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Flying over Lake Michigan to Canada

Flying over Lake Michigan to Canada

I’ve been feeling pretty crappy emotionally lately. I couldn’t figure out why for weeks. I was stressed, unhappy and dreading my birthday, which I’ve never done before.

My birthday trip came at a perfect time. Traveling and exploring someplace new always helps me clear my head. It seems like being separated from the place I feel stressed gives me the space and perspective I need to figure things out.

And it turns out that I’m getting older. Go figure! I turned 28, and it really hit me that life is flying by. It’s been 10 years since high school and almost 10 years since I first went to college.

Yet I’m still struggling with many of the same issues I had a decade ago. That’s what’s been bothering me. I’m getting older, but sometimes I feel like I’m still an insecure girl who can’t stand up for herself.

Me at my senior prom in 2005

Me at my senior prom in 2005

  • I still go through periods where I hate my body.
  • I still have difficult relationships with the same people.
  • I still haven’t graduated college.
  • I’m still alone.

This realization made me feel like I haven’t made progress in my life. I haven’t come as far as I thought. I became discouraged that I’m STILL dealing with these issues.

But thanks to my wonderful friends and a perfectly timed vacation, I realized that we all struggle with things, and many times they take a lifetime of fighting to overcome.

  • In a society that categorizes and judges us based on our appearance, I’m sure almost every person has things they hate about their body.
  • Relationships are a mutual responsibility. Both parties have to put in effort, or it won’t work.
  • Me with my high school principal at graduation (2005)

    Me with my high school principal at graduation (2005)

    And you know what? I’m almost done with school. Yes, it took me a decade of on-again, off-again higher education, but I’m graduating this fall. I certainly didn’t take the traditional route, but when do I ever? I switched schools five times and took a three-year break. Life got in the way. But I learned more about life by taking the long and difficult road.

  • Lastly, yes, I’m single. But it’s OK. It’s my choice. Sometimes I forget that I have chosen this life I have. I’m not willing to settle, and that means I’ll be alone for a while. And I’d rather be alone than with the wrong person. I’d rather be alone than date a bunch of crazy jerks (which has happened a lot this year). I don’t wantto be alone forever, but I also don’t need to waste my time on guys who don’t deserve me. I know what I want, and I’m going to get it. Eventually. I love the freedom of being single, so even though I get lonely sometimes, I just need to remind myself that it’s OK. Being alone is part of life, and I’m not going to rush something for the wrong reasons.

    Have I mentioned how much I love skyscrapers?

    Have I mentioned how much I love skyscrapers?

Though many of these issues are similar to what I was dealing with in high school, they’re not the same. I often forget, as many of us do, to give myself some credit. I’ve come a long way. I’ve lived through painful things and come out stronger. I’m actually three years ahead of my 30-year goals.

And I’m happy. I like my life. I love my job. Yes, I feel overwhelmed at times by school, work, relationships and a new city. But I’m happy where I’m at. I’m making progress, though it’s painfully slow sometimes. I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point, and I’ll continue to work hard. I’ll probably work until I die. It’s who I am. I have far to many accomplishments to achieve before I’m done.

A view of Merchandise Mart and the Chicago River... My beautiful city

A view of Merchandise Mart and the Chicago River… My beautiful city

So whenever you feel down about where you are in life, just remember: Life is progress. And you’ll make it as far as you want. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes you have to claw and scratch your way. But you’ll get there. Just don’t ever give up. Don’t lose hope. And remember to lean on the people who support and encourage you.

A few friends celebrating the start of 2015

A few friends celebrating the start of 2015

Well, it’s not exactly New Year’s anymore, but 2015 is still pretty fresh. And I want to share my goals for this year with you.

First of all, this post is late because I’ve been so busy this year. I moved to Chicago in September and started my full-time job. Since then, I’ve been working 40 hours a week, going to school full time and trying to get my life and apartment organized. It’s been crazy! Things are finally starting to slow down, so I’m hoping to post more often.

I love resolutions because I love planning my life. It excites me to peer into the future and try to see what will happen. I have so many things I want to achieve in my life. New Year’s offers a fresh start and a renewed fervor to get stuff done.

In light of my crazy 2014, my resolutions are a little different this time. I really don’t know where this year will take me. For the last few years, school has been my main priority. I always generally knew where I’d be and what I’d be doing. This time, it’s different, so my goals are different to match.

I made some general plans for the year, and then I decided to have a few specific ones per month. I also added in some career-specific goals. Here’s what I have:

Graduate college: I need four classes to finish! I am so close.

Take risks and be open to opportunities: I had this goal last year, and it got me to my current job and life in Chicago. Risks are scary, but I’d much rather jump than regret not doing so.

Work hard: I made some work-related goals for my year. I just started my career in journalism, and in order to learn and grown in my field, I need to work my butt off.

Get healthier: I’m already the healthiest I’ve ever been. I walk and have eliminated the foods I’m allergic to from my diet. Now, I just need to keep it up. Keep being active and try to cook more at home.

Get my finances in order: I’m almost done with school, which means I need to start paying back my student loans. It’s terrifying, so I need a plan to give my anxiety some rest.

Less TV, more life: Who doesn’t love relaxing with favorite characters and story lines?  But when binge watching TV, it’s hours of your life. Gone. You can’t get them back. I’ve decided to be way more selective in what and how much entertainment I consume. I don’t want to be on my deathbed wishing I’d spent more time outside than on my couch.

Volunteer: I want to feel like I’m making a positive impact on my world. Otherwise, what’s the point of being a human on Earth? I’ve decided to be a CASA volunteer. I’ll be an advocate for foster kids in court. I’m so excited to put my passion and heart to use on this.

So, there you go! Those are my plans for the year. What are yours? And are you sticking with them? Let me know!

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I am a passionate person. It’s my best quality and extends to all areas of my life. It’s what makes me kind, reflective and enthusiastic. It’s the reason I work hard at everything I do.

I am passionate about people. I love meeting them, talking to them and being social in general. It’s why I love to travel, and it’s why I love my job. Working in social media is all about experiencing life and sharing it with people.

When something happens in the world, I search social to see what people are saying. When something bad happens, I go to social to grieve with others. When it’s something happy, I go to feel joy with a community of other people.

Working in social media is rewarding. I can connect with people, help them learn about current events, answer their questions and point them toward information they’re looking for. I live to help people and make a difference in the world, and I can achieve both through social media.

Thanks for visiting my website. Feel free to check out my work samples or read some of my blog posts!

I had the most wonderful time in Chicago this summer. I’ve known I was meant to live in a large city, and I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to do so this summer.

Leaving Chicago... but I'll be back!

Leaving Chicago… but I’ll be back!

Even more exciting, I got asked to stay. At the end of this month, I’ll be moving on from Nebraska. A fresh start in a big city is precisely what I need at this time of my life.

I came to Nebraska five and a half years ago. I moved for a relationship that didn’t work out, but I stayed. It’s not so bad in Lincoln, Neb. Plus, I had state residency, so school was cheaper. I broke my three-year hiatus and started taking classes.

I figured out what I wanted out of my life. I learned to love myself. I found out how to say no to people and things that were bad for me. I made and lost friends. These last years in Nebraska have been the hardest I’ve ever had to live through.

I struggled to support a partner who was depressed. I learned how to make my minimum wages stretch. I went months without money for food. I dealt with loneliness and poor health.

And I don’t regret any of it. I made poor decisions, and I lived with the consequences. I’ve stopped believing in life mistakes. Learning the hard way teaches you to appreciate the small things in life. And it makes you strong. So strong. I wouldn’t have the courage or guts to take risks if I hadn’t gone through those awful years of my life. Going through it made me the person I am today.

I lived a block from the Nebraska State Capitol.

I lived a block from the Nebraska State Capitol.

And it wasn’t all bad. I made some friends who have encouraged and supported me. I met a wonderful man who helped me through some rough patches. I made a new family that I love so much.

Part of me is sad to leave. It’s bittersweet to leave my best friend of three and a half years. It’s sad to leave a college I like so much. It’s heartbreaking to leave the coworkers, baristas, friends, classmates and teachers that have brightened my time in Nebraska.

I can’t say that I want to stay, but I can tell you that if it weren’t for the wonderful people I’ve known here, my life would have been so empty.

I’m excited to start anew on my own, but I won’t forget the amazing people who helped me along the way.

A lot of people see traveling as an easy life. A permanent vacation. They think you’re not really living your life. You’re procrastinating, running from responsibility. You’re carefree. It’s not true.

An Orthodox Church in Vladmir, Russia.

An Orthodox Church in Vladmir, Russia.

I’m not saying that living a wandering life isn’t wonderful, rewarding or exciting. But I am stating that it’s not all 5-star resorts or running off into the sunset. Sacrifices must be made.

You have to make difficult decisions about spending money. You can’t own anything that will weigh you down. It can strain relationships. It can be stressful, difficult and worst of all, lonely.

But when you’re a traveler, it’s not a choice. It’s who you are. No place really feels like home, so you travel to be happy. The whole world becomes your home. You wander to feel fulfilled, to learn new things, to taste adventure. It’s how you embrace and contribute to the world. But oh, can it be lonely.

With all the moving around, it’s difficult to keep in contact with the people you love. Long-distance relationships are hard. Technology, like Skype, FaceTime and social media, can help, but it’s not the same.

I can’t just pop over to my best friend’s house when she had a bad day. I probably won’t be there when my nephews go to prom. Odds are I won’t watch my niece graduate. If any emergencies happen, the closest I’ll ever be is a plane ride.

My sister Tessa and I at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in 2005.

My sister Tessa and I at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in 2005.

I struggle with this. But I’ve realized that the only way I’m going to be truly happy is if I make these sacrifices. If I choose to be lonely. I recently ended things with someone I care about.

This person has been the most encouraging, selfless, supportive person I’ve ever known. We helped each other through difficult times in our lives. We made each other better people. We loved each other. And now it’s over. And it hurts.

I’m writing about it for a few reasons. First, writing helps me sort out my feelings. When I have nothing else, I have the ability to make sense of life with words.

I also want to immortalize in words what we had because it was special. We came into each other’s lives when we both needed someone. He helped me realize how strong and smart I am. He saw my huge dreams and told me that if anyone could accomplish such feats, I could. When I doubted myself, he would remind me of how wrong I was to do so. And I helped him be adventurous. I forced him out of his comfort zone. I encouraged him to take risks, try new things and go to school.

Lastly, I’m writing this for you readers. If you’re a traveler and you feel lonely, know that you’re not alone. Don’t feel guilty about whatever sacrifices you’ve made. Don’t feel bad if you can’t be there for every birthday or anniversary. Take comfort your life. You’re being true to yourself. You’re living your dreams: to be happy, to experience this amazing world.

That’s all I want, but making dreams come true can be painful. I sacrificed this relationship for myself. Granted, it was absolutely mutual, but a large portion was me needing to roam and him needing to grow roots. Some people think it’s selfish, but what kind of life would we have otherwise? If we had stayed in that relationship, we would’ve ended up resenting each other. He doesn’t want to live far away from his family, and I understand that. But I can’t stay where I am. If I stayed, I’d suffocate. If he left, he’d feel empty. We both deserve better than that. Our relationship deserves better.

Writing always helps me feel better.

Writing always helps me feel better.

So, for now, I’m alone. A little lonely, yes, but I know it’s for the best. I’m being true to myself. I have spent so many years trying to figure out who I am, what to do with my life and what I want. Now that I finally know, I have no choice. I can’t punish and put myself through that again. I can’t not be myself. I finally love myself. I’ve finally found what I love doing. I’m not letting that go.

And you shouldn’t either. If you’re truly a wandering soul, don’t try to be anything else. Maybe someday you’ll settle down, but if you don’t, that’s all right too. Make friends where you go. Contribute to whatever society you’re in. And show people that you love them. Even if you can’t be there in person, make sure that the people in your life know how much you love them. That you miss them.

Because even though you may feel lonely at times, there’s no better feeling than fulfillment. If you’re true to yourself, you’ll find that. You’ll be happy. That’s all you can ask for.

 

As cliché as it sounds, this song captures my feelings perfectly.

This summer marks Wrigley Field's 100-year anniversary!

I’ve been in Chicago for a little more than a week, but today felt like the most
Chicago-ey one yet.

This first week, I was trying to get into a routine: find my way to work, get my job done, come home. I didn’t really explore much; I left it for my weekend, which ended today.

Shortly after awaking, my boyfriend and I went for coffee. We visited a library and a used book store in Little Italy/University Village, where I live. For lunch, we stopped at a small, Italian hot dog restaurant. It seemed like a family business with a mother and her adult children working.

My neighborhood is seriously beautiful!

My neighborhood is seriously beautiful!

It was so loud in there! The Italian workers were yelling at each other from across the room in thick Chicago accents.

“He lohcked his keeeys in tha cahr!”

“Oh, muy gahd. He lohcked his keeeys in tha cahr?”

The lady in the back answered the phone, “Whatya want? I’m buisy!”

We ordered Ben a hot dog, and as we sat down, he said, “I feel like we’re in a movie!”

They were really friendly, and apparently the hot dog was delicious! I’ve heard that it’s a sin to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog, so Ben didn’t. He ate it the way it came: with mustard, onions and relish.

Alcohol at Starbucks!

Alcohol at Starbucks!

Later, we went downtown to meet a fellow intern, and we walked down Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile. We stopped at a Starbucks that served alcohol and decided to try out the wine. (Hint: SUPER delicious).

By that time, we needed to head to Wrigley Field. Ben and I got tickets to the Cubs/Yankees game. And let me tell you, the Cubs are a big deal! It was so busy, two trains to passed us by before we could squeeze on the third!

So many people went to the game, and it was a good time. It rained for almost half the game, but we were under the awning, thankfully! It was particularly special to Ben, who grew up watching Cubs games with his family.

After the game, they covered the infield.

After the game, they covered the infield.

During the seventh inning stretch, we sang “Take me out to the ballgame,” and when the Cubs actually won, the crowd sang another song:

“Go, Cubs, go! Hey, Chicago, what’d ya say? ‘The Cubs are gonna win today!'”

After the Cubs game, we got soaked with rain! It was a wet ride home!

After the Cubs game, we got soaked with rain! It was a wet ride home!

I’m not a big sports fan, but it’s always fun to watch people enjoying themselves. It’s also Wrigley Field’s 100-year anniversary this summer. It’s crazy to think that I was sitting in a field built in 1914.

I felt like today was a classic Chicago experience. It was fun to see so many aspects of the city I’ll be spending the summer in. It’s a much larger city than I’m used to, but I feel right at home. The people are friendly, and it’s quite easy to get around. I know the next few months will be filled with plenty of adventures, and I can’t wait to fill you all in!

Until next time, happy travels!

 

I turn 27 today!

Fall 2010

Me during autumn 2010

I’m so grateful to be spending my birthday week doing so many amazing things: Relaxing, traveling and witnessing my friends’ wedding. I am also spending my birthday in New York City, my favorite city in the world!

Life is long, wonderful, painful and beautiful. Through all the ups and downs, all the good and bad, we learn. We figure out how to appreciate the tender and simple moments of life while flexing our strength and endurance when the hard times show up.

So here’s a list. All the lessons I’ve learned so far (in no particular order).

1.  Cats are the best animals.

My love of cats started early. Here's my 6-year-old self holding as many cats as possible!

My love of cats started early. Here’s my 6-year-old self holding as many cats as possible!

2. Realize that mistakes made you who you are. Don’t live with regrets! Learn and move on.

3. Go outside! Nature is refreshing. Climb a tree. Sleep under the stars. Take a walk.

4. It’s OK to be a little selfish. Take the time to focus on yourself. Everyone needs that.

5. It’s OK to cut people out of your life if they’re toxic to you. Don’t let anyone treat you poorly and disrespectfully. You deserve better.

6. Focus on the moment. It’ll make your life happier and simpler.

7. Let yourself be happy. Don’t let guilt or perfection get in the way.

8. Take steps to conquer your fears.

Who doesn't love chocolate-covered strawberries?

Who doesn’t love chocolate-covered strawberries?

9. Be kind to yourself.

10. Don’t let others make you feel bad about yourself. Better yet, don’t worry about what others think. If you do, you let them control your life.

11. Work on yourself. Try to improve and become the best version of yourself.

12. Explore! Even your hometown can be exciting. You never know what you’ll find.

13. Be kind to people. You don’t know what they’re going through. Have compassion no matter what (yes, even if it goes against your political beliefs).

14. Dance. Sing. And don’t be ashamed about it.

15. Take care of yourself. This is the only body you get! Eat well. Exercise. Take care of your mental state.

16. Work your imagination. Life is more exciting this way! Never be ashamed of daydreaming.

My sister, Tessa, and I during Christmas 2007.

My sister, Tessa, and I during Christmas 2007.

17. Spend time by yourself. It helps you learn and grow as a person.

18. Be strong. Persevere. Don’t let failure and bad circumstances hold you back. Keep going!

19. Take time to observe life.

20. Take chances. Don’t be afraid of risks!

21. Have fun! What’s the point if you don’t enjoy life?

22. Realize that the world can be horrible sometimes. See it, and get to work. Have the hope and strength to fight and make the world a better place. Refuse to be apathetic and complacent.

23. Dream big and fight for your dreams! Too many people give them up. It takes persistence and hard work, but you’ll be happier and more fulfilled if you do. You never know what you can accomplish unless you try! Remember, no regrets!

Ben and I when we first started dating in 2011.

Ben and I when we first started dating in 2011.

24. Love without abandon. It’s all we have in life. Never shy away from telling those you loving passionately and telling others how you feel.

25. Get some culture! Figure out why we use phrases that we do. See an Oscar-winning movie. Read a classic book. Go to an art museum.

26. Go on an adventure. It’ll make your life richer.

27. Travel! Not only will you learn more about the world, cultures and people, you’ll learn about yourself.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow

 

Thanks for reading! I know I’m too young to have a wealth of wisdom, but I’ve learned a little. I hope you can share in that with me!

Until next time, happy travels!

For Travel Tip Tuesday, here’s the second post for my Traveling on a Budget series.

Every little bit helps!

Every little bit helps!

Money is essential to travel, and here are some ways to earn a quick buck before your big trip!

Some of these ideas don’t seem like much, but it you save the your dollars, it’ll add up.

Sell things.

I cannot stress this enough!!!

In our materialistic world, we all own things and lots of them. Go through your closet. Consign clothing. Have a rummage sale. Sell stuff on Craigslist or Amazon.

For one of my trips to New York, my partner and I sold DVDs, TV shows and books on Amazon. We came up with almost $400 for our trip!

I promise that you own things you don’t use. Instead of letting it collect dust or throwing it away, sell it! It’s the easiest and fastest way to make money. 

I’ve always been sentimental, so it is difficult for me to get rid of things. However, I’ve been working on it recently. Throughout the last four years, I’ve decreased my possessions by half. HALF. And you know what? I don’t miss anything I sold. 

Sell your body

Well, not like that!

It is easy (and not too painful) to donate plasma, though! You can make about $100 in two visits.

Medical studies are another route. Ben has done some relatively easy ones and made thousands of dollars. It’s how he paid for his new tattoo!

Work hard

Every one likes free time, but if you can sacrifice it now for spare time on a trip later, it’s totally worth it.

Don’t say no to an extra shift at work, and pick up overtime if you can!

Make things

Hand-crafted items are so trendy. Create things and sell them on Etsy, Craigslist, a local fair or rummage sale! Check Pinterest for really great ideas.

Find odd jobs

It may seem daunting at first, but there are tons of random jobs out there!

  • Babysit
  • Rake leaves
  • Clean someone’s house (I’ve done this before!)
  • Mow lawns
  • To find odd jobs around town, check Craigslist

Making extra money may seem difficult or impossible, but you just have to look for it. I promise, all the hard work will pay off when you’re making memories on your vacation!

Until next time, happy travels!

Money. Blech. Am I right?

Unfortunately, it’s a necessity. It causes lots of anxiety and doubt for people wanting to travel. Because of this, traveling on a budget is one of the top inquires I’ve had.

I know it seems impossible, but almost anyone can travel. Yes! It’s true! I don’t make much money at all, but I still travel because of my priorities and lifestyle choices. Many people just write traveling off because they don’t have spare cash flowing into their bank accounts. Here’s a secret: Most people don’t! Traveling takes planning and sacrifice. I promise, it’s doable.

To write this post, I looked through about 20 different webpages and other resources! I hope these tips will encourage you to start saving. Traveling really isn’t as expensive as you’d think!

The first step is to make a goal. Set a time and destination, and start saving your pennies. It’ll help you focus when you’re not feeling like cooking supper or when that new album you’ve been wanting finally drops.

Food.

Do some grocery shopping and cook at home. It saves big time!

Do some grocery shopping and cook at home. It saves big time!

• Stop eating out. It’s so much cheaper to cook and eat at home. It may be extra work, but it’s way cheaper in the long run.

• Don’t buy water. It’s such a waste! Why buy something you can get for free? Get a water filter, and drink tap water.

• Limit costly beverages. I know those lattes are delicious, but it’s so much more economical to make them at home. Or drink plain coffee. It’s a quarter of the price! Pop (or soda or soda-pop or coke) is just added sugar. I know it’s delicious, but it’s unnecessary and spendy, especially at restaurants!

• Buy local and make instead of buying processed food. Cut back on meat; eat more rice and beans. You’ll get your protein at a very reduced cost!

• Buy in bulk (especially spices!). It can be so much cheaper, and you can get exactly how much you need. Plus, you can use your own containers instead of paying for all the packaging.

• Plan ahead so that you can use coupons, shop sales and compare prices between stores.

Transportation.

• Vehicles are expensive with gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. I know they can be a necessary evil, especially here in the Midwest where public transportation is usually poor or nonexistent. Instead, use your car less. Also, check your tire pressure on a regular basis. It’ll help you get better mileage. And don’t forget to change your oil!

Biking is a great way to save money, get around and get in shape!

Biking is a great way to save money, get around and get in shape!

• Save all your errands for one day of the week or stick to shops within the same area. In other words, don’t drive to the other side of town for one thing! Save the gas. If you can’t get that item elsewhere, at least wait until you need other things from the same area of town.

• Walk or bike. It’s free!

• Public transportation. Lots of cities have deals for low income people and students. See if your town does! Public transportation is so much cheaper than owning a car.

Entertainment.

This one can hurt, but stop going out (unless it’s super cheap).

Hang out with friends at home! Throw a BYOB party. It'll save you money!

Hang out with friends at home! Throw a BYOB party. It’ll save you money!

• Have friends over to play games or watch a movie. Drink at home; it’s unbelievably cheaper than bars.

• Use whatever discounts you have available, whether it’s for students, veterans/military or seniors! Check local attractions for discount days and have a fun outing for cheap! A local theater has student night once a month, and we can see a movie and eat popcorn for $1 each. That’s pretty amazing!

• Find free things to do in your town. Walk in a park. Visit an observatory and go star gazing. Find out what museums are free and go! You’d be amazed at how many free things there are to do.

• Cancel your cable television. I know, I love me some TV too. With all the streaming options now, there’s no reason to keep cable. HuluPlus costs about $8/month, and almost any show you’d want to see is there. Current shows are updated the next day.

• Don’t go to the movies. If you don’t have a streaming option, borrow from the library. If you don’t have a library card, GET ONE. Public libraries not only carry books but also magazines, movies, TV shows, CDs and learn-a-language audio. Often, libraries have fun events too. Check it out!

• Similarly, don’t buy music. Pandora, Storify, Songza (and yes, the radio!) can keep you jamming without making you pay. And no concerts either! I know they’re fun, but they do cost quite a bit of money. Just keep focusing on your goal!

Shopping.

• Don’t go shopping. Just don’t do it! I always end up buying things I don’t need, especially at Target. Make a list in advance of things you need, then don’t deviate while shopping! If you need help, bring someone with who will keep you on track.

• Buy used. It’s really not as scary as it sounds, I promise! Places like Goodwill have great deals on all sorts of household items, furniture, books, movies, CDs, clothing and accessories. Also check out consignment stores in your area. They’re usually full of great deals.

• Check out places like the Freecycle Network™. According to its website, Freecycle has 6,921,483 members around the world. The website says “It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people).” And don’t worry about cost; membership is free.

Utilities and bills.

• Do your best to not use heat and air conditioning. Throw on a sweater if you’re cold! Go pants-less if you’re hot!

• Weatherproof your house or apartment. Get thick curtains that block out heat and cold.

Cell phone plans are so expensive! See if there's a way to cut back and save money.

Cell phone plans are so expensive! See if there’s a way to cut back and save money.

• Unplug your electronic devices when they’re not in use. They’ll suck out electricity even if they’re turned off.

• Get energy efficient light bulbs. They really do use significantly less energy and are well worth the investment.

• I’d also recommend getting an energy audit. It can show you how much energy your household uses and where you can become more efficient.

• Cell phone bills can hurt. See if you can downgrade your plan. Most carriers have your personal information online, you just need to sign in. Check the amount of data, minutes and texts you use every month. You’d be surprised at how much extra you could be paying! Downgrade if at all possible. Another helpful hint is hooking up to wifi wherever you go. It can really cut down on the amount of data you use.

• If you’re willing to go hardcore, cancel your internet. I know it sounds scary, but most of us have it on our cell phones, and it’s available for free at public libraries and schools, if you’re a student. It sounds intimidating, but it’s really not that bad. I lived without it for years.

Make things.

I make greeting cards and sell them for a little extra money.

I make greeting cards and sell them for a little extra money.

• I have a friend that makes all of her household products: cleaning products, laundry detergent, butter, broth… anything! She’s incredibly resourceful, and I really look up to her for that! Recently, she made more than two years’ worth of laundry detergent for $5. Talk about savings! She’ll have a guest post with examples on here soon!

• Also, think homemade for presents. Check Pinterest for ideas. I promise you can make something fun and cute for pretty cheap. If you’re not crafty, bake goodies. Or write them a poem or short story. Or hand-make a card! Gifts from the heart mean more anyway, right?

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

• Be resourceful! Use local resources like public libraries. Instead of purchasing, borrow from your friends!

• Save containers. Glass jars and plastic containers can easily be used to store food, plants and household items. If you’re feeling crafty, there are all kinds of ways to make them cute! Again, just check Pinterest for ideas!

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle

• Reuse gift bags, wrapping paper, food and clothes. Use plastic shopping bags instead of buying trash bags. Have a sock with a hole? Use it as a rag to clean your house! So many items can be re-purposed. You just have to be a little creative!

 

Remember: money adds up quickly. Cutting back your expenses even $30 a month is a savings of $360/year. That’s the price of a domestic plane ticket!

I know cutting back can seem overwhelming, but it’s worth it! Just keep your goal in mind, and don’t give up! I promise it’s easier than you think.

Until next time, happy travels!

For Future Fridays, I will tell you all of my travel dreams.

Today, I’ll share with you special cities that  I want to visit. I plan to travel all over the world, but these are seven particular cities that I have interest in.

London. 

Image courtesy of Vichaya-Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

London at night

For the last decade, London has been my favorite city in the world (even though I’ve never been there). I’ve loved English history for as long as I can remember. Kings and queens, wars, castles, Big Ben, the Globe, Buckingham Palace, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes… all intrigue me. Even the geography and climate, which not everyone loves, are my favorite. Green grass, trees and rain? I live for that!

London is full of history, but it’s also a modern city. It’s becoming quite diverse and populated. Diversity is one of the reasons that the United States is so great, and it’s happening over in London too. That’s quite exciting. I’m not blind to its faults, but even wonderful places have issues to work out.

 

Paris.

The Lovre

The Lovre

Paris. Who doesn’t want to at least visit Paris? It’s the city of romance and love, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and of course, BAKED GOODS. Though I can’t eat croissants or baguettes anymore (gluten!), I can still smell them!

Like most of Europe, Paris also has a rich history. I’d love to visit all the typical touristy places but also go deeper into Paris where the locals are. I want to be inspired by Montmartre, where numerous artists lived and worked. I want to sip on a latte and watch Parisians walk by. Maybe write some terrible poetry. It’s the city of love. Why not?

 

Edinburgh.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Like England, Scotland has long held a special place in my heart. I’m pretty sure I have Scottish ancestry, and you can definitely tell by the red in my hair and fire in my spirit. The people of Scotland are tough, fiery, perseverant and friendly, and I pride myself on those characteristics.

Scotland not only has wonderful people, but the land is absolutely gorgeous. Edinburgh captures both the people and the beauty of Scotland’s green pastures and hills. Plus, an intimidating castle and old architecture!

 

View on St. Isaak Cathedral from Moika River

View on St. Isaak Cathedral from Moyka River

St. Petersburg.

I love Russia. So much. I’ve heard that St. Petersburg is breath taking and very European. St. Petersburg has undergone so much pain, yet its beauty and strength remains in its architecture and people.

The buildings and river almost give the city an Italian feel, but it’s history and people are classic Russian. Russians seem strong and sullen, but underneath their stoicism is such a warmth and kindness. If you ever get a chance to go to Russia, it’s a must. I can’t wait to go back.

 

Amsterdam.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

The Netherlands! What a wonderful place. It seems like such a modern city, but beautiful, old architecture still stands. Amsterdam was a hiding place for some Jews during World War II, most famously, Anne Frank. I’ve heard her museum is haunting and heart breaking and of course, a must see.

Amsterdam also has beautiful canals, bridges and parks. Lots of parks. Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) is the largest one, about three times the size of Central Park. Amsterdam just gives me a friendly vibe, like I could be instant friends with whomever I meet there.

 

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires.

I once heard that Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is the Paris of South America. And from the looks of it, I’d have to agree. The city is shockingly modern with large skyscrapers, but it also has the classic South American colored buildings. Argentina has beautiful beaches and lots of fun, cultural events like dancing and music. Buenos Aires just seems like the best of both vintage and modern worlds.

 

Budapest.

Budapest

Budapest

This one takes me by surprise, even though it’s on MY list! Budapest is the capital of Hungary, an Eastern European country with a historical mixture of many cultures. It was taken over by the Romans, influenced by the Italian Renaissance, conquered by the Turks and partly destroyed in World War II. Still, much of its beauty remains, and it’s considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, even the world.

 

Thanks for joining me in my travel dreams! Someday, when I visit these wonderful cities, I’ll tell you all about it!

Until next time, happy travels!

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