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INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT: POSITIVE QUALITIES TURNing NEGATIVE

When I first considered talking about this...I didn't know how to go about it. A video? A blog post? I don't know. I still don't know. But I'm too lazy right now to make a video and I'm already sitting at my desk, so blog it is. I've been mulling something over a lot...

Why I’m Grateful for My Quarter Life Crisis

Did you Know that Millennials are... …THE LARGEST, MOST EDUCATED GENERATION & YET WE MAKE UP 40% OF UNEMPLOYED PERSONS & MAKE UP THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES LIKE ANXIETY & DEPRESSION? I remember the first time I read that statistic. Oddly,...

How I Bullet Journal + Why I Love It

ALRIGHT FRIEND, HOW MANY DIFFERENT PLANNING SYSTEMS HAVE YOU TRIED? WELL, I'VE TRIED A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT, AND I'VE NEVER QUITE FOUND ONE THAT I LOVED.  The Plum Paper Planner - It's just not great quality. The DailyGreatness Journal - It's awesome on the habits....

The Biggest Adventure of my Life: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

WHEN DID WE GO: March 23-26, 2018 WHY DID WE GO: Side Trip from Lima, Peru, while on Remote Year HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: 4 days and 3 nights, the final day being at Machu Picchu TOUR COMPANY INFORMATION. We toured with Loki Travel. Though there were definitely aspects...

The Empack: A Must-Have for the World Traveling Fitness Fiend

This post contains affiliate links. Visit the Disclosure page for details. In December of this year, just after I started working with my High Performance coach, I set some big goals. Big because, in the midst of all the travel, challenge, change and new experiences...
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Split, Croatia: Gorgeous Views & Life on the Water

Split, Croatia: Gorgeous Views & Life on the Water

Croatia…you’re up their with prague + Medellin…
but for a very different reason.

You see, when we were in Prague, I was in love with the city. The public transit made it feel like this place was at my fingertips. I loved the architecture, the sites and the surprisingly gorgeous country. In Medellin, I was captivated by the beauty that is the country of Colombia, the resilience of it’s people…oh and the cost of living and food weren’t bad either!

But, Split? I loved Split for some different reasons. Split may be slower paced. The food may be expensive. We may have been far removed from Old Town. But, the countryside in Croatia? The beach lifestyle? And yes…the slower pace? These were all reasons why I could live in Split.

I’ve never been someone who goes out a lot during the week. If I’m out and about active, it’s usually on the weekends. During the week, I’m all about my routines, working out, cooking at home. And Split afforded me just that, but with simple and calm ocean views, amazing national parks, etc.

Check out some of the highlights…

plitvice lakes national park

One thing that Croatia definitely had going for it is that National parks. Plitvice perhaps being highest on that list. You see, when I first started my Travel Bucket list Pinterest board, there was this magical waterfall land that was one of the first places I pinned. That place was Plitvice National park. And damn am I as in love with it after being there as I was seeing the pictures online. The park is gorgeous! And I’m actually super happy that we were there during October with its wonderful Fall colors amidst the beautiful greens, teals, and turquoises of the water made it even better. It was an amazing day at an amazing park! And that’s not even all of the National Parks in Croatia! Krka is amazing too!

exploring old town & Diocletian’s palace.

Old Town is one of the things that Split is known for, but us? We actually were living a bit outside of Old Town, which, I’m being honest I really liked! It’s what I liked about our living situation in Prague too. All the super touristy stuff? It wasn’t right outside my door, giving me the peace and quiet that I really crave in my environment. But, that didn’t stop me from enjoying it one fine Sunday. I was supposed to go Island Hopping, which sadly never happened during any of my scheduled events because of bad weather. But bad weather in the morning cleared up later in the day. I went on a wonderful, long walk. I walked the 45 minutes and enjoyed walking around the grounds of Diocletian’s palace. This palace was built by a former Roman emperor to, essentially, give him a nice place to retire to! Now, it’s a wonderful ruin in the center of Old Town that makes for some beautiful photographs whether you go on a beautiful sunny day or in the dark of night!

vranjaca caves & rafting in the mountains

Who knew all the natural wonders that Croatia had to offer? Admittedly, I didn’t expect to find this much, if at all, in Europe! But these two events definitely demonstrated to me the physical beauty to offer in this gorgeous country. And the best part was their sheer proximity to the city…

First was a stop in Vranjaca caves. The most well-known cave near Split is most definitely the Blue Cave, which visitors flood to in the summer months. But, given that we weren’t in Split in the summer and both of my island hopping tours got canceled for weather, this was the only cave I got this month! But that’s fine by me! These caves which are millions of years old and reminded me of a smaller, though still stunning, Carlsbad Caverns. The caves were maybe 30-45 minutes outside of the city. This sweet old man worked the ticket office and after sorting us all out, he took us deep into the caves, telling us all about them, pointing out some of his favorite shapes, telling us about how he accidentally discovered new parts of the cave and ultimately playing us some music on the stalagtites. It was an amazing day and another natural wonder of this beautiful country.

Our other fun event was a day rafting! We drove about 30-45 minutes outside of Split to a river where we were suited up in wetsuits, helmets, etc. We had beautiful weather and spent the afternoon paddling down the river and going through some pretty decent sized rapids.  Our group probably won the worst paddlers of the day award, getting stuck on like every rock imaginable and I left the day with a huge bruise down my back, but it was all worth it to get out in nature, enjoy the sunshine and eat an amazing meal! Oh…and drink way too much vino!

other highlights…

The rest of the

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Belgrade: Budapest Side Trips + River Days

Belgrade: Budapest Side Trips + River Days

YOU KNOW HOW I WASN’T THE BIGGEST FAN OF BOGOTA? WELL…I FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT BELGRADE…

Many people in my community will disagree with that, but Belgrade and I weren’t quite on the same page. I loved the time I spent down by the river, I loved the fortress, I loved the brewery that was across the street from my apartment, but there was little else about the city that really vibed with or thrilled me. Maybe I didn’t fully give it a chance…I mean I was in the thick of my launch and pre-launch prep when we were in Belgrade. But Belgrade and I just didn’t mesh.

That being said, though, there were still a number of things that I did enjoy in Belgrade.

The Belgrade Fortress.

Basically ASAP when I arrived in Belgrade, my friend Matt and I headed to lunch and to walk around the Belgrade fortress (yes…my friend…before all my fam gets there panties in a bunch…) and even though we did this early in the month, it was still one of the highest for me. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been to a place like this and I loved it. Not only was the fortress itself neat, but being on the banks of the Danube was gorgeous! Gimme all the photos. If I’d had the time later in the month, I would have gone back and taken all the photos!

THE DANUBE + SAVA RIVERS.

Speaking of being on the river, I am absolutely obsessed with the day I spent at the river here! We went on a boat trip to one of the little islands in the river, spent the day at the Belgrade sea, ate all the delicious food, including some cherry brandy, before kayaking back to our starting point at sunset. The kayak was amazing! At first, I was a little bit nervous to be on the water after dark, but it ended up being incredibly peaceful and it was one of my favorite moments of the month.

MAS STREET ART CUZ #DUH.

Ya’ll know I’m always obsessed with street art, and even though it wasn’t the best we’ve seen all year (I mean…Buenos Aires and Medellin were so amazing), it was still wonderful to get out and check out the artwork. We even got to meet the most famous street artist in Belgrade. But my favorite part of the tour? Heading to this off the beat and path area called the Brick Factory, which artists have taken over and made their own. It was SO cool!

RETREATS + MOKRIN HOUSE

Our last weekend in Serbia brought us to this amazing place called Mokrin house. It’s a coworking and coliving space that had hosted a TEDx talk in the previous weeks prior. Why were we there? To host a personal growth retreat in the space. A number of us are very personal growth-oriented and we decided to put on this event within our community. It was perfect! The perfect combination of rest, relaxation, growth and engagement. And the food was amazing!

BUT PERHAPS THE BEST PART OF THE MONTH?

OUR SIDE TRIP TO BUDAPEST TO SUPPORT ONE OF MY BESTIES IN HER FIRST HALF MARATHON!

That was the main reason why we went to Budapest, because one of my best friends was running in the Budapest half and we wanted to support her. But it ended up being an amazing weekend in and of itself.

MORE FUN TIMES ON THE DANUBE.

Our first day in Budapest, we walked the Danube on the Buda side of the river. The river runs down the middle of the city and as such the city has been broken into what was deemed the Buda side and the Pest side. That first afternoon was simply made up of walking the river, checking out the chain bridge and the castle, snapping all the photos and eventually getting some Hungarian food. Nothing fancy, but so enjoyable.

THE CITADEL FOR ALL THE VIEWS.

As we were walking around the city that first full day, on a whim I asked my friends if they’d like to climb this big ass hill to see some views. Sorry guys! Cuz it was a big ass hill. I actually didn’t realize what it was until we got to the stop. It was what they called “The Citadel” and included the Budapest “Statue of Liberty”. As we climbed, we found viewpoint after viewpoint after viewpoint and dang was I happy we made the climb. Also, ice cream. Cuz after climbing a big ass hill for some amazing views, the only way to cap things off is to eat ice cream. #duh.

PARLIAMENT + SHOES ON THE DANUBE

Saturday left us looking for more places to putter. Our soon to be sub-2:20 half marathon-running friend opted to rest up for rest day (the next day), so we went to the Pest side of the city to check out the Parliament building. I didn’t know much about it, but I’m so glad I went with her. We walked through these amazing neighborhoods with Holocaust memorials and incredible architecture before arriving at the parliament building and it was stunning!! Not only was the building itself gorgeous, but was surrounded by all these incredible status and water features, and of course there were guards walking around the Hungarian flag to add to the photograph-worthiness of this place. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As we were completing our walk around the Parliament building, this old man asked us directions to the “shoes on the Danube” memorial. We obliged (meaning we googled it on our iPhones), but not after my friend excitedly thanked the man for reminding her of the exhibit. We meandered down the river toward the exhibition and it was amazing. It’s in honor of a crowd of men and women who were herded down to river side, told to take off their shoes, before they were shot and thrown in the river. It was sobering and beautiful. I’m so glad we stopped there. And then we wandered down to the Chain bridge and found a nice little riverside bar to enjoy some beer like any good Budapest tourist.

GELLERT BATHS.

When in Budapest, you’ve gotta go to a bath. We chose to go to Gellert baths due to their sheer proximity to our Air BnB. It was a perfectly timed trip, the day after our friends half marathon. YAY KATHLEEN! But, admittedly, I was a little disappointed how cool the baths are. Maybe American hot tubs spoil me with their muscle-melting heat, but these baths felt lukewarm at best, which was kind of a bummer. We spent most our time outside in what was the hottest path at Gellert, but not before taking an obligatory pic of the iconic internal bath area. It may have been underwhelming, crowded and we may have only stayed for a couple hours, but when in Budapest…

WELL, THIS IS PROBABLY ONE OF MY MOST UNEXCITING REMOTE YEAR BLOGS…

BUT DON’T WORRY. WE’VE ONLY BEEN IN SPLIT FOR A FEW DAYS NOW & I CAN ALREADY TELL…I’M GONNA LOVE THIS PLACE!

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5 Tips to Create More Confidence

5 Tips to Create More Confidence

Before, We Talked about Clarity…

NOW, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT CONFIDENCE…

THIS IS A HUGE ONE FOR SO MANY PEOPLE!

And no wonder! Confidence can impact us in so many ways! I remember reading the results of the study that Dove did in 2016 about confidence in women…the results blew my freaking MIND! Only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves “beautiful”. By the age of 17, 78% of girls will be “unhappy with their bodies”. And this affects us profoundly, keeping us from not only chatting up the hottie we’re crushing on, but also from just taking part in certain activities (47%). In career, it’s even more profound. Women weren’t confident enough to: request a new role or position (56%), request a raise (61%), ask for a promotion (65%), or pursue a job opportunity beyond their experience (73%).

THAT IS WHY BUILDING YOUR CONFIDENCE IS SO IMPORTANT…IT AFFECTS EVERY FACET OF OUR LIVES.

You can read more about the Dove study here.

SO, HOW DO WE GO ABOUT BUILDING OUR CONFIDENCE?

1. HERE ARE MY TOP 5 TIPS…Get Clear on Who You Are & What You Want. Did you really think all this stuff wasn’t connected? Hehe. Sorry to disappoint, but one of the first things you can do to build your confidence is to level-up your clarity. My clients will tell you that I love to say “Clarity breeds Confident” and damn do I believe it! It’s why I’m such a broken record about it. It’s hard to be confident about who you are and where you’re going if you’re CLEAR about it. And it’s not just about figuring out who you are OR what you want. You need both. Head back to clarity post here for deets on how to level up your clarity!

2. Get to know the intricacies of your inner monologue. What do I mean by “get to know your inner monologue”? I mean pay attention to the things that trigger your inner monologue in a negative way. Are there certain situations that you tend to respond to negatively? Are there certain people? Are their certain environments that you’re in that tend to affect you the most? The more familiarity you can develop with your inner monologue and how it responds to the world, the more you can be proactive about overcoming and even negating those reactions! Because the more able you are to put and keep your mind in a positive state, the better and the more likely you are to remain positive, happy and, of course, confident.

3. Nix negativity and start practicing self-compassion. One of the biggest reasons why confidence is such a struggle, especially for women, is because of our inner monologue. For so many of my clients, friends and the people that I talk to, one of their biggest struggles is overcoming the negative inner monologue inside their head. Melissa Ambrosini calls it your “inner mean girl”. Others have called it their inner shit talker, inner bitch, etc. It has a lot of monickres and, well, none of them are good. Basically, this is the voice in your head when you mess up that says, “Wow you’re such a idiot. What a fuck up! Why would anyone hire/date/be friends with you?” Not exactly the friendliest voice in the world, huh? But it’s there, ever-present and ever-commenting, for damn near all of us. So, how do we overcome it? Self-compassion, my friends. Self-compassion refers to the simple act of being compassionate toward yourself. I heard it said once in a podcast that everytime you say something shitty to yourself, it’s like kicking a puppy. “Would you kick a puppy?” Instead of egging on the shitty inner monologue, fighting it, or trying to ignore it…the best thing to do, as with any habit, is to replace it. Replace it with a compassionate voice who speaks to you with kindness and love. Instead of letting the shitty inner monologue run amok, intentionally speak to yourself the way you would your best friend, daughter, grandma, etc. When one of these people messes up, we’re kind. We’re loving. We reassure them of how great they are and that one mistake, failure or fuck-up doesn’t define them. Try to exercise that kind of compassion with yourself. Start by just being aware of how you’re talking to yourself. The next step after that is to notice the shitty self talk and follow it with compassion. Eventually, shitty self-talk won’t be the default…you’ll have replaced it with compassion. And by doing so, you’ll have fixed one of the biggest things that affects our confidence that we have control over.

4. Try something new. Particularly a physical challenge. In my podcast episode “Fitness as a Vehicle for Growth”, I talked about a story that my life coach said to me. When people come to visit her in Colorado, she takes them to climb one of Colorado’s many 14-ers, referring to the many peaks in Colorado that are 14,000 ft or higher. Her reasoning? “Because once they climb that first mountain, they’ve laid the foundation for climbing the next.” It’s the same way with confidence. Each time you try something new, there’s discomfort there. There’s a little anxiety. Maybe even a little fear. But, the more you challenge yourself, the more you realize that you’re capable of handling challenge and that feeling of capability breeds confidence. Because, here’s the thing. Confidence isn’t a one-time thing. You don’t have an instance of capability and competence and then never feel fear or self-doubt again! It’s something you build! It’s gotta be a consistent act. Each time you challenge yourself, each time you show bravery and each time you show yourself that you can do something, even if you fall or struggle, that builds confidence. The more consistently that you show up, the bigger that confidence muscle will grow. And simultaneously, the longer you go without building your confidence muscle, the more action you’ll have to take to build it up again. So, challenge yourself to consistently try new things. That will build your confidence muscle.

5.Keep track of your PHYSICAL Confidence Cues. One of my favorite tricks for creating on-demand confidence is to take an inventory of what I call your “confidence cues”. What does this mean? Brainstorm and keep track of the moments in your life where you’re feeling particularly confident. Track what you’re doing, what you’re listening to, what you’re watching, what you’re wearing, etc. How is this helpful? Because there are instances where we’d all like to feel more confident, whether it’s before a job interview, a first date, or before trying that we’ve never done before. If we can tap into these cues that help us feel more confident, we can use them to our advantage to give ourselves a bit of a confidence boost when the moment calls for it. Me? I love music to help pump me up and inspire confidence. I also have a go-to pair of jeans and a couple outfits that make me feel like an absolute badass. That’s exactly what we’re going for.

AND WE’RE JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE…

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INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT: POSITIVE QUALITIES TURNing NEGATIVE

INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT: POSITIVE QUALITIES TURNing NEGATIVE

When I first considered talking about this…I didn’t know how to go about it. A video? A blog post? I don’t know. I still don’t know. But I’m too lazy right now to make a video and I’m already sitting at my desk, so blog it is.

I’ve been mulling something over a lot lately and it’s this notion that sometimes these qualities, these things that so often are seen as strengths, well, how they play out in our lives sometimes can be a detriment. Take integrity for example…

I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT INTEGRITY IS SUCH A GOOD THING. 

It’s a value that I’ve ingrained so deeply into who I am and, along with authenticity, it’s always been something I’ve pride myself on having so much of. But, you know what? It’s occasionally problematic. I can already see you there, shocked, thinking, “Ellyn how can that possible be the case? How could having integrity ever be a bad thing?” Well, let me give you an example.

You see, I have followed a plan my whole life. And I did a damn good job at following that plan if I do say so myself. Seriously, I followed it to a “t”. I got my degree, a job out of college, published papers like a good little scientist, went on to get my PhD, and was sciencing like the good little grad student I was. Until I realized something kinda important…I hated that shit.

Seriously, two full years into my program, and I hate it! And ya, maybe it was the rotation projects and research that was just never working, the endless bouts of impostor syndrome I was constantly trying to fight back, maybe it was the bullying I experienced in my program (true story – it happened), the fact that I felt I wasn’t learning anything except how to diligently bang my head against my benchtop repeating the same experiment over and over again, or the fact that I felt like there was this gaping hole inside of me every single time I donned my lab coat for another day at the bench. I was bored. I wasn’t excited. And I felt like everything about what I was doing was sucking the life out of me. I knew how much I hated it and yet, I was still in grad school.

Why? Integrity.

The problem was that I had built science and research up in my head for so long. They were seemingly the only option for me as a career. So I told myself I couldn’t possibly leave. If I did, I’d have to start over, go back to school and completely change my direction in life. I built this whole thing up in my head to be this huge impossibility. So, dissatisfaction and emptiness be damned, quitting wasn’t an option.

But more than all that, quitting meant going back on my word. It went back on my admissions essays saying that I wanted to be an academic research (let’s be honest, I only said that because it’s what the Admission committees, who are made up of Academic researchers and PIs all want to hear that you want to follow in their footsteps). It meant going back on my world to all my graduate school letter writers, so many of whom had played such an important role in my training. It meant guilt about the person who’s spot I took and all the money that had been invested in me and my education. I couldn’t go back on my word. My integrity. I WOULDN’T let myself. That is until my mom truth bombed me one night.

It was August and I had had a day which would ultimate be the final straw in me making the decision to leave school. But inwardly, I was freaking out. I had talked to my friends and they had told me to leave the program. That it was changing me in such a negative way. Sucking the life out of me. I finally called my mom. I had to tell her. But, as always happens, she already knew exactly what was going on. And she said to me that night something that I will never forget. She said, “You’re your father’s daughter. You’ll stay in something come hell or high water just because you said you would.”

Shit. Mom called me out. And she couldn’t have been more right.

Hell or high water was already a thing. And yet, despite my hate, despite how much it sucked the life out of me, despite how each day that passed I had to drag myself into work, I had to feign enthusiasm for damn near everything I was doing, I stuck it out. Not because I wanted PhD for myself. Not because it would enable me to have X, Y, Z career when I was done. I didn’t give a shit about any of that. I was in graduate school for 3 reasons and 3 reasons only – 1) My stipend was my income, 2) a PhD would mean I would inherently be respected in whatever I did, and 3) my parents were proud of me. Oh and because I was scared that quitting called into question my integrity.

How stupid is that?

That’s ultimate the pitfall of integrity…that sometimes it keeps us holding on for too long to things that we said we wanted and that we don’t feel like we can change our minds about. We hold onto relationships. Careers. Mindsets. All of which might not be serving us. And if you’re anything like me, you might be holding on for the wrong reasons. Cuz you know what I realized? That there is something that is vastly more important than integrity. Authenticity. And my fixation on integrity was driving me away from being authentic. And I think as soon as I realized that, that shit wouldn’t fly.

Ya, integrity can be a bad thing if you take it to extremes. But it’s not the only one…

INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT, BECAUSE, YES, INDEPENDENCE CAN GO TOO FAR TOO.

My mom, sage that she is, used to tell me all the time that I’ve been independent since I could walk. As funny as that phrase is, truer words have never been spoken about me. Except maybe when someone polite said that, “Ellyn has a big personality…” Hehe. In all seriousness though, I’m hugely independent. And sometimes it’s a proverbial thorn in my side. Because being so independent and so introverted…well, sometimes it bites me in the ass.

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I pride myself on being independent. On not needing others. On being able to figure it out on my own. On having the internal drive, motivation and discipline to get my shit done. I’ve always been that way. That autonomy is something that drives me and is one of my biggest motivators in life – to just show that I can do it myself. And it’s a desirable quality! Seriously, how many job ads do you see where they’re looking for someone who is self-motivated? In relationships, how often do you hear a guy saying that he wants a woman who is independent. Hell, there is a freaking anthem about females being “Independent Women” (cue Beyonce…)

People love that shit, right?

Well, there are also a lot of ways in which being so independent and having such pride in that part of my personality has, well, kind of bit me in the ass.

Grad school is a good example. I remember a long time ago I wrote a blog post called “The Overly Confident Rotation Student” (which has  since been taken down) about an instance when I was early in graduate school and I made a hugely stupid mistake because I wasn’t willing to ask for help or clarification. Obviously, by the title of that article, I realized that I was being overly confident in the instance. But a big part of what factored into it was my independent streak. I wanted to not need help. I wanted to be self-motivated and do it on my own. I wanted to show that I was already there as a researcher, and, well, it crashed and burned, unfortunately.

Fast forward to later in graduate school. My project was at an absolute stalemate, I was beating my head against the wall doing the same experiment over and over again, and seemingly every single time I felt like I was making progress, something would happen that would derail everything. But, that’s not the point. The point is that I wanted to feel like I could do this on my own, so I never sought out my boss to help explain something to me, to give me a new idea or thing to try until she forced a conversation on me, never expressed my frustrations to her, etc. I would have saved myself so much time and feeling like I was alone in my frustration if I had gotten off my independent, “I can do it ALL BY myself” high-horse (please let me you read that like an angry toddler because that’s how I wrote it) and asked for help. From my boss. From my labmates and peers. From my collaborators. From so many people. Independence definitely shot me in the foot there and it’s definitely something that I did wrong in graduate school.

But that’s not the only place that being overly independent has held me back. It’s held me back in relationships too, and not just the romantic kind. Friendships as well.

In relationships… I’m very independent in relationships. It’s actually something that I’ve written in to my relationship vision that we have lives, hobbies, friendships, etc. that are our own. I don’t want my whole life to be wrapped up in my significant other. I want to have a life of my own too, without them. Yes, that I’ll share with them at appropriate times, but also that I don’t have to share with them. And I want them to have the same thing. But, in past relationships, this independence has been a problem. My last boyfriend in college tried to break up with me at the beginning of the semester after we’d been dating the entire year because he thought I was “too busy” for a boyfriend and that I didn’t want to be with him because I wasn’t fitting him into my life. Cut to me being caught really off guard because here I was thinking that I’d seen him every week so that things were going well. But, now? I kind of see where he was coming from. I was taking 4 400 level science classes, working 15 hours a week in my lab, I was a teaching assistant in our Introductory Microbiology class and I was an assistant soccer coach. Oh and I was probably playing on an intramural soccer team too, but I don’t really remember. Meanwhile, he was a journalism major and was getting into working at the paper. In his opinion, the time when we weren’t in school, we should be with each other, even studying together. In my world, that’s not how things worked. I had all these other interests, hobbies and passions that were as much a part of me as my major. In my world, I would never give these things up. We’d just build our relationship around them. We tried to make things work for a few more months, but ultimately we broke up, and even though there were other things that broke us up, this was still a big thing our relationship. It made me wonder if I could have the independence that I craved, that I needed in my relationship. If that was possible. And it took until I started working with a therapist recently for me to realize that I could.

In friendships… and this is a tricky one for me to navigate. I’m very guarded with my friendships. Like so many people, I’ve had friends that have burned me in the past. Friends who have shared things about me that weren’t theirs to share. Friends who have connected with me and learned my insecurities and vulnerabilities, only to throw them back in my face when they disagreed with something I was doing. It’s made me hesitant to open up. Simultaneously, though, I have a bigger hang-up when it comes to my friendships. One that I’m constantly working on. I’m emotionally independent. What do I mean? I don’t like to burden my friends with my negative emotions and some of the darker parts of my emotions and my past. So, when I’m really struggling with something, even though I have wonderful friends that want to be there for me and want to help, sometimes getting a straightforward, honest answer to something like, “What’s wrong?” is really really hard. I don’t willingly divulge those things. My thinking is, “It’s my shit. And I need to figure out how to handle it on my own without burdening the people I love.” And that’s stupid. Stupid and not productive. It’s something that I still struggle with it. But again, with my therapist, I’ve been making progress. I also often think of something Brene Brown said…

“People have to earn the right to hear your stories”

— BRENE BROWN, PHD, MSW

There are people that haven’t earned the right to hear my stories. So when they ask me what’s wrong, I am not obligated to give them an honest, complete, in depth answer. I’m just not. But my friends? My close relationships? The people who’ve had my back and I’ve had theirs? Those people have earned the right to hear my stories. And sometimes the independent streak in me tried to play like I don’t need them. But I do. We all need those people when we’re going through shit in our lives. They’re the ones that reach a hand down into the pit and pull us out.

SO ARE INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY INHERENTLY BAD EMOTIONS? HELL NO.

Having a high degree of integrity is a great thing. Having a high degree of independence and self-motivation is a great thing. Same goes for someone who is detail-oriented, innovative, structured, etc. Those are all characteristics that are inherently good. But we have to use care with taking them to extremes.

Being detail-oriented is great, until you get so fixated on the details that you can’t see the big picture.

Being innovative is wonderful, but innovation only gets you so far if you are so focused on innovating that you don’t follow-through and carry any of your projects forward.

Being structured is great, until you get so stuck in the plan that you let following the perfect plan hold you back from taken action and moving forward.

All positive characteristics have a dark side. They can all be taken to extremes. And I think that’s important to know and to realize moving forward. Independence and integrity are two of my strongest characteristics. But they’re also some of my biggest Achilles heels. I think it’s important for us to recognize this. Because otherwise, how else do we grow? And you know I’m all about growth… 😉

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PRAGUE + A PART OF WWII HISTORY THAT I NEVER KNEW

PRAGUE + A PART OF WWII HISTORY THAT I NEVER KNEW

Prague…I Love You!

I’ve never meant those words as much as I have this month. This city. This architecture. This history…I vibed so hard with this place. Is it touristy? Yes. Are the people periodically less than friendly? Yes. But damn, I just loved it. And there was so much to love! I legitimately can’t wait to tell you about it!

THE BEST PUBLIC TRANSIT EVER.

Legit…this was one of the things I loved the most about Prague. I grew up just outside of Seattle, and let’s just say, for being a city, Seattle is majorly lacking in transportation. And I think that’s part of what I never liked about cities is that Seattle felt so inaccessible to me growing up. If I wanted to get to downtown, I had to fight my way through Seattle traffic and pay exorbitant amounts of money to park. It’s gotten better over the years, but the lack of accessibility of cities always turned me off.

Prague isn’t like that. For all the places I’ve been, Prague has the best public transit I’ve ever experienced. They have subways, they have trams, they have buses…they have a monthly transit pass that you can buy and get unlimited public transport for the entire month. And not only is it easy AF to use…but it runs like clockwork and it really just made the city so accessible to me. In so many of the other cities we’ve been to this year, if I couldn’t walk somewhere, I was dependent upon Uber or taxis to get me where I wanted to go. I didn’t use a single Uber or taxi once I had my feet on the ground in Prague, except to get from the airport to my apartment. But other than that, I tooks trams and subways everywhere, could very easily get around by myself and just felt like everything about the city was at my fingertips. And I freaking LOVED that. 

OLD TOWN & CHARLES BRIDGE + OBLIGATORY TRIP TO THE JOHN LENNON WALL CUZ…TOURISTING.

One of the very first things that we did in Prague was to tourist by spending the day in Old Town and all it’s surrounding sites and sounds. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things closed and under construction, but honestly, I don’t think that took away from Old Town and it’s charms. Nor did the mobs of people. Basically, I wasn’t the only one touristing

We checked out the Museum of Communism, which I highly suggest. It’s one the more well done museums I’ve seen in recent years and it covers an aspect of post-WWII European history that I was completely unaware of – the Communism of the Czech Republic, post the horrors of WWII. Then, we explored some of the windy streets of old town before making our way to the Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge in and of itself is beautiful and scenic, with views of the Prague Castle. Plus, it’s incredibly old! Built in, I think the 1300s. We just don’t have things that old in the states. Following the slow meander across the bridge, we headed over to the Lennon wall – a graffiti wall covered with odes to John Lennon. It used to be a much more visually appealing display of street art. But now, it’s more of a mish-mash of graffiti tags. Still, it’s worth a stop if only to check something off your tourist travel list.

20TH CENTURY COMMUNISM + WORLD WAR II HISTORY.

I’ll say it right now…I had no concept of Czech history. It made me wonder if I just wasn’t paying attention in school ever. I mean, Jesus, did we learn this stuff at all? I don’t know. But if we did, relearning it as an adult was amazing! Let’s just say this, the Czechs are resilient AF. Their country was basically given to the Nazis during WWII by the French, British, etc. to try to stave off war with Hitler during the Munich agreement. Oh, ya, and they weren’t even involved in the conversation. Literally. There government wasn’t invited to the talks. This lead to an insane period in their history, including one of the craziest real-life assassination attempts I’ve ever heard of. Seriously. 3 parachutists killed Reinhard Heydrich, the highest ranking Nazi official to be assassinated during WWII. 

In one of my favorite days in Prague, we went to an old theater to watch the movie Anthropoid. It’s a relatively recent movie from 2016, starring Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan as the 2 parachutists that spearheaded the assassination attempt. We watched the movie, had a discussion about some of the more major players, and then we took a trip to actually see the church where the parachutists made their final stand against the Germans, complete with bullet holes in the side of the church. It’s an incredible time in Czech history and a story they’re very proud to tell. Being down in the crypt and inside the church where these very events took place, especially after watching the movie depicting these events, was perhaps one of the more powerful historical moments I have experienced this entire year. For for deets on the whole assassination attempt, the events leading up to in, and the incredible stand-off that followed, I HIGHLY suggest you check out this movie. It’s surprisingly historically accurate. 

CZECH SWITZERLAND & NARNIA FOR THE DAY.

Oh my gosh – this DAY! This day was pure magic. Despite LOVING my time in the city, I always finding myself craving some time out in nature! And this trip to Bohemian Switzerland National Park was exactly what the doctor ordered. We went on about a 10km hike up to the largest natural bridge in the Czech Republic. The views leading up to the bridge were spectacular, but the bridge in and of itself and the views surrounding it were even more so.

What’s even cooler about this experience and being here? WE were in freaking Narnia folks! Seriously – this natural bridge was featured in the Chronicles of Narnia and the surrounding areas were places where they filmed some of the scenery for the Chronicles of Narnia movies. So, basically,  we got to spend the day in Narnia, explore, hike and a have a nice adult beverage at the top. I digit it. 😉

Check out the Chronicles of Narnia trailer here for a little snippet of the natural bridge in action! Isn’t it cool?

BIKE TOURS THROUGH THE CITY + COUNTRY.

On a whim, I signed up to participate in a bike tour put on by Remote Year. It seemed like the perfect fit – touring the beautiful city on bicycle, going to some new places in Prague, and getting a much needed and well-deserved beer at the end.

This ended up being one of my all-time favorite bike tours of the entire year – this was by far the best one. Not only was it great because we got to see a whole bunch of different neighborhoods in Prague, but we biked along the river both inside of and outside of the city. It wasn’t just biking in Prague, we made it out to the country which is where we sat down and drank a well-deserved beer! It was about 15-16miles of biking and my but was definitely hurting, but it was so worth it! 

If you’re interested and in Prague, check out the guys at Richmond Cycles in Prague! I highly recommend it!

LITTLE HANOI + ALL THE VIETNAMESE FOOD.

Did you know that Prague has some legit Vietnamese food? Seriously – so good! I don’t remember the explicit details, but basically, the Czech Republic was one of the few countries that willingly and openly invited Vietnamese immigrants into their country. The first wave settled and when they invited in a second wave, the family members of those people in the first wave were ushered in too. Basically, this huge Vietnamese population grew out of this period of immigration, so much so that though they’re externally Vietnamese, they identify themselves as check. Some even call themselves “bananas” – yellow on the outside and white on the inside.

Interestingly, as they were trying to find their place and their niche within the country, they started by opening mini marts because they wanted something smaller and with longer hours than the standard supermarket. Eventually, though, they started opening Vietnamese restaurants, realizing that this was a unique style of food that they could offer to a community that had never quite experienced this type of food before. So they started opening restaurants and that grew into this explosion of Vietnamese food and culture in the Prague area. 

We found our own little Vietnamese spot called Pho Vietnam, right by the TV tower in Prague – one of the ugliest buildings on the planet. Seriously, it has made numerous ugly building lists. We also attended this incredible marketplace called the Sapa market, and dubbed little Hanoi because of its concentration of Vietnamese culture. It was a wonderful day sampling Vietnamese food and damn was it good! Seriously if I could remember what one of the dishes was, I would tell you! WE ate our first dish and I ordered another to take home for dinner the next night. So good! But, my fave? Still Bun Bo Nam Bo. Delicious!

PRAGUE CASTLE & VRTBA GARDENS.

It was my last day in Prague and I knew that I had some sightseeing to cram in. Top of the list? Prague Castle. 

At that point in our month, Prague Castle had eluded me. Every time I had planned to go see it, the plans had fallen through. So finally, I put on a good podcast, some good tunes, hopped on the subway and headed over to the castle for the day all by my lonesome! It was a wonderful last day in Prague. 

Prague Castle is bustling with tourists seemingly anytime, so I didn’t let the tourists bother me. I just snapped some great photos and toured the grounds to my hearts content, which, surprisingly was FREE. Seriously. I didn’t pay a penny for the couple hours I walked around the grounds. The cost comes when you start going inside the buildings. I didn’t really care to go see more museums or go inside chapels. The architecture on the outside and the immensity of the grounds and gardens was perfect for me. And I really think it’s all you need, but if you so desire, there is SO much more to see.

My favorite place I went though? It was actually my last tourist stop of the entire month – Vrtba gardens. I had done a quick Google search previously for photogenic places in Prague and this garden was on every list. It was a baroque garden perhaps a ten minute walk from the castle. You have to wind through some alleys and investigate a little bit to find the entrance, but once you do, and you pay your 70 Czech crowns to get in (I was double charged, but it was worth it), you’re greeted by this immaculate garden. The flowers are beautiful and ornately landscaped. But the more you climb, the more you see sculptures and get views of the orange-topped buildings of Prague in the background. It was magic and my favorite place in Prague. I loved it! 

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