Monday, December 16, 2013

How did I ever get so lucky?!

Wow. Au Pair life sure is something else! This has been an incredible 4 months, and somehow it just keeps getting better. Where do I even begin with how awesome this week has been and will be?

This past weekend the family took me on a weekend away to Mandurah (about an hour south of us). We left early Saturday morning and made it in time for an early breakfast on the canal. I enjoyed pancakes (with ice cream of course) and hot chocolate in the 95 degree heat. Weird, I know.

And there were dolphins :). lots of dolphins!

We walked around the city, and then we went to the house. The multi million dollar house. The multi million dollar vacation house. Remember those crazy, awesome, and rich Italians I spoke of during my first week here? Those would be the people. Apparently they don't use it much, and are happy to let us do so whenever we're in the area. We are so LUCKY. (here's the post if you missed it and/or are interested)

We spent the day on the water gazing at all of the beautiful houses, swimming, and crabbing. I wasn't much use, but it was fun watching Ben try to find his way around and catch dinner for us. They were too small for us to keep, but I certainly learned a thing or two. Mainly to stay the hell out of the water, and let people who know what they're doing do the work.

We got ready for the party that night, and Ben came back with cases of beer (including one of my absolute favorites) and we headed to the birthday party by boat. It was an hour long trip of pure bliss. Tanning, drinking, and jamming out to our favorite classic rock songs. We drank and ate a little too much that night, and I got a little worried when we stumbled upon a random island on our way home. It was pitch black and, by all accounts, I had no idea where we were. I didn't know if Ben did either as he had this somewhat worried look on his face, but would never let us know either way. Somehow, as usual though, he managed to get us home safe, sound and relatively intact.

On Sunday, we headed home and I spent my day recovering and packing for my upcoming trip. At dinner, the family informed me that they are buying me a plane ticket for Christmas. I was THRILLED. They knew my best friend here had some time off in January, and thought it would be a good time for me to get away. Funny thing is, I get home from my 3 week trip, just 6 days before I leave again. It's still in the works, but we're looking at heading to the east coast to Brisbane. Either that, or I save my ticket to use some other time in my remaining 8 months. We shall see! Either way, I am so so SO excited. There is no better gift than a plane ticket for someone who likes traveling as much as I do.

And if these months weren't amazing enough already, I'll be ending January with the Avicii concert and Australia day! Sounds like one hell of start to summer.

To top off EVERYTHING else, I leave on FRIDAY for the trip of a lifetime. Seriously, I'm wondering if I even have a job anymore. Anyway, here is our plan...ish.

Tentative Itinerary: 


Queenstown, New Zealand

December 20th- Leave Perth.
December 21st- Arrive. Reunite with my best friend. Explore. Recover.
December 22nd- Shop. Hike. Book our adventures. Anything is possible really :)
December 23rd- Day trip to Milford Sound.. which for the record.. looks like that ----->
December 24th- Skydive. For the first time. In the adventure capital of the world. SO excited. Will probably piss myself and/or cry the day of. Only time will tell.
December 25th- Christmas Day. We're playing this one by ear.

Auckland, New Zealand

December 26th- Leave Queenstown (South Island), and arrive in Auckland (North Island). Spend the first day and night in the city exploring.
December 27th- 30th- 25 years of life finally pays off! Renting my very first car as a big girl and spontaneously driving wherever and doing whatever. No idea where we're sleeping, if we'll be sleeping, or if we'll be homelessly living out of our car. But that's half the fun :).
These are some of our must sees- Waitomo glow worm caves, Tauranga, and some stunning beaches up north. Who knows what else we'll stumble upon.
December 30th- Off to Sydney!

Sydney, Australia

December 30th- Arrive. Eat. Prepare ourselves for quite possibly the most epic night ever.
December 31st- Explore. And spend our night on this beautifully, amazing cruise. All inclusive food and drinks, under the insanely gorgeous fireworks on the harbour. Celebrate my birthday and hopefully hunt down a cute Aussie boy to kiss at midnight ;). I deserve to kiss a boy with an adorable accent for my birthday.. right?! Plus, it'll help me cope with the fact that I'm now closer to 30 than 20. woof.

http://www.sydneyhotelsaccommodation.com/NewYears-SydneyHarbourCruise2.htm 

January 1st- Recover. recover. recover. Birthday celebrations continue. And hopefully have some time to explore some more. The possibilities of this day are endless.
January 2nd- Head to Melbourne.

Melbourne, Australia

January 2nd- Arrive and explore.
January 3rd- Take the 'Great Ocean Road' tour. Can't wait. It's going to be stunning!
January 4th/5th- Spend the days with our friend Caitlyn. I see koalas, shopping, beaches, and loads of drinking in our future.
January 6th- Head home to Perth.... where my life is still so freakinggg awesome.

Home for a few days and then hopefully off to Brisbane for more fun!

Then the countdown begins for my Wisco family to arrive and my trip to Exmouth, WA with my Aussie family just after. This place apparently has the most beautiful and untouched sea life in Australia and the most turquoise water I will ever see. It's one of those hidden gems, and a yearly family road trip. I've seen pictures, and boyyyy, am I in for one hell of a week.

Holidays sure make it difficult to be away from my friends and my family, but I am so thankful for the opportunities I've been given and have created for myself while being here. Incredible things to look forward to sure make my time away from home that much more bearable. I miss and love you all.. especially during my first Christmas without my family and away from home.

Just know that I am happy, healthy, and in good hands this holiday season. I am thinking of all of you, and wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! XO.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Taking things for granted

It's often a pivotal and life-changing moment that leaves us re-evaluating the important things in life... the things we often otherwise take for granted. You know the ones- our health, our families, our jobs, having a place to live, something to eat, or even the sheer fact that we opened our eyes to yet another beautiful day of life on this earth this morning. 

You see, we often get so caught up in our busy lives that we tend to forget just how important it is to truly live in and experience each and every moment in it's simplicity. We live for the big things, the exciting things, instead of too, always appreciating the little things. We live for the weekends, the holidays, or the vacation we've been dreaming of for years, instead of too cherishing the days we spend in bed with a pint of ice cream watching "The Big Bang Theory". Oh, no one else does this? Well... you get the point.

And while of course it's great to have goals and things to work towards, I think it's equally important to remember that each day, hour, or minute from now is never promised, and to thus, live accordingly. By living in the now. By not taking life for granted. And by making each and every day the best as it can be. Yes, even those supposed "bad days". Sure, we ALL have days we'd rather forget, and believe me, I have PLENTY. But really, give it a good think.. how bad is it really? Aside from the really really devastating days, are the other 'bad days' really that bad in comparison? 

OK. Hear me out. 

You accidentally dropped your brand new iphone, smashed and water damaged the hell out of it. Or you got in a minor car accident in which you or no one else was seriously hurt. Or your flight was delayed due to bad weather. Annoying? Yes. Life altering? No.

Consider this:
  • The fact that you have an iphone says enough.. It tells me that you can afford the necessities and live a pretty comfortable life. It tells me that you have water to drink, food to eat, and hopefully a roof over your head. This is a luxury MANY people don't have. Go cry about it, and tell me you're having a bad day when you have a REAL problem. 
  • Be THANKFUL you got in that accident. It will teach you to be better aware of your surroundings and to be a better driver. Oh yeah, and that cell phone you were texting on before you almost killed someone... put it away. Texting can wait. Your life won't. Consider it a valuable lesson learned.
  • Ok. Your flight is delayed. Annoying, but tolerable. Be happy you're not thousands of feet in the air experiencing the vomit-inducing turbulence, or worse yet, plummeting to the ground due to the planes inability to handle severely poor weather conditions. View it as a blessing in disguise. 

See. You can choose to look at every situation in two ways: positively or negatively. Seems simple. And it is. You can either wallow and waste what you consider to be a bad day on the gamble that you'll be given a new and better start tomorrow. Or you can accept that you are simply having a bad moment and move on.

This good attitude stems from, what I like to call, re-awakenings. Moments that have us questioning all of the people and moments we don't always appreciate to their full potential. We have all kinds of these moments that jolt us back to the sad truth about life. The fact that inevitably, it will all someday end. And it usually takes something as traumatic as a loved ones death, or experiencing a major heart break, to bring us unwillingly back to the reality that the life as we know it today, is never promised tomorrow.

And so... afterwards, we make that simple promise to ourselves that we will be better about treasuring the people and the things important to us, and make time to do the things we've always dreamed about doing. There's only one problem...

As time goes on, so do we. We go on, living life, forgetting completely about our pact to 'live in the moment' to 'appreciate the little things' and to 'not take things.. or life.. for granted'. We go back to being overworked and becoming too busy for the moments that REALLY matter in the grand scheme of things. We go back to planning our entire lives, down to the retirement we hope to have by age 65, and all of the things we'll do once we reach this new age of supposed freedom and independence. 

In fact, we often become SO busy trying to build a life, that we sometimes forget how to simply just live one. 

I think that we tend to view life as this never ending road in which we are guaranteed to wake up happy and healthy tomorrow, and for many years to come. And although, we all know that's not necessarily the case, we live as though it is. Even though we are all very much aware, that one day, it simply won't be. We plan all of the things we will do once we have the time, forgetting though, that time is never guaranteed. 

You see, we all wait for the right time to live out our biggest dreams, when the reality is... the right time is NOW. We overlook the seemingly meaningless, for the something meaningful. And we live for the big things, and not for today.

So..

Tell him or her how you really feel, take your dream trip, or spend every Sunday in your pajamas. Stuff your face with cheese curds, sing with your god awful voice, or watch and entire season of Dexter in one day. Dance crazily, party 'til the sun comes up, and kiss all of the wrong people. Climb the Eiffel tower, jump out of a plane, or watch the beautiful sunset over the ocean. 

Do what you've been dreaming of doing. Enjoy every moment. And follow your heart completely. 

And do it all while you still have the chance. 


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Friday, November 29, 2013

The beauty of letting go

BIG NEWS: I officially sold my car. The last of the major things that I own.

It might not seem like a big deal to you.. but it is a HUGE deal to me. And here's why.

What this means:

  1. I have $7,000 EXTRA for traveling and adventures!! This means months in Southeast Asia, moving to New Zealand, or backpacking through the rest of Europe. It means a trip to Africa, or Greece, or one of the hundreds of other places I want to go. It means moving to New York City, or Boston, or the beautiful state of Hawaii (let's be honest.. who really cares where when it's Hawaii). It means an around the world tour, volunteering abroad, and flights back home to see all of my loved ones. Or if I'm really, really smart about it, it means the time and money to swing all of it when added to the savings I have back home, combined with the money I'm making and spending very little of here. 
  2. It means freedom. Freedom from a life consumed by an over-abundance of things, and things that tie me to my old life in Wisconsin. 
  3. It means that I'm fully committed to this life of minimalism and that I can survive pretty functionally with very little. I love the idea of living out of one simple suitcase, because it shows me that THINGS have very little influence in my overall personal happiness. In fact, in my case, less things = less commitment. less commitment = more freedom. more freedom = one hell of a happy me. 
  4. It means that money is and never will be the driving force of my life. It means that I've learned to place less value on owning things, and more value on learning about myself through traveling, forced independence, and cultural immersion. 
  5. And finally, it means that I have officially let go of my life back home.

You see, keeping my car was my way of having something to hold onto. It was my safety net. It was one of my few reasons to return home. But now I've realized that I'm okay with letting that go, because I'm just not ready to or content with settling back into that kind of life again. Because that life, was not one that I loved.

Sure, I absolutely LOVE and miss my friends and family. But as we all continue to grow up and settle into our own lives, let's face it, we hardly see each other a whole lot anyway after investing much of our time in significant others, families and careers. In fact, I'd argue that I talk to most of you more now than I did when we lived in the same country. So until I find a person or a place worth settling down for, I don't see a reason to have to. And I can't let the beauty of not knowing my next move in this big, amazing world, be overshadowed by simply occasionally missing things and people from back home.

Because being here has solidified my need for constant change, my love for travel, and my desire to adventurously live out of my comfort zone. Even though it's only been 3 months since the big move, I can hardly remember a time when this wasn't my life. Every second of being here is a complete whirlwind. Every day is an adventure. And every day, I am happy. And I don't want that to change. Now or ever.

People ask me all the time if I'm homesick, and truthfully the answer is no. Not really at all actually. Sure I miss the people, the cheap beer, football and the occasional cheese curd, but other than that, no. As a girl who knows a thing or two about living in many different places, I don't feel as though I evolve much when I'm confined to living in one place my entire life. I don't grow as a person by living in comfort and by settling into a life of contentment. And I feel that life is all about evolving, learning, becoming the greatest version of yourself, and leaving a good and lasting impression on this planet. So for me, that meant leaving, even if it meant leaving people and a place that I still love so dearly.

And let's be real, as a summer-obsessed girl who would desperately bust out the flip flops on the first 50 degree day, I certainly don't miss the weather. I don't miss the cold, the snow, the lack of sunlight or the seasonal depression that hit me like a ton of bricks for a minimum of 6 out of 12 months of the year. I don't miss ice skating/walking/falling every time I stepped outside, scraping my windows at 6 am, or shoveling a foot of snow just to move my car. I just don't. Seasons are for some people, but they're clearly not for me.

See the problem?

I thrive in water and in sun. I love walking outside and seeing palm trees, open land, and the ocean nearly every day. I love that instead of waiting all year for summer, that I simply experience summer like weather, 90 (if not more) percent of the time.

And on top of that...

I love meeting so many amazing new people, that so easily fill the void that naturally comes with an across the world move. I love hearing about people's adventures, about where they come from, and being offered a place to stay in so many countries across the world. Because other travelers just get it. You have this undeniably unshakable bond, and almost always, an instant connection and countless things in common. You'll feel like the girls you met two months ago understand you better than most other people your age. You'll travel with people you've never met before, and take offers from strangers on the internet for a free place to stay. You have friends from everywhere, sometimes without even having actually met in person yet. And you'll realize that in so many weird ways, it's such a small world. Travelers- you know exactly what I mean here.

But truly... The best part of my new life is that every day feels like a friday, a birthday, or a holiday. Every day feels like a day to be celebrated, and that's how life really should be, in my opinion. I no longer count down the days til the next big event, I simply enjoy each day for what it has to offer, and hold on for dear life to every day for as long as I can. Because I know that at one point I have to face the day when this all has to end. Damn you one year working holiday VISA!

I never stopped, looked around, and truly relished in the beauty around me. I never made friendships so desperately (love you nanny meet up sites!!) or so effortlessly in my life. And I've never been so comfortable with having no clue what lies ahead of me in 8 not-so-far away months. And right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Because every moment here feels like a special one. And I'm not ready to give that up yet. Now or ever.

Here are some of the moments that I live for:

- The girls running into my arms each morning and giving me a big cuddle
- Sunrises.. and sunsets over the ocean
- Skinny dipping
- Hopping off of a plane into the unknown
- Watching "The Big Bang Theory" with the family
- Learning new Aussie phrases daily, and still trying to figure out why everything is called a damn biscuit in this country! cookies and crackers are not the same. help.
- Oceans and palm trees. mountains and snow. looking forward to a cozy night back home with a beer, by the fire in Wisconsin. Or all of the above.
- Days without technology
- Random meetings of people from all around the world
- Taking off my bra at the end of the day.. ladies, I know you understand!
- Road trips
- 5 mile daily walks. Taking in the sun, the fresh air, and dancing crazily in the streets ignoring the stares of the unsuspecting Aussies who are undoubtedly judging me. judging me bad.
- Dancing with strangers. or good looking boys. or both!
- Belting out songs with the girls on our daily commutes :) fake microphones and screechy voices included.
- ... and dance parties around the kitchen while coloring, or baking cupcakes, or both.
- Hearing "I love you" from my little ones while they smile at me and give me the biggest and most loving hugs I've ever received.
- Getting fan mail. your comments and constant emails make my day every time. thank you!!
- Skyping with my friends and family (with a beer is even better)
- And looking forward to the day when I get to reunite with some of my favorites from back home
         - 3 weeks until an 18 day trip to New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne with my best friend!
         - 4 months until a 2 week reunion in OZ with my parents and sister! both of my families in the same place at one time will be SO great.
         - 8 months until a 3 week trip to Southeast Asia with my friend from La Crosse (to be extended to anyone else who wants to join a solo traveler afterwards :)).
         - And a reunion with the rest of you when you decide to balls up and come and see me OR I decide to come home (both of which could be awhile).

You see.. some moments are big, and some are small. But each and every one plays a vital role in me living this wonderful life. The simplest of moments in fact, 90% of which are moments with my precious Aussie girls, are the ones that someday I'll miss the most. And everything else is just further proof that I made the greatest decision of my life in deciding to take the risk to be here.

I hope that life finds you happy, healthy and refreshed this holiday season. Make every moment with your loved ones count. I'll be missing you!


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Liebster Award: Q and A :)

A BIG thanks to Elicia Shephard for nominating me for the Liebster Award, which if I'm understanding this correctly, is a nice why of saying, "I really like your blog". It's kind of a pass-it-on from blogger to blogger in which you answer these 10 questions to help get your name out there.

She is a beautifully, smart, and talented young lady, living and working as a teacher in South Korea! If you're looking into teaching abroad, love traveling, or are simply looking for an inspirational read, she has some great things to say. You can find her fabulous blog here :).

So here are the questions I was given:
1.What was the last thing you ate?
I'm glad this is only asking about the last thing I ate, instead of everything I ate today. Much less embarrassing this way. It was crackers and peanut butter :). One of my favorite, easy, to-go-to snacks.  
2.Do you ever get bored with blogging? Why or why not?
Never. Blogging has become my baby. It's actually beginning to cause me a lot of restlessness, because I'll wake up in the middle of the night with a million ideas running through my head. Every good writer knows that the best ideas come at night, and that you must get them written down immediately. Blogging and writing in general gives me so much peace and purpose, and I love having this as a way to document my life abroad. I'm making it my life goal to turn blogging and/or writing into a career, and thus turning traveling into a long-term, full-time lifestyle. 
3.If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Well, I really wish my already thin hair wasn't falling out by the handfuls in this country. But in all seriousness, I wish I wasn't such a softie. While sometimes a good thing, I become overcome with emotion over the littlest things, and it's actually borderline embarrassing. Like when little 3-year-old Emilie grabs my face, looks into my eyes and says, "I love you" and "You're my best friend". Or when Lola begs me to stay for dinner and holds on to me for dear life. And how she falls asleep on my lap nearly every night, while I try not to desperately fall in love, for the fear of having to one day say goodbye to them :(. Whoops. Too late. These little girls are my life. And all of my kids along the way, have somehow turned me into an emotional wreck who falls in love with people way too easily. The most beautiful curse I've ever been blessed with. 
4.Where is one place you would never go and why?
I don't know that there IS a place I would never go. I think every place has SOMETHING to offer. Danger, poverty, and illness scares me a little. But I did apply for the Peace Corps, so I'm clearly up for the challenge. Yep. That's my answer. I'll go anywhere. 
5.What seemingly insignificant thing drives you crazy?
So many thingssss actually. 

Stupid drivers. My road rage is bad. real bad. I even caught Emilie in the back the other day saying, "Come onnnn!" while we were stuck in another traffic jam. Whoops. #nannyoftheyear. I'm much more mindful of this now :).

When people care more about their phone, than the people right in front of them. This drives me SO insane! Put the damn phone away and how about you have a conversation with the real-life person next to you? It has been such a freaking blessing, and such a good wake up call, to be damn near phone-less in this country (texting/email/etc works when in wifi and that's it). 

People talking and texting while driving. How about you take the time to talk to people when they can have your full attention and not just when you want to kill time on your drive. While it's nice to drive and catch up with people simultaneously, it doesn't make me feel good to know that that's the only time I cross your mind or you can make time for me. Sort of feels like you're getting talking to me out of the way. By the way, I'm highly guilty of this. As a person who traveled so much for work, having people to talk to and pass the time with, made it much more bearable. But it's SO unsafe for you and the thousands of people on the road. PLEASE stop. You are not invincible. And people die everyday because of this. I don't want that person to be YOU.

Or people smoking near their children. It's sooo harmful to their health. Smoke all you want, but leave your kids out of it, please. 

And ignorance. That's not really a seemingly insignificant one. But it bothers me to the point of tears. 
6.What is one thing you like, but your friends don’t?
Gosh. I have such a wide range of friends that it's hard to answer this one. I think in general, most of my friends are so similar to me it's kind of scary. Otherwise, I don't think they'd really still be my friends? 

But maybe being commitment-less? In general, I think most of my friends, and people in general, like the idea of having stability, a place to call home, a long-time career, person to love, etc. I don't. Not yet anyway. 
7.If you could say one sentence to everyone around the world at once, what would you say?
Live in a way that you'd want to be remembered positively. 
8.Whom do you look up to?
People who are passionate about life. People who recognize their sense of purpose and live accordingly. People who value things that are really important. People who recognize the struggle in the world that is far bigger than themselves. 

Ellen Degeneres- Gosh. Don't even get me started on how much I love her. Attending one of her shows is on my bucket list. She is so incredibly selfless and giving. And promotes so much of what I believe in. You GO girl. 
My Parents- This goes without saying. They're incredible. 
My Sister- The most hard-working, friendly and social young lady I've had the pleasure of knowing for 23 1/2 years :). 
My Friends- All for different reasons.
Military members- So incredibly brave and inspiring. 
Writers- For being so honest and creative. And giving me something to work for!

so. so. many people. 
9.What is your secret obsession?
Hm. This isn't such a secret obsession anymore. But writing. It literally is starting to consume my life. On my daily run/walks, I think about all of the things I'm going to write in my first book. Even started the first chapter :):)! Too bad my memory and exhaustion allows for me to almost completely forget all of my creative one-liners by the time I get home. Oh well. I will keep going anyway. 

And chicken wings :). And fat tire. 
10.If the world were to end tomorrow, and you knew it, how would you spend it?
Easy. Back home in Wisconsin. On a lake. With many ice cold beers, and all of my fat girl favorites: cheese curds, chicken wings, and mac n cheese. Arms around ALL of the people I love. Laughing about all of my crazy hilarious stories from the last 25-years.
Here are my some of my favorite (and nominated blogs) for the Liebster Award:

I'm still working on this part. But will update with my favorites once I get their approval :)!

A special thanks to Elicia for nominating me and to everyone who believes in this blog as much as I do. So blessed to have you as readers and followers!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

25 and Unique

By nature, we are all inherently different from each and every single person on this earth. We all have different wants, needs and desires, and see our own futures playing out in many different ways. And it's become utterly apparent as a 25-year-old with a range of friends who never want to get married or have kids to others who dream of their own beautiful version of the American dream.

And then there's me. 

Somewhere in the middle stuck between picturing the American ideal and wanting forever to be the free-spirited, adventurer. A girl who knows the beauty of love and being in a relationship, yet knows the sheer joy that comes with regaining total freedom and independence.

And as I get older, the more I realize, I want traditional less and less and adventure more and more. And the thought of committing myself to one person, location and job for the rest of my foreseeable future scares the liver out of me.  As a girl who can barely commit to a daily shower, I'm still wondering how one commits to one life partner... forever. And as a girl who kills plants and flowers well before their timely death, I'm still amazed at how people can commit to keeping animals and babies alive and relatively unharmed. You people are WARRIORS, in my opinion.

But, maybe I was just destined to be different. I was born on New Years Day AND named 'Jerrica', after all. And if that wasn't enough, there were many other early indicators that conventionality just might not be my thing. For example:
  • When everyone else was watching "Cinderella" and dreaming of finding their prince, I was faithfully reading the not-so-fan-favorite, "Rumplestiltskin".
  • While most people were dreaming of husbands and white picket fences, I was dreaming of huts in Hawaii. 
  • While people were busy accumulating things, I was busy accumulating experiences.
  • While most people were dreaming of whatever top-of-the-line luxury vehicle, I was dreaming of a half beat up white jeep wrangler and a beach. 
  • While most people were dreaming of a 5 bedroom house with a pool and a housekeeper, I was dreaming of a motor home and never-ending cross country road trips. 
  • While most girls were spending half of their morning getting ready, I was showered and out the door in 15 minutes.
  • While most people were dreaming of a guy with money, I was dreaming of one with a good heart. 
  • While most girls were picking at their raspberry vinaigrette salads, I was eating pounds of chicken wings and guzzling beer. 
  • While most girls were dreaming of walking down the aisle in a fancy church wedding, I was dreaming of eloping in Vegas. 
  • And while most people were dreaming of having their own biological baby, I was dreaming of adopting from a third world country.

And the list far from ends there. Believe me.

While my fellow freshman classmates were deciding on majors and lifelong careers, I had my beloved Psychology major chosen since the 7th grade. And amongst the studying and 4 years of incessant liver damage, I was constantly dreaming of a life different from most other people my age.

I was dreaming of moving to Boston, of joining the Peace Corps, of becoming a flight attendant and of backpacking through Europe. Essentially, I was dreaming of anything that involved travel, adventure, and a life set free from what I believed to be mindlessly accepted societal expectations. Ones that I never necessarily wanted.

And so, after I completed my first rational goal of graduating college, I finally booked that trip to Europe. It was a pretty minor move looking back, but a major step in the constant mysterious adventure that has now somehow become my life.

Because this is when the real wanderlust started. 

Traveling enslaved me. It was my drug. All I ever thought about. All I ever wanted. And I haven't stopped wanting this kind of life ever since. And after spending 2 years of succumbing to a life I knew I didn't want, I finally found the courage to leave. And leaving brought me here. To this beautiful, amazing place. Where my life has become a cross between what feels like a permanent vacation and a dream of every new adventure ahead. 

And now I'm happy to say that my simple plan of spending one year abroad has turned into much, much more than that! I've decided against returning home as planned and will begin my next trek to the beautiful country of New Zealand.

I plan to do some traveling of Southeast Asia this summer first! If any of you have good advice on specific things or places to see, I would love to hear from you. And if anyone would like to join a solo traveler on any or all adventures, please do let me know :). I will be starting in late July and am hoping to travel for 8 weeks ish... or more.

And as far as New Zealand goes, my exact place is yet to be determined. I'm currently working on securing the perfect family and the perfect city. I'm crossing my fingers for Wellington and a family who even somewhat compares to the family I've been blessed with this year! But only time will tell :).

My decision against 'settling down' in any facet of my life could be linked to many things. It could be the lack of having met anyone or any place worth settling down for, or my extreme commitment phobia, or simply because I've always been and always will be someone who wants different things. I have a knack for questioning reality and a passion for seeing the world, and for now, nothing else even compares.

XO.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My BIG life announcement

I grew up in one of those households that most people only ever dream of. Truly. My parents loved and supported us unconditionally, they kissed us and each other, said "I love you" every day, and we even played the "what was the best part of your day" game during family dinners. We didn't have the fanciest of anything, but we loved the hell out of each other, we were blissfully happy, and that's what we preferred.

My mom came from a big Italian family where money was minimal, but love was grand. And my dad in the sort of household where it was acceptable to carve my moms name into his dresser in his early teens for all of us to see and reminisce over some 30 to 40 years later :). They were the kind of people who loved each other from the beginning, and the kind of people who married for nothing other than for the love of being together. The kind of people who gave me everything I needed, while simultaneously instilling in me the undeniable urge to be independent and work hard for things that I wanted. They highly valued experiences to a whole bunch of meaningless possessions, and I learned to do the same. And above all, they were the kind of people who taught me that showing an unconditional compassion and love for others is the key to mastering one of life's most important lesson: making a difference while you're here.

They also taught me to fall head over heals in love with traveling through yearly cross country road trips that became a tradition we'd give up almost everything else for. They taught me to appreciate everything we have, because somewhere else, people have so little. And although we struggled quite a bit early on, through lots of moving, sacrificing, and hard work, we had managed to create our own little beautiful version of the American Dream.

And I'll never forget the little moments that made me truly relish in this wonderful life we had created for ourselves. The moments that warm my heart to this very day when I recall them:

  • Like sending balloons to my Grandma in heaven every year on her birthday. 
  • Like my dad giving me my first packers shirt in Wyoming before we moved to our new home in Wisconsin, and saying, "This is our team girls".
  • Like belting out John Denver and Roger Miller on road trips and arriving back home to my HUGE extended family in Montana. 
  • Like having easter egg hunts while my dad dressed up as the Easter bunny. 
  • Or like our long embraces before yet another departure and not knowing how long it would be until we saw each other again (ahem.. most recently about 2 1/2 months ago). 
And I'll never forget the day a seemingly pretty insignificant event, gave me an undeniable compassion for people and completely changed my view of the world and how to live in it.

We spent the day making cupcakes, while Steph and I drooled over what was to be a special birthday treat. And in our crazy rush to get things ready for another meaningless celebration comprised of excessive gift giving and game playing, we stumbled upon a mother and two daughters who were homeless and hungry. And in that instant, I think we realized that none of what we were doing really mattered. Presents and cake meant nothing, when these people had nothing to eat and nowhere to go. And so, we stopped our birthday excessive craziness, and did the only thing we thought might make their day a little better. The only thing that at that point, we could really offer them. We went home, and brought them every last cupcake we had. And although quite the small gesture on our part, I've never quite seen the sort of joy I saw in their faces that day, ever again. 

And this is when I learned that even the smallest of moments can dramatically influence the person you become and the way you view the world and your place in it. See, these moments might seem small or insignificant to you, but to me, they were pivotal turning points in the creation of my current 25-year-old self. And I now know that people, moments, and experiences matter, and that all of the other STUFF, doesn't.

And through these experiences, I've learned to: 

- be kind
- be generous
- understand the struggles of others
- be selfless
- be mindful
- and do what you can to change the world, even if it's a simple as making someone's day by giving your cupcakes away. 

So with that, I'd like to thank my family for teaching me to be self-reliant, friendly, and adventurous. For teaching me to be compassionate, loving, and for showing me to see the value in making a difference. Growing up in such a wonderful environment has given me the tools I need to commit my life to making the world a better place, and I'm ready to take another BIG LEAP. 

Which is why I applied for the Peace Corps.

I've dreamed about this moment since High School. I even planned to go after college. But I was too scared then, and I was quick to make excuses. I was falling into the trap of what I thought society was expecting of me and what I was expecting of society. What about graduate school? And my boyfriend? I'm not ready to move. Should I be thinking about marriage? Nothing I was experiencing at that time was saying commit yourself to the Peace Corps, and so I didn't.

But as I've gotten older and strayed more and more from the conventional American life, I've realized that now is the opportune time. A lack of commitment to bills, people, and a life built anywhere specific, means that I am now ready. And I know now that timing is everything and to take advantage of every incredible experience you can get your hands on.

And for me it all really comes down to this:

I want to know what it's like to live in poverty, and what it's like to struggle. really struggle. I want to know what it's like to have nothing, and I want to live without the luxuries we've all so easily become accustomed to. I want to know what it's like to live in someone else's shoes (or lack thereof), and what life is like somewhere else. I want to know what it's like to be somewhere dramatically different, and maybe even a little bit scary. I want to serve people who need help, by offering my skills and my life to them for nearly 2 1/2 years. And most of all, I want to be given the chance to be reawakened and to truly know what the meaning of life is all about.

I know that my life and my skills can be better used to benefit others. And although a pretty terrifying thing to commit to for 27 months, I feel that through loving and encouraging friends and family, I am well equipped for anything! Thank you to those of you who continue to be such a constant source of support in my life and for pushing me to live out one of my life's biggest dreams. I wouldn't be in this very position without each and every one of you.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

The day that changed everything

It's the 70th day in a row now that I've woken up and said to myself, "I'm the luckiest person in the world". Maybe it's because I am, or maybe it's because I've finally discovered the difference between simply being awake and truly feeling alive. Either way it's safe to say that I am without a doubt the happiest I have ever been. And I owe it all to the one day that undoubtedly changed my life.
We all have defining moments that forever change our normal reality. Like the day we graduate from college, get our first job, get married, or conceive our first child. Some are planned, and some aren't, and some are completely random, and seemingly meaningless experiences. 
My life before my defining moment consisted of a long time very unhappy relationship, 3 jobs, and a exhausted and quickly dwindling spirit. I didn't hate my life, but I surely didn't love it either. In fact, the love for the kids I worked with, was the only thing keeping me going. 
And then came the experience that jolted me back to life. 
I met someone. 
For me, it was an undeniable, instant, and effortless attraction. In fact, it was the closest thing to love at first sight that I had ever experienced. Sure, I'd been in love before. In fact, I'd been in love for pretty much the last 10 consecutive years of my not-so-long life. But this was different. He was different. I was settling, and now I knew it. It was time for me to leave.
So, with that, I bravely faced the realization that my 5-year relationship was failing, and that I was longing for freedom and independence. BUT I had no idea what to do next or how to start over. I had no sense of direction, and at the same time, I had the entire world at my fingertips. 
So, on a complete whim, I decided to search for international au pair jobs. I had always loved traveling and taking care of children, so maybe this would be my ticket out, I thought. 
I found the perfect family in Australia and thanks to my newly rekindled and adventurous spirit (and some good references), they offered me the job! I felt like I had just been given the opportunity of a lifetime, and smiled more on that day than I had in months. If I said yes, I would be committing to moving there for a year and leaving my life in La Crosse, WI, behind forever. I thought about it for a mere 5 minutes, and then I terrifyingly, yet happily accepted. I booked my plane ticket that very week, before I had the chance to be rational and back out. Leaving everything I know and (kind of) love to live with strangers? Putting all of my trust in people I met online whole-heartedly? People said I was crazy, and I agreed. But, “No risk, no reward”, I kept telling myself.
Reality of course began to set in as I said goodbye to that long-time boyfriend, my jobs, my family, my friends, 95% of my belongings, and the place where I grew from a scared college Freshman to a hopeful 25-year-old. I shed many tears as I started to really comprehend all that I was leaving behind, but decided to be brave and take the leap of faith anyway. After all, the biggest growth in yourself comes from doing the things that scare you the most, right?
So, just two months ago, I hopped on a plane feeling completely isolated, sad, terrified, hopeful, and excited, all at the same time. I arrived and was greeted by my new family, and somehow, from 10,000 miles away, I instantly felt at home! 
So far, I've spent my days swimming in the Indian ocean, learning to drive on the opposite side of the road, petting kangaroos and koalas, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, and falling in love with two amazingly beautiful little Aussie girls. 
And everyday I wake up happy and thankful for the moment and the boy that brought me here and forever changed and reawakened my life. The moment that taught me that people come into your life just when you need them. And for the friendship that still remains.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aussie life vs American life

It was really through sheer luck and circumstance that I ended up moving to such a wonderful place. Never did I picture moving specifically to Perth, when I first considered moving to Australia. I used to picture Australia as a relatively small country composed of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane with The Great Barrier Reef somewhere nearby. I also knew that there were koalas and kangaroos, that the seasons were different, and that people drove on the opposite side of the road. But above all else, I knew that I always wanted to go. And so I did.


All I initially knew about Perth was that it was somewhere in Western Australia, and I wasn't about to pass the opportunity up. So I did a little research, saw that it was right next to the ocean, and I said to myself, "why the hell not?". And somehow here I am. If we're being completely honest though, I  actually live in Yangebup which is a suburb about a 20 minute drive to the city. But Yangebup is too hard for me to say most of the time and Perth is the most relevant nearby city, so I say Perth to make it easier on everyone :).

To say that I was once naive about Australia is a complete understatement, which is why I so highly encourage traveling, because it will undoubtedly broaden your view of the world. In fact, if i'm being completely frank, I think it's something every single person can only benefit from. There are different accents, different climates and a whole slew of different people all around the country. Much like a person from California has an entirely different life experience than a person living in Tennessee. You just don't know entirely unless you go...

And so far, I like what I see.

SO, if like me, you don't know a whole lot about Australia, imagine it being a slightly smaller version of the United States. In other words, it's pretty damn big. So for those of you asking whether I visit Sydney or Melbourne on the weekends, I really am sorry when I chuckle to myself. But most other major cities are practically on the other side of the country and thus a 4 to 6 hour plane ride depending on exactly where you are going. So unfortunately, a train ride or a long drive won't get me there for a weekend trip, unless by weekend you actually mean 6 plus days.

BUT for the record, I will be visiting both of those places in the very near future so stay tuned because I am uberrrr excited to add those cities and a decent chunk of New Zealand to my "have been" list.

ANYWAY.. incase you're wondering what life is like on the other side of the world, I'm here to happily fill you in.

Perth is located in Western Australia and has a population of about 1.9 million in the city and the greater area. It reminds me A LOT of what you'd see in rich California. The houses are both modern and expensive and there are beautiful beaches and palm trees just about everywhere. I still semi stop breathing every time I drive by the ocean while thinking about how lucky I am to be here.

What makes Perth unique is that it kind of exists in it's own little world away from all of the other major cities. This also makes practically everything here an imported item though, thus making everything extremely pricey. So, it's really no surprise at all that Perth is now officially ranked as Australia's most expensive city, and as the 11th most expensive city worldwide.

And when I say that, I really mean it. In fact, I now feel that I should've loaded up on those cheap $7 beers at miller park and lambeau field all of those years, because a pint of beer now costs me roughly $11 every time I buy one. A cocktail with exactly one shot in it? Somewhere between $15 and $22. And patron shots? $95 for 5 incase you were wondering. Don't worry though, tipping is not expected ;). Although I will say that it sure pays to be a girl in a town full of rich miners looking for an American girl to hit on. And for whatever reason (I hear it's because we're fun, outgoing and we smile a lot), they love American girls. So I will gladly accept the free drinks and continue to save everything I make for future travel, if for whatever reason you find my midwestern accent adorable.

Also weird is that some bars close at midnight, and others close at 7 am. I don't get it. I just pretend I know what's going on and why.

Oh, and never in my life did I think I'd be denied entry to a strip club based solely on the fact that I was wearing open toed shoes and thus I was a liability. And then I moved to Perth.

Then again, this may or may not be true. And this may or may not be about me. But that's another story. For another time :).

Other differences between America and Australia include of course: weather, holidays, driving, currency, measuring system, the people, the food, and of course the words!

Weather

Of course you all know the seasons are switched around here which makes summer here from December to late March. Although, if you ask me, the 88 degrees I saw today sure would have fooled me! I'd say summer for me officially started about mid October, once I saw 78 plus degrees consistently on the 10 day weather forecast. February is the hottest month averaging in the 90's! This then obviously makes May through September "winter". Although, I feel that the mildness of the climate change is hardly deserving of the word "winter". The lowest average temp all year reaches around 55 degrees. In Wisconsin, this is usually my time to bust out the shorts after a long and bitterly cold and snow filled 6 dreary months of me coping with seasonal depression by eating big macs once a week (or more). So really, it's not too shabby. Just some random rain spouts throughout the day and a bit of chilliness, but certainly nothing to whine (whinge) about. More random words below :).

Holidays

Instead of a 3 month summer, Australians spread their time off throughout the year. The school year starts in late January/early February followed by 2 weeks off in April, in July, in October, and 6 weeks off in December for summer break, with various holidays in between. It seems to work well for people here, and it definitely works well for me. I had a trip to Cairns in October, am able to take 3 weeks off in December for personal travel, will be traveling again with the family in April, and will likely be leaving during one of the two weeks in July :(. But let's move on before I start crying about that...

Driving 

Of course the driving is something I alwayssss get asked about. And truthfully, it's actually pretty great and quite easy, although I do find myself consistently walking to the wrong side of the car and nearly getting killed every time I cross the street on foot. I'm still not entirely convinced that this won't be the way I end up dying, so there's your warning. But really, it's the exact same concept other than there roundabouts are everywhere and I've seen only one stop sign in the 2 months I've lived here. But really, follow traffic, use your brain, and you'll survive.

Currency

In Australia we have the following: $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and coins worth $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c, and 5c. I only had a 50, 20 and a 2 dollar coin to show. Sorry. But look at how pretty it is!

Measuring System

I still have noooo idea why we haven't converted to the metric system. Honestly. It makes SO much more sense. Remember all that time we spent converting our crazy, illogical measuring system to the metric system back in science classes? I suppose at this point, it's too much work to convert, but it sure would be useful to have the entire world on one measuring system that actually makes sense.

1000 meters equals 1 kilometer. Easy. Makes sense.
5280 feet equals 1 mile. Not easy. Makes no sense.

And luckily for me I have a specialized converter app on my phone which lets me convert degrees, currency, lengths, volumes, etc., because for whatever reason, I was taught to use the most confusing measuring system on earth. I know that as Americans (and human beings), we have this incessant need to be stubborn and always be right, but really, this is one of many things that we could all benefit from by changing.

The People

The people here remind me so much of the midwestern friendliness I often see back home, which is so extremely refreshing. I have always heard that Australians were super easy going, which made my decision to make this my home that much easier. But boy, were you all right! Maybe it's my accent, or the fact that I strike up conversation with everyone I meet, but the people are sure nice here. And what I find incredibly endearing is how beautiful everyone seems to find the world here. Really though, this might be a big generalization, but in my experience, everyone and everything we see, eat, and drink here is "beautiful". It's an adjective that people use for everything. The curry is beautiful. The beach is beautiful. The beer is beautiful. And I agree!

The Food

In my family we eat much of the same things I'd eat at home, with somewhat of a twist. A few things I'd never touch again (okay, just vegemite). And a few things I'll be buying by the jar full (aka nutella).

Breakfast and Lunch are simple. Toast, Cereal, Sandwiches, Fruit, etc. And for dinner a typical week looks something like this: spaghetti bolognese (meatsauce with veggies), tacos, curry, soup, chicken and veggies, lamb and potatoes, etc. And although I'd never had curry until I moved here, I'll definitely be quickly adding it as one of my favorite meals once I get back home. And through lots of trial and error, I've become quite the master chef at this point. In reality though, I just follow the directions, but still, it tastes good and I haven't killed anyone yet. So, it's a win in my eyes.

BUT if you think all of your pinterest meals will be possible over here forget it. I went to the store asking for italian breadcrumbs and ranch and italian seasoning packets and the store clerks looked at me like I had a third eyeball. So be prepared to get creative or to learn to cook different things. American pinterest recipes will do you no good unfortunately :(. And bye bye crockpot cooking. I miss you and my beloved pot roast and chicken tacos.

Words

And the best for last. Words. I still laugh daily at the funny things people say here, or maybe it's because I now catch myself saying them in sentences without even flinching. Or maybe it's because my brutal American accent is rubbing off on little Emilie. She said "water" the other day and we all burst into laughter tears over the fact that she sounded just like she was from good ol midwestern USA. So here we go.

  • jumper = sweatshirt
  • whinging = whining/complaining
  • how are you going? = how are you doing? (still mess this one up daily) 
  • heaps = a lot
  • bogan = white trash
  • shires = counties
  • holiday = vacation
  • knickers = underwear
  • hair lackies = pony tails
  • nappies = diapers
  • chips/chippies = fries
  • no dramas = no worries 
  • rubbish bin/bin = garbage/garbage can
  • cheeky/cheeky monkey = goofy?? still can't figure this one out. although I use it all the time.
  • arvo = afternoon
  • sunnies = sunglasses
  • brekkie = breakfast (seriously.. they shorten everything)
  • lollies = treats
  • biscuits = cookies or special yummy crackers (still don't really know what fits into this category and what doesn't)
  • thongs = flip flops
  • mcdonalds = mackers
  • son of mac = mac jr. hahaha. still laugh at this one. 
  • petrol = gasoline
  • mate = friend
  • bloke = guy
  • pardon = what? I have horrible manners here apparently. Just feels too cutesy for me to use.
  • toilet = bathroom. For example, "Do you need to go to the toilet?" vs. "Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
  • uni = college
  • chewie = gum
So that's what I have so far as far as differences go. Note: I've only been here just over 2 months and have quite a bit of time to get more accustomed to life as an Aussie girl. It's been quite the amazing ride so far, and I'm looking forward to the many adventures ahead in this happy, beautiful, and wonderful life of mine.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend holiday to Margaret River

Andddd it's friday, and we are officially headed on another getaway, this time down south to Margaret River for a company related party via Ben's work. Aka he works, while Julie and I eat and drink copious amounts of free food and wine, and socialize. It's pretty great.

As we're driving down, I'm thinking to myself, where the hell am I? This sure feels a wholeeeee lot like Wisconsin, aside from the few kangaroos in the wild that I FINALLY got to see, of course :). But really, there was farmland and cows everywhere, and it was sooo quiet, peaceful and green. It was quite the refreshing little taste of back home, and yet oddly weird how just an hour north we're surrounded by palm trees and beaches everywhere. What an incredible balance I have here in good 'ol Western Australia.

Friday night, we entered at what I first assumed to be a pretty upscale party. And then I saw the bar, lined with pitchers of beer and bottles of wine, and felt even more like I was back home during a pretty typical night out. As I proceeded to eat everything from stuffed mushrooms, to pizza, to prawns, to lamb, to squid (unknowingly), to chippies, I got to talking to sooo many lovely people, many of whom told me about their extravagant 2 plus month long trips to America seeing stuff that many of us who actually live there haven't even seen yet (blog about this coming soon). A few drinks, and some worn out kids later, I offered to take them to the room so the Ben and Julie could continue catching up with friends, while us kids could all get some sleep before what I knew would be a long day tomorrow.

Saturday, after a morning of me enjoying a lovely continental breakfast, swimming with the girls, and recovering from last nights drinks in my lovely spa tub, we embarked on yet another day of drinking and sightseeing. We started with a brewery where I sat with my pint of whatever pale ale they had, while Ben insisted that I get both the fish and chippies and chicken wings, because I couldn't choose between the two. After all, I had been searching for wings for the past 2 months and finally found them, but who can pass up batter fried fish and chippies? And so we settled on getting a little bit of everything, and by a little, I mean a lot. And thus, we created a pretty nice base for all the day drinking that was about to be had.



For the record, the wings are nothing compared to Sports Nut in La Crosse, Wisconsin. If you want 'to die for' chicken wings, and are ever passing through, that would be the place! But anyway...

So we headed out and basically hopped from one winery to the next, which was great since they were all so close to each other. And since it was all free wine tasting, you better bet your ass I had a little bit of everything, at every single place. Don't worry (mom), we had a sober driver.

And then we headed to the chocolate factory, which is the closest thing to heaven that I'll ever see, and proceeded to again stuff my face with spoonfuls of chocolate chips. But there were samples, and they were free, and they were sooooo goooood. Here, I made a pretty irrational decision to spend $12 on a cookies and cream chocolate bar, which I am currently eating for breakfast as I type this sentence. Worth every penny (or 5 cent coin, which is the smallest currency they have here) :). But no good for getting my bikini body ready for summer, which is quickly approaching. Oh well. Better luck next year, I guess.

That night, I watched the girls while mom and dad attended a company dinner. I invited along 3 other kiddos who would have otherwise been spending the night alone in a hotel room, and I just didn't feel quite right about it. Instead I felt much better about offering them the opportunity to spend the night with me and the girls. And so, we had an apartment full of kids ages 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, and 25 (me :)), and had such a good, chaotic time, ordering in fish and chippies and watching movies. My girls fell asleep willingly and on their own at 7:30 as usual, and the others were out well before 9. I spent the next two hours watching "Dirty Dancing" before Julie and Ben came home. It was fabulous.

11 o' clock was wayyyy past my usual bedtime, as I've now officially made my way to Grandma status, so I was pretty eager to sleep in the bed that I offered little Xavier just 3 hours earlier. Any guesses as to the problem I found when I went to move him to the couch?!? You got it. The poor little guy wet my bed. So we moved him while we waited for his parents to arrive and tried desperately to save my precious sleeping space. We did the best we could, but after tossing 5 layers of blankets and sheets, we realized it was a lost cause. And so, I created a barrier, and salvaged the last available space. Yes, I was desperate.

On Sunday, we headed to breakfast where Ben forced me to try vegemite for the first time. They aren't big fans, so it was more for their pleasure to watch me gag and nearly vomit all over the table. Seriously though. I wouldn't recommend this salty, piss water tasting "food" to my worst enemy. Sorry Aussies. This is one thing you don't have right.

We then did shopping in Margaret River which had markets and little boutiques, which as you all know, I sort of live for. I made it through with no purchases and felt like I had just made a serious stride in my addiction to making impulsive buying decisions (hence the $12 chocolate bar mentioned earlier). By the way, I was almost attacked by a fellow American once she heard my accent. Apparently she could spot it from a mile away, which is not at all surprising since there is a comment about the way I speak almost everywhere I go. Great conversation starter too, I might add :). I didn't catch her life story, but she must have some sort of understanding of what it's like to be in a country full of people with beautiful Aussie accents, and to be the outsider with a terribly boring midwestern accent from the U.S.

We headed lastly to another brewery with the big time bosses. We ordered pizza, chippies, and more and more wings. Ben insisted on the 5 beer tester, and I wasn't opposed at all except for the fact that I worried about how I'd make it the now 2 1/2 hours back home without pit stops to the toilet. "Whatever, I'll deal with it later", I thought, and so, I politely agreed. So he came back with those and two specialty beers that weren't included, but that he insisted and forced (using the word lightly here) me to try anyway. Apparently you have to start from lightest to darkest, but since I'm known to be quite the street rebel, I did lighest, darkest, and finished with my 3 favorite, pale ales. AND I got all of my peeing out of the way at the restaurant and had to bother no one with annoying pit stops on the way home due to my increasingly small bladder. Big, big day y'all.


And so, after another wonderful trip home with my Aussie family, filled with enjoyable talks about our families, love, and my future, I gave them my thanks in the only way that I knew how... through my words. I told them how incredibly thankful I am to have found a family who makes it their priority to make me feel welcomed in any and all circumstances. I am thankful for a family who takes me on amazing holidays with them, instead of leaving me at home. I am thankful for people who treat me like an extended member of the family, and never as a person who simply works for them. But most of all, I am so thankful to have people who so easily fill the gap in my life, that I otherwise would have left with my beautiful family back home in the states.

Again, a special thanks to all of you who continue to show me love and support unconditionally, who share your stories, trials, and tribulations with me, and those of you who believe in this blog, and more importantly, believe in me and what I'm doing. I'm so incredibly blessed to have you as a follower, an acquaintance, a friend, a family member, or as one of many in my incredible army of supporters. love to you all <3.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

25 ways to become the happiest version of yourself


I wish I had the perfect recipe and could douse you all with a concoction of a timeless and magical potion for lifelong happiness. I'm hoping that many of you already live happy and fulfilling lives, but in my opinion, there's always room for improvement. So since I can't provide miracles, but can instead provide experience, I've come prepared with some interchangeable core essentials. Here's a list of what I've come up with when drinking a bottle of wine on a Monday doesn't work: 
  1. Discover your sense of purpose and your relevance to the world. Use it wisely and live your daily life with this in mind.
  2. Pay off your debt. You have no idea the freedom it will bring you! For many of us, student loans are inevitable, but drowning in bills as you begin your adult life will undoubtedly eat away at your soul. A second and third job might mean a lack of sleep and social life for awhile, BUT it sure beats drowning in money problems and selling your soul to the devil (or the government in this case) for the next 10 years. Here's how I paid off $40,000 in just 18 months. 
  3. When it comes to family, friends, and significant others, don't forget to love whole-heartedly. If you find yourself unable to, then you're investing your time in, and spending your time with the wrong people. Get away quickly rather than trying to convince yourself.
  4. Be thankful. Every single day. Every time you open your eyes to a new day of life on this earth. And learn to appreciate every moment of the beauty surrounding you. 
  5. Realize that people will undoubtedly hurt and disappoint you. It won't bother you as much if you have substandard expectations of people ahead of time.
  6. ...And... learn to forgive those who have wronged you. Not for them, but for yourself. You'll rest easier by loving more and hating less. 
  7. Embrace your independence. Know how to survive on your own mentally, emotionally, and financially. Know that there is a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely. And know that contrary to popular belief, there is more to life than always being in love. (Back to back relationship'ers.. I'm talking to you).
  8. Save and spend wisely, but be a little reckless at times too. Remember... you can't take your money with you when you die. SO.. go ahead and splurge on a the #1 combo at the movies, on a fancy anniversary dinner, on jumping out of a plane or on that long-time imagined vacation overseas. Don't let all of your hard work sit in a bank for years to come for no apparent reason. Get out there and enjoy the life you've worked so hard to create while you are young enough and still physically able to do so. *Note: this is much easier once you pay off that high interest debt that keeps accumulating by the second. Something to keep in mind :).
  9. Try to be as non-judgemental as possible. It's human nature to judge, but at least be mindful of this quality and try to be open-minded and accepting of those different from yourself. Believe it or not, we all have similar wants, needs, hopes, and dreams for the future, and you're only limiting yourself by discriminating based on race, sex, age, ability, religion, education, sexual orientation, etc. And I can personally guarantee that you're the one missing out on a wholllleeee lot of amazing people by being a self-centered, self-righteous, and ignorant asshole. 
  10. Never EVER let money be the driving force of your life. You'll be amazed at how freeing a life without this need will be. There is a whole lot more to life than stressing over finances. 
  11. ... So... don't feed into consumerism. Fancy belongings will only give you temporary happiness and will never fill the emptiness like good experiences and good people will. For me, nothing beats a (many) good beer(s), good food, good football, good music and good company. Find out what yours is and make it happen.
  12. See the positive in every negative. Being negative not only affects you, but affects those around you as well. Try to be the person that lifts people's spirits, instead of shatters them. 
  13. In the same respect, be realistic. Life isn't a constant succession of endless rainbows and butterflies. The earlier you accept the ups and downs as an inevitable part of life, the quicker and easier you'll be able to move along. 
  14. Shatter societal norms. Live life to your own accord. Dance to the beat of your own drum. Traditional American lives aren't for everyone and that's okay. Do it anyway. 
  15. Remember that being overworked and unfulfilled will get you nowhere. Live in a way that you'll look back on and say, "I had quite the amazing life".
  16. Let go of those who have let go of you, and hold on like hell to those who haven't. And never ever settle in your quest to find people who truly deserve to be a part of your life. 
  17. Travel, explore, and truly experience new cultures. You owe it to yourself to see what life is like somewhere else. And you owe it to yourself AND others to broaden your view of the world. 
  18. Trust that most people in this world are good and let this be your driving force to meet new people and constantly learn from them. 
  19. Take risks and do things that scare you often. You will never learn, change and grow otherwise. You will simply adapt to a boring life of comfort, and that's not really the point of life now, is it?
  20. Surround yourself only by people who help to make you into the best version of yourself. Look for: The people who bring out your wild side. The people who make you cry from laughing uncontrollably. And the people who love and support you unconditionally. 
  21. Get an education. Not for the outcome of a life sucking corporate job afterwards, but for the education itself. Never underestimate the power of learning and how it will change your life. 
  22. Donate your time, money, and/or your skills to those less fortunate than yourself. It will give you a wake up call you so desperately deserve. 
  23. Never rely on anyone for your own happiness, but instead be willing and able to create it for yourself. But always, always accept the help of friends and family when you need it. Pushing people away in times of sadness will only make your life more difficult. Trust me on this one. Just open up.
  24. Eliminate the things that make you unhappy. Seems simple, but it's easier said than done. Don't like your job? Quit. Don't like your relationship? Leave. Don't like your home? Move. It really is as simple as that. Be strong enough to move on and push forward from the things that no longer serve your live purposefully and positively. 
  25. And last, but DEFINITELY not least, be driven, be motivated, and find something in this crazy world to live for. Be humble, be kind, be thoughtful, be intelligent, be understanding, and be UNIQUE. And always, always dream big

Friday, October 11, 2013

Everything happens for a reason...

The clichest of the cliche's. And yet, the truest of truths, in my opinion. 

I've been asked a lot lately about how I ended up here, and really the simplest response I can give is, "Well.. because.. everything happens for a reason, I guess". But if you're really curious as to why I'm such a believer in the idea, keep reading. 

So how did I get here exactly? If we're being at all truthful here, it was through a lot of success and failure. Through a lot of love and heartbreak. But really it was through the path that I, and I alone, ultimately created for myself. It wasn't fate. It wasn't destiny. And I don't believe that it was "God's plan" either. It was me, my choices, and a whole lot of random circumstances that brought me to certain people and certain situations at any given time. And a whole lot of people and opportunities coming into my life just when I needed them. 

So if you're really that interested, here's the shortest play by play of the last 25 years of my life. It started at first with my dad's job which moved us from Montana, to Colorado, to Wyoming, and to finally to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin where we finally settled for the remainder of my childhood. It was relatively safe, and the majority of people I knew were smart, practical and made relatively good decisions. We had our fun, but we (mostly) had our shit together too. This helped to mold me into a decently intelligent, well-rounded, and friendly kid, which was a pretty good start. Thanks class of 2006 for being awesome. 

It was then through devastating high school break ups, that at the time, felt like the end of the world, that taught me to never rely on anyone to fuel your own happiness. I didn't know it then, but I became infinitely stronger and more independent because of this. Also good... in retrospect. 

And then it was the seemingly unimportant decision at the time that dramatically influenced everything: My decision to attend UW- La Crosse for college.  Here I met lots of outgoing, party loving, intelligent, happy, adventurous and independent young people. Here I had professors and other mentors who pushed me to be spontaneous, to be adventure seeking, to write purposefully, to learn continuously, to question the world, and to always be a free thinker. And here I met my very best friends who saw me at my very best, and who unknowingly, were at one point, witnessing me at my very worst, and yet loved and supported me whole-heartedly in any and all circumstances. (Thank you!!!)

And then there was of course that random meeting of strangers in which I experienced the closest thing to love at first sight that I will likely ever believe in, that made me realize that I was undeniably unhappy and unfulfilled and that I needed to move on. And so.. 

Roughly 1 year ago, I came to terms and had accepted the fact that my 5-year relationship was failing, and that I had truly fallen out of love with the place I’d been calling home for the last 7 years. Nothing I knew was serving my life in the way that I needed it to anymore. I was bored, sad, and longing for adventure, but had no idea what to do next or how to start over. I had no sense of direction, and at the same time, I had the entire world at my fingertips.  My original plan of moving to Minneapolis to be closer to my sister and friends was still an option, but on a whim, I decided to search for international au pair jobs instead. I’ve always loved traveling and taking care of children, so maybe this would be my opportunity for a real life change, I thought. Maybe this was my escape. The good news is that many families saw something special in me, and I was so grateful for that. The bad news is, there was only one family that really caught my eye, and only one family that I completely fell in love with.  My future was now riding on the unlikely chance that THEY would choose ME.

*More information on the full process of applying for au pair jobs here in one of my previous entries.

The Pieyre’s from Australia, contacted me with pages full of pictures and information about their wonderful family. After chatting for a while, doing reference checks, and deciding we could potentially be a good fit, we set up a Skype interview. Of course, flustered over the chance for this dream opportunity, I felt I came off very nervous and uneasy about the whole situation.  Afterwards, like most interviews (or fights with former boyfriends), I sat there thinking about all of the “better” things I could have said, and was left feeling not all that confident about the whole thing. I undoubtedly thought they would choose somebody else and I grudgingly started planning my next move. So, I was back to convincing myself that a move to Minneapolis would be just as adventurous as a move across the Pacific.

Quite to my surprise though, I woke up on Easter morning to an email from the family asking ME to be their au pair! I was in complete shock and felt like I had just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime.  I also smiled more on that day than I had in months, quite possibly even years. If I said yes, I would be committing to moving there for up to a year and leaving my life in La Crosse, WI, behind forever. I thought about it for a mere 5 minutes, and then I terrifyingly, yet happily accepted. I then applied for a temporary work VISA and booked my plane ticket that very week, before I had the chance to be rational and back out. Leaving everything I know and love to live with strangers? Putting all of my trust in people I met online whole-heartedly? People said I was crazy, and I agreed.   But, “No risk, no reward”, I kept telling myself.

Reality of course began to set in as I said goodbye to that long-time boyfriend, my three jobs, my friends, 95% of my belongings, and the place where I grew from a scared college Freshman to a hopeful 25 year old. I shed many tears as I started to really comprehend all that I was leaving behind, but decided to be brave and take the leap of faith anyway. After all, the biggest growth in yourself comes from doing the things that scare you the most, right?

So, roughly 6 weeks ago, I hopped on a plane feeling completely isolated, sad, terrified, and excited, all at the same time. I arrived and was greeted by my new family, and somehow, from 10,000 miles away, I instantly felt at home!  Of course change is difficult on everybody, but making the decision to uproot my entire life for the chance to live and work abroad, took change to a whole new level.  It was a bold move, but one worth making in my opinion. After all, everything in my life, good and bad has brought me here, to this very moment. The moment where I get to write about how happy and fulfilling my life has become. The moment where I realize that just one year ago I was at one of the absolute lowest points in my life. And the moment where I realize just how far I've come in such a relatively short amount of time.

Thank you to those of you who broke my heart. Thank you to those who taught me lessons (in school and in life). Thank you to those of you who helped me grow from a girl who once lacked a passion for life to a girl who now appreciates and dwells on every single moment. And thank you to those of you who helped mold me into someone I am now so happy and proud to be. I wouldn't be here, in this amazing situation, without each and every one of you.