurge!) overlooking Kowloon Bay. & He sang his heart out during karaoke & he lovingly told everyone in Tokyo that the 5 Japanese girls following him around were his grand-daughters.

(Admiring the wats/Buddhist temples in Bangkok)

(The world’s best Pina Colada in Thailand)

(Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong)

(Ngong Ping Village & the Big Buddha) 

(The Tokyo Tower)

(Singing some karaoke in Japan with the girls.)

So there you have it, dear readers! Another amazing vacation spent with some truly wonderful people. I will definitely be back, Asia!

In the meantime, stay tuned for my next adventure!

JG 🙂

 

Resolutions.

23 Jan

So, dear readers, the last you heard from me I was bracing for life as a 25-year-old. Now it has been almost one month & let me say, not a whole lot has changed (except I can’t believe I’m saying that number when anyone asks me how old I am)!

What has changed for now though, is a few parts of my lifestyle.

Backing up a bit, 2016 will mark my fourth year of writing in the Czech It Out Blog! To sum it up: You have watched me graduate from college, prepare to move to Prague for a year, move there, freak out, find a job, find the BEST friends, hate my job, fall in love, quit my job, come home, sink into a depression, find my dream job, break up, climb out of the depression, get political, then travel back to Prague & beyond!

Haven’t we grown so much together? I know I have–I mean my writing is proof of that. I went into this blog thinking I would just write some fun wanderlust-inspiring posts for friends back home. Little did I know that this blog would soon become a vault for writing done during the most prominent metamorphosis of my life. 

Honestly! I have a new friend who has begun reading from the beginning of Czech It Out & is a little shocked at how different of a person I am NOW compared to who I was in June 2013 when I published my first post!

And then there are you, my dear readers. You are the family, friends, acquaintances & strangers who have been tuning in from the beginning. Thank you again for your constant support!

And you know how I look at the beginning of each new year; how I structure my ‘resolution’. You know I don’t believe in giving something up or adding something new, but instead ask: what do I want to get out of this year? 

Some of the past few years were very successful:

2013: I Want To Find Adventure- I moved to Prague alone in July 2013, just two months after my college graduation. I had no friends, no job & couldn’t speak the language!

2014: I Want To Find Love- I met Filip in January who was one of my greatest love stories to date. Later that year in September I realized just how loved I truly was while healing from my dog bite.

2015: I Want To Find Success- Towards the end of 2014 I got my dream job working at EF with exchange students. The following year (after a ton of hard work) I received a pay raise & two mini promotions & now feel more successful & content than ever.

So you’re noticing there is kind of a theme with my resolutions–they are not very black & white. True to my poetic soul, each year I give myself a resolution that can be interpreted many different ways.

I determine what I want & need based on my current state going into the year, what am I craving the most & a goal I hope to achieve? After a little deliberation about what my current values are, I have decided…

2016: I Want To Find Health For The Mindy, Body & Soul 

Once again, this is not as black & white as “go to the gym more” or “cut out sweets”. This resolution will probably be the most challenging of all, because where my previous resolutions where 1 part me & 1 part fate this one is all me. I have to work very hard to achieve these goals myself.

Plus this goal is the most personal of all, let me break it down for you…

1. Mind. Stay away from toxic thoughts (anger, jealousy, revenge, etc.) both towards others & self.

This one is a lot harder than you’d think. I may have the occasional ill-will towards others, however, I have always been the type of person who avoids those that I do not like. I don’t give them the time of day.

However, one thing I have been struggling with my whole life are the horrible thoughts I have towards myself. Whether this is socialization or society or a toxic combination of both, I truly can be my own worst enemy.

And I never realized just how bad it was until last year.

Shortly after my dog bite fiasco in August 2014, I began visiting a wonderful therapist named Dorothy. She was patient, understanding, & honest. She made me feel comfortable confiding in things I have never told anyone before. 

We would discuss the thoughts & issues I had & then construct how we could improve them. This was really helpful for me to overcoming the depression after my dog bite, however, we soon had to confront the terrible elephant in the room: my crippling body image.

This was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I wasn’t just ripping off flimsy band-aids from lifelong cuts, I was digging through the hard shell I had acquired in Prague then ripping off the band-aid to expose my deepest & darkest wounds.

There were times when our conversations helped me overcome huge obstacles & there were times when we couldn’t even continue the session because I was so upset. But these talks were something 24-year-old Jessi needed, they were something 14-year-old Jessi needed & they were even something 5-year-old Jessi needed.

2016 began with insurance telling me that they would no longer cover my visits with Dorothy. And there was no way I could afford them, so it was time to say good-bye.

It was a lot harder than I expected because this woman has helped me through so much. Fighting off the demons that have always tortured me & confronting them with a new-found strength. The sad realization is the demons will always be there it’s just now I realize how much artillery I have to defend myself.

This is why I ask 2016 to please allow my to continue to strengthen my mind.

2. Body. Respect & thank your body for all it has helped you through. Do not poison it or maim it, instead focus on how to nourish & replenish it. In return it will continue to function properly.

During my time with Dorothy she would have me complete several writing exercises where I was forced to divulge all my insecurities of my body, but also realize all it can accomplish. 

The sheer idea of it being able to recover completely from such a horrific injury is pretty incredible. As is its ability to help me get through so many early morning gym workouts & then extreme physical activities like caving in Budapest & climbing to the top of one of the New Hampshire White Mountains!

Bodies can do some pretty cool stuff when you get past all your hang ups about their exterior design ! 

However, this got me thinking what have I done for my body lately?  Not a whole lot except critique it, shame it & fill it with a whole lot of things that are not too good for it.

Besides having a very sensitive stomach & a bit of scoliosis, my body was considered quite healthy. All limbs work, white blood cells respond promptly to illness & all my vitals are perfect. So why was I basically poisoning it with processed food, alcohol & trans fat?

It is time to make a change.

A few months ago, I went on a medication that didn’t allow me to drink alcohol. I followed this stringently & was pretty surprised to realize how easy it was. 

That is why I have now decided to give up drinking alcohol altogether.

Not to make a big deal about it or shame you for drinking it, but because all that sugar isn’t good for me, my hangovers in the past year were unbearable & alcohol lead me to a few scenarios where I put my body into even more harm.

No more.

Another change will have to be diet. But not your typical fad diet, one that is just simply logical. I know when I am eating/drinking something that does not properly nourish my body. I know when I am consuming chemicals & preservatives that will make my stomach hurt later. So I am simply trying to do that less & less. 

3. Soul. Live an existence that is genuine & true to yourself. Bring good energy into your life with positivity & avoid spreading or encountering negativity. Live a life that makes you proud to be you!

This sounds like the most abstract one of all, but it’s really quite simple: just be a good person! 

Believe that by spreading good karma to others, you will also receive it yourself. Little kind gestures go a long way & negativity can physically make you sick. Know the difference & avoid situations, habits, or people that are no longer making a positive impact.

I began this post by highlighting just how much I feel I have changed as a person since I started this blog almost 4 years ago; however, I believe that these changes were catalyzed by an abrupt change of surroundings.

I had no choice but to change who I was as it was a direct adaptation of my new environment. 

However, I never want to stop changing. I want to keep meeting new people, keep gaining new perspectives & keep challenging my mindset to stretch & mold to new ways of thinking.

And dear readers, I think this all comes back to my passion: travel.

Travel will put me in these soul-shaping situations I have so desperately been craving.

In 2016 I will have the opportunity to travel to roughly six new international cities. 

In February I will head to Asia with my Grampy, in April I will head to The Netherlands & Scandinavia to visit Gillian & in the fall I will head with my family to Europe.

While seeing new places is exciting as a tourist, I am going to try my best to keep in mind my resolution & be open to any new global perspective or lifestyle these travels may bring. 

& You know I will be writing about it every step of the way!

Cheers to 2016 & cheers to a new year of exciting experiences! I hope you are all blessed with nothing but happiness, good health & new adventure!

JG 🙂

Quarter Life Crisis

28 Dec

Today (December 27th, 2015) is my 25th birthday.

For some reason, it’s an important number to me, one of the milestones. But not like 18 where you’re considered an ‘adult’ or 21 where you can finally legally drink (in the U.S.A.), no, turning 25 is a much different feeling.

First off, I have officially lived a quarter of a century! 

That is insane when you think about it. WHAT an accomplishment. 1/4th of my life (if I tentatively live a full ‘life’ a.k.a. 100) is already over.

Kind of sad.

A bit more scary if you consider how many people are living to be an entire century old. Not too many.

Therefore, I have even less time. 

A lot of people have mixed feelings about turning 25 years old, mostly apprehension.

Why?

Personally I think that it’s an age where you’re a full blown adult & not even you can deny it anymore. 

College has come & gone. The world of work has been (somewhat?) mastered & responsibility is in full effect.

So why is this number so scary?

Because it’s an age where society kind of really expects you to have it together by now.

…& not everyone does.

Now, dear readers, you know that I am all about forming your own path in life. I believe in chasing crazy dreams, relocating, & ignoring societal pressures.

But as much as I have tried to do that in the past 25 years, it all circled back. 

I am right where younger me envisioned myself to be at age 25: college degree, nice apartment in the city, cool job.

But the thing that I could have never predicted were the beautiful, treacherous twists & turns of life that would get me here. 

The dull plateau that would abruptly turn into a vertical ascent, with a tedious incline followed by a few painful drops…which somehow slowly turned into this content happy place.

The number 25 does not scare me, because I cannot see myself anywhere else in life right now.

I am truly where I am meant to be; which is something I have not always felt & will most definitely not always feel.

But for right now, on my 25th birthday, it’s nice.

I’ve spent a majority of these years working my butt off in school, striving for the best grades possible & now even though my classroom days are long gone–I still thrive on learning new things.

I was lucky at age 16 to discover my true passion: travel. A passion that I have turned from just a hobby into a incredibly fulfilling career. 

While they have come & gone, I have always surrounded myself with great people. Though you outgrow those who no longer contribute positively to your life–I feel like now I have a pretty tight knit crew.

Family is the #1 but my international network of friends is one of my greatest accomplishments so far. I love you guys, thank you so much for helping me through all the various stages of these 25 years.

Then there were all the ADVENTURES! 13 countries visited, schools in 3 states, 5 sports played over the course of 15 years, 6 different addresses, 3 years working on television. I have been caving, parasailing & swam with dolphins. I filmed an international commercial that’s still on French television. I have had conversations with celebrities at movie premieres. I have written a 32 page thesis about Lasik Eye Surgery (& got an A). I have lived in 3 countries. I speak (roughly) 6 languages. I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity 3 times. The show Family Guy may or may not have parodied me in an episode. I have been to 2 European Fashion Week shows. I used to competitively horse back ride. I have a blog that officially has over 9,000 views from all around the world.

It certainly has been one HELL of a ride!

So yes, some people have a ‘quarter life crisis’ but for me, 25 is just another number. I am living the life that works best for me & I absolutely cannot wait to see what lies ahead next!

Thanks for being a part of this year, dear readers, & here’s to many more!

Cheers 🙂

JG

 

It’s Never Too Late…

19 Oct

Hello, dear readers! I’m back again to normalcy after a bit of jet-setting, only this time, I wasn’t alone! No, my adventures overseas were accompanied by a very special person–my mom (or as I like to call her, “Mama G“)! Yes, we spent 11 glorious days frolicking around Europe having the BEST time!

As you know, travel is my favorite thing; I love to explore, try new things, meet new people & have life-changing experiences! And while some people think of travel as simply a hobby, I can honestly say that travel is much more than that–travel is my passion. 

Ever since I got on my very first airplane at age 7 to go to Aruba, I was hooked. I loved that feeling in your stomach, comparable to a high speed roller coaster ascent, of the take off; when objects outside the window quickly get smaller & smaller until you pierce the horizon & coast above the clouds. It makes me giggle like a maniac because I am in my element. I am truly happiest at 30,000 feet.

(Although I was also quite happy re-visiting my Prague pub & drinking my beloved Kozel Cerny. Only thing missing: Gillian)

But my love for travel does not stop at flight; no, boats, trains, subways & even buses make me quite happy! I’m serious, I love a good metro system. I guess it’s just the idea of a mini bout of travel paired with some awesome people watching opportunities that makes me content.

As much as I love getting to my destination I always really like being there. In my 24 years of life I have been lucky enough to travel to 13 awesome countries/islands! But for me, this is not enough–I need to see the world.

My mom was a lot like me when she was younger, only she explored the various islands of the Caribbean like I have Europe. She took cruises & went to beaches & just had a great single life. Then she got married. And had kids. And it stopped.

Not going to lie, this is my absolute worst fear right now. To have my wings clipped by pressing responsibility; to lose my curiosity & sense of adventure because of a family.

Luckily for me though, my mom was the one who first gave me these wings.

She fought every ounce of her normally helicopter parent-like tendencies & allowed me to travel when I was 16 to Paris & London on a school trip. Then she allowed me to spend a semester studying in Paris. Then she (very hesitantly) allowed me to move to Prague for a year on my own.

While I love my mom & my family, this love is not enough to keep me forever in one place. But I realized that wherever I traveled to she really was always with me. I thought of her when I saw the beautiful gardens of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, I made a note to someday show her the picturesque canals of Amsterdam & I really, really, really wanted her to see my new second home, Prague.

Upon returning back home I vowed to someday show her the beauty of Europe, the beauty that I had become so familiar with & grown to love so much. But I didn’t get a chance until this year when fate stepped in & allowed me to share my passion with loved ones forever. 

I knew the first person due for a dream vacation was Mama G. I mean not only has she always been there for me, but she was especially there during this whole dog bite fiasco, so I figured she should be the first to experience the positive effects of a terrible experience.

So I had to plan a special trip, just us two ❤

(We flew on a total of 8 planes in 11 days. Luckily we had our neck pillows, which we wore backwards because that’s 100x comfier) 

Fast-forward through months & months of endless flight planning & accommodation hunting (which I complain about but secretly LOVE to do), I was ready to give her a surprise of a lifetime. I hid various clues over the house & my mom spent her birthday crying tears of joy & disbelief because she would no longer have to live vicariously through anyone anymore.

Soon the day arrived: our trip. We headed to the airport; I had our passports, credit cards, emergency cash, currency converter, camera, basic to intermediate level knowledge of 4 languages, & screenshots of all directions…& my mom had a smile. A smile that did not leave her mouth for the following 11 days & one that I hope doesn’t soon leave her now.

(Mama G approves of the view of our room in Croatia)

We ventured to Dubrovnik, Croatia, & tried black squid ink risotto then swam in the cobalt blue Adriatic Sea (in October!). Then headed up to Prague so I could FINALLY introduce her to my second home (which she loved) for dark beer, strange Czech cuisine, meet ups with friends Brandi & Petr & a fish pedicure (which she didn’t love so much). Then we had a 23 hour layover in my absolute favorite city ever, Paris (I honestly cannot help myself, if I’m in Europe, it’s my guilty pleasure) & slept over in the apartment of my French host brother Simon, who Mama G had never gotten the chance to meet before! We also had lunch with Apolline, (the adorable French girl who allowed me to spend Xmas 2013 with her family since I was too broke to fly home)! Then we concluded the trip in Florence, Italy, aka: Tuscany aka: my mom’s ultimate dream destination! Here we ate our weight in carbs, climbed up the duomo, & had a 4 course gourmet meal in a countryside villa!

(Touching this statue means that she will be back to Prague someday!)

I ended the trip sick as a dog, exhausted & in so much physical pain curled up in the fetal position on a 7 hour flight home. But deep down I was so happy. The trip was SUCH a success & I feel like I gave my mom a new perspective of life–that being that it’s not over for her yet. 

There is a saying she always says: “It is never too late to be what you might have been…” & I feel like this was the motto of her trip.

(This is actually her SECOND visit to Paris! Her & Grampy briefly visited in 2012 when I studied abroad)

Me, I have seen it all before & I will see it again. I have that ambition, that drive, that passion. But I wanted her to know that she can too. She can go anywhere in the world & cross many more items off her bucket list. Anyone can, dear readers. Adventure is literally waiting around every single corner. I believe you just need to be open to it; you need to believe it still can exist for you. 

(‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ is one of Mama G’s fav movies. & Here she is, quite literally, under the Tuscan Sun)

So thus, I have vowed that my future travels will be adventure for me, of course, but also for someone else. Each year I will bring a lucky loved one to a bucket list destination & design a trip just for them. Because for me, dear readers, I know that feeling. The feeling of disbelief when you literally cannot believe you are living out a dream; so what better gift then sharing that experience with someone else?

Up next: Asia, Spring 2016. 

My amazing, youthful, hilarious, loving Grampy has a birthday February. He has always wanted to go to Hong Kong. So guess where he found out this past weekend he will be soon traveling to? We’re also heading to Japan & Thailand along the way!

It will be his 78th birthday & he will finally get to cross off his bucket list dream destination. See, it really is never too late to be what you might have been.

JG 🙂

We’re Just One Big Family

16 Aug

Greetings, dear readers! Another little hiatus from blogging, but it’s such an exciting & special time for my work/personal life right now!

As you may know, I work at an awesome company called EF: Education First in the High School Exchange Year program. To basically give you the quick run down: we work with students ages 15-18 from 13 different countries in Europe & Asia who are coming over to the U.S. to study for a year. We match these students with volunteer host families based on compatibility, hobbies & interests. And we do this all by a summer deadline. Cue me having zero beach days so far & having worked 13 days in a row at one point.

Oh yes, summer is a rough time in the office. But it all paid off. We actually matched all 2,600 students with host families THREE WEEKS before the deadline. This has NEVER been done before by any company! Aka: EF is kinda the biggest (& best) exchange program you could work with 😉

Now that the students are matched the office can exhale for a bit. We met our goal & the excitement is over. But in my opinion, the best part is happening right now! The students are arriving! 

I started working at EF November 2014, which was fun but I didn’t feel too connected to the students or host families. They had been matched for a while & most families were all settled in. But NOW things feel so much different!

After months & months of calling new host families, answering their nervous questions, building their excitement & actually being the one to help them choose their student, I feel so connected to my work. I’m very big on human interactions & perspective & to think that I was the one who had a big hand in creating a new family is so so special!

(My Parisian host family who took a chance on hosting me, Spring 2012)

Because this hits so close to home for me. In college I studied abroad for a semester in Paris, lived with a French host family & had such a great time. My French improved so much & my host brother Simon & I have an incredible bond. (I am actually going to see him this fall when my mom & I head to Europe & she will meet him for the first time ever. So cute!)

Something else you should know about why I’m so happy right now is because my work life is fully intersecting with my personal life in the best way possible! A few months after I started my job, I was working to recruit international exchange coordinators, or IECs as well call them. These people are truly the backbone of our program since they are our field staff, working in their own communities to help us find wonderful host families for students.

I was telling my mom about the position & how great our IECs were & long story short, soon she decided to become one! I worked closely with her over the year hanging posters, setting up booths, & making phones calls. After about a million “no’s” she finally got her first interested host family. Then another, then another, then another! Now there are seven wonderful students who will be under my mom’s supervision for this upcoming school year! They will be living with host families that my mom found & the students are applicants I personally hand-picked after hearing the details of each family! Needless to say, we make a pretty good team!

(Airport arrivals are the absolute cutest thing ever!)

Now I cannot WAIT to meet Gary from Spain, Loredana from Italy, Tzu-Chi “Jessica” from Taiwan, David from Germany, Karlota from Spain, Philine from Germany & David from Spain!

I am so excited to mentor them over the year as if they were my own brothers & sisters. I look forward to seeing how much their English improves & how close they get with their host families. It will be amazing to watch how much their lives change this year. I also cannot wait to see how great this is for the communities since all these students are going to be in towns with very little diversity. They are going to meet people who only read about their countries in newspapers, so any new friendships truly are a form of international diplomacy.

I have said it a million times but travel is the most important thing you could ever do. You see things you never imagined, you try new things you otherwise never would have, & you meet people who you will never forget. Plus I can say from personal experience that travel takes you on a journey long after you’ve arrived back home. It’s a catalyst for more adventures & learning so much about who you are. 

The same goes with study abroad. Sure, host families may feel weird having a ‘stranger’ come to their house at first & the students have all these new cultural differences to adjust to, but once that’s aside we see just how much everyone has in common. How these teenagers coming from strange & distant lands really are just like the ones in your own town.

(Gary & my little brother, Sean, having bro time, bonding over food & sports)

Last night Gary from Spain was the first to arrive. Due to some bad weather, his flight was delayed for several hours. His dad, all the way in Madrid, called my home & spoke to my own dad who assured that Gary was in safe hands. Later when he finally arrived, my family welcomed him with open arms. Even though he is only staying for the weekend until his own host family comes back from vacation, my family just gained a brand new son, brother & friend. 

The other six students will be arriving in the upcoming weeks & I am so excited for them. They may be young but who knows where this experience will take them, what inspiration it will instill in them, or who they will be molded into in the future.

Maybe if they’re lucky they will grow up to work their absolute dream job of helping future nervous exchange students meet anxious host families, smiling fondly on their own time abroad 🙂

JG ❤

p.s. watch this & get ready to cry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IW-haWMEe4

p.p.s. interested in hosting an exchange student of your own? click here! http://www.efexchangeyear.org/