Six Things to Do Instead of Watching TV


I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  Mostly about how I don’t have enough of it.  There are so, so many things that I want to do and I usually cannot find the time to cram them all in.

Which is why it boggles my mind when I hear some people talk about how much TV they watch, and relay tales of binge watching their Saturday away or catching up on the latest scandal on CNN as their evening’s activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing the matter with watching an occasional movie or couple episodes of Big Bang Theory here or there.  But I. personally, could NEVER make it an actual daily or even weekly practice.

TV is entertaining, no doubt.  And I’m sure if I let myself, I could really get into Game of Thrones, or follow the Orange is the New Black saga with bated breath, or find a couple of new releases to patronize each weekend.  But in all honesty, entertainment, especially mindless entertainment, is not productive.  And when seeking entertainment becomes the main focus of your free time, you are losing out on so many awesome points of life!

But some people have become so accustomed to watching TV that they have no idea that there is a whole entire world beyond their 60″ Plasma, or that they themselves could create the type of life they so envy on the silver screen.

Instead of pressing play, you could:

Go on a walk.  Especially with your significant other, kids, or friend.  The fresh air is addicting, and you can have so many good conversations if you go with the people that you love.  There have been so many great discussions that I’ve had with my friends as we meander the sidewalks or trails, and you come back refreshed and energized rather lethargic and blahhhh.  Not to mention the obvious perk of burning rather than consuming calories.

Read a book.  Even when a novel is entertaining you, it is making your brain process information, put ideas together, and decipher the meaning of new words.  It is the best form of entertainment because it is relaxing yet still mind-expanding, especially if you skip the fiction and go straight for the self-improvement reads.  Some great fiction reads are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  If you lean toward the non-fiction side (which you should at least every once in a while), I would recommend The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and You are a Badass.

Join a club of some type.  One thing that I have recently started up in the past year has been beach football.  I have never played an organized sport in my life, but there is a league in my town and I, on a whim, decided to join.  I love it!  Joining something that fits a new or old interest not only keeps your zest for life alive, but it is an amazing avenue for meeting new people.

Learn to play an instrument or learn a new craft.  Making music is an innately human way of expressing emotion.  Even if you are not musically inclined, setting aside time to struggle and eventually master a new skill is not something to be sneezed at.  When the mind is stretched it expands, and the more things you add to your toolbox the more valuable you become.

Create a second (or third, or fourth) stream of income.  Think about it.  You could either spend 1-4 hours a night wasting your time with episodes of Friends you have seen hundreds of times, or you could put your time and effort into something that could actually pay off.  Enjoy crafting?  Start an Etsy shop.  Have a particular set of hard to master skills?  Market them.  Have a business idea?  Actually start it.  If it’s something you actually enjoy doing, the same amount of time will pass while giving you way more options in terms of money and connections.

Call a friend.  How many times have to thought to ourselves “oh, I wonder how so-and-so is doing?  We should catch up!”  and then simply never followed through?  Connections with other people are extremely valuable both for sanity and for creating a vast network of resources from which you can draw whenever necessary-IF you put the time in to create those reserves.

The trouble with the majority of options outside of the black box is that they take a least a minimal amount of effort.  So many people like to think of their hours of diversion after a long day of work as a reward, when the truth is that real rewards come out of real effort.

Constant entertainment is taking the easy way out in life, and it makes you accustomed to the road less bumpy.  Yet there WILL be parts of life that are not entertaining, and if you simply fall into the habit of putting blinders on and ignoring it because your reality muscles are in a state of atrophy, those bumps can prove to be disastrous rather than merely annoying.  The most beautiful waterfalls are at the end of the unbeaten trail, and the best life experiences are best actually lived by you.

So the next time you are tempted to press play, put the remote down and step away from the boob tube into a realm of endless possibilities.  Stop watching other people portray scripted exploits, relationships, and feats of grandeur, and go out and create your own!  Life is meant to be lived, not watched.

The Devil is in the Dirty Work


Lately I’ve been realizing that I need to do more.  In pretty much every area of my life.  More cardio.  More planning.  More thoughtful gestures.

The thing is, in each of the areas of my life I’m sitting at at an OK level.  My body doesn’t look terrible, and I can pull off a tight dress if I want to.  My teaching meets acceptable standards, and I am confident that my students are learning things in my classroom.  My relationships are all fairly solid, and I know that there are few, if any people who would have bad things to say about me.

But come on—this is a scenario that is easily applied to SO many other people, and dammit, I want to be at the TOP.

This is something that I’ve written about before, and sometimes it’s frustrating because I have the personality where if I feel that something needs to get done, than dang it, I’m going to try to get it done NOW.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that transformations like this cannot be accomplished NOW.  They are not a one time thing.  Rather, they are achieved through DAILY dedication and eventual mastery of the habits and mindsets that only the great people have.

Which means that you have to do the dirty work.

Every single day.

It’s one thing to set your alarm for 6am on a Saturday morning and go for a long run and feel accomplished about it all week.  It’s another to consistently get up at 5am and get your cardio in and go to the gym after work for weights and watch what you eat every day not just weekends and do that day in and day out and never. ever. falter.

That shit is HARD.

It isn’t fun AT ALL.

Yet the people who have enviable physiques, lives, and results all do the unenviable on a daily basis.

It all comes down to a decision.  It’s really that simple.  When the moment comes, you can either decide to do the thing that is hard or do the thing that is easy.  And so, so, so many people choose easy.  Hell, I choose easy a lot of the time.  It’s easy to pop in a couple chocolate covered raisins rather than resist.  It’s easy to “forget” to go on the stairmaster. It’s easy to throw together a plan last minute and call it “good enough”.

But every single person that I read about who is winning chooses hard.  Not because they are a masochist or because they think that the more pain they put themselves in the more noble they are, but because they know that that is what it takes.

Most people can’t see past the immediate.  They see the sweat and sacrifice and do an about-face.  But nothing great was every accomplished by retreat, and we need to forge our own warriors mentality with everything that we do.  Battles are not won only on the battlefield, but during every day that leads up to the final epic clash.

So how do you ensure that you will, in fact, be victorious on the battlefield?

Become a leader.  I was listening to a podcast by Andy Frisella on how leadership isn’t about bossing people around but being willing to do the smallest of things every single day.  Essentially, if you are a true leader, you may have someone assigned to do the dirty work but if you see it needs to be done, YOU do it.  Practicing doing what needs to be done on a daily basis, regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to do or when it ‘should’ have been done is a surefire way to ensure self-respect.  And people who have massive amounts of self-respect are unstoppable.

Stop the excuses.  There are so many times I have told myself “It’s Friday…one treat won’t hurt” or “I did a really hard workout today, I don’t need that extra cardio.”  If you want better than normal results, you have to put in more than normal effort.  This is a hard and fast rule that really can’t be bent, broken, or manipulated.  Our excuses are like fast food-convenient in the moment but over time they add up to a shitty lifestyle and a fat ass, neither of which are appealing.

Educate yourself.  If my goal is to be the next female body builder, I could dedicate myself to running and eating low calorie all day long, but I will never achieve the results I want.  I have to be willing to spend money on the best trainers, dedicate time to researching my nutrition and exercise, and constantly be prowling for the best and newest information.  Learning does not stop after we graduate high school or college.  If you want to truly succeed, you must constantly try to learn new things.

Do the dirty work.  I cannot stress this point enough (especially to myself).  I cannot expect to accomplish any of my grand ideals if I don’t grab a shovel and start clearing the hole for a solid foundation.  And once that foundation is made, I need to grab a hammer and nails and start building.  And once the structure is made, the drywall needs to be hung.  And so on and so forth.  The point is, you can image the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don’t actually break a sweat to get it done, it will remain naught but a fantasy.

Everyone in this world has a vision of what they would ideally like their life to be, but there are only a few who actually roll up their sleeves and dig in enough to make it happen.  We have one life.  Why wouldn’t you brave a few cobwebs and dust bunnies to uncover the potential treasure trove that lies beneath?

Grab a shovel, friends.  It’s time to get dirty.




Why Tinder has Ruined Dating


Last week I downloaded Tinder.  Last week I also deleted Tinder.

To be fair, the only reason I downloaded it in the first place was because I was fairly bored (aka being lazy) and all of my friends were merrily swiping away all around me.  It was a moment of weakness in which I was like “wellllllll ok, I’ll play”.

Just to be clear, I am not looking for men to sleep with; notches on a bedpost do NOT appeal to me.  I want to find a quality man that I am attracted to and who obviously shares those feelings in return and eventually build an amazing life with that person.  (But Hannah, why are you on Tinder then?  Yeah, Yeah, I know).  While I do not want to meet my future husband off Tinder, I also was curious to see what was out there because frankly, the dating pool in California majorly sucks.

With this goal in mind, the only thing I put in my profile was my height and the tagline “if you’re not ready to take me out on a legit date, don’t even bother.”   This, I thought to myself, should weed out any potential booty solicitations.

What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that I was supremely busy and didn’t actually have time to go on many dates.  And every message I got asked me when we were going to meet up for drinks, or coffee, or dinner.  It was overwhelming!  Yet also exciting-so many men who wanted to meet me?  Really?? Oh the possibilities!

The same sword that slays the dragon can also cut the hero, however.  The fact that there are so many options at your literal fingertips seems glorious at first, until you find yourself discarding this one or that one due to minor issues that you wouldn’t even have known about yet had you met them in real life.

The seemingly endless options that we have available at any moment has made us picky to the point of ridiculousness.  Why would I settle for THIS guy/girl who has 9/10 of my wants in a mate when I could just swipe a couple hours more and possible get a guy/girl with 10/10?

Choices are not the enemy, but they definitely make commitment harder and loyalty a treasure more precious than diamonds.  The endless option atmosphere that permeates almost every aspect of our lives, while amazing, is making us fickle and SO much more shallow.

This was made incredibly real to me when I went to fair by myself.  I had spent the day intermittently working and swiping, and had had several different conversations with eligible Tinderinians who fit my initial attractiveness criteria for swiping right (which means they were HOT…I have high standards.  #sorrynotsorry.).  At the fair, I ran into one of the guys running a booth and we struck up a conversation.

This guy was not my usual type.  Scrawny, blonde, a smoker, not unattractive but definitely not movie star status, and just over my height.  Yet for some reason, I found myself attracted to him more and more as we talked.  Our vibes just clicked.

We kept in contact, and each time I get a text, I am always excited.  Which completely weirds me out.  He is NOT someone I would have EVER pictured myself with, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t actually go anywhere, but just the fact that I wouldn’t be opposed to being taken on a date by someone I would have never, ever swiped right on is indicator enough that it’s time to take dating back offline.

Online dating has made us hyper critical of everyone else while simultaneously complaining that we can’t find a man or woman who loves us for who we really are.  We are quick to dismiss people we may actually be quite compatible with simply because they don’t fit what we have envisioned for ourselves or because we fear what other people might think or say.

Online dating has also made us scared to actually start something in real life.  I have been in so many situations where I had a great conversation with a dude only to have it end with a “see ya around!” rather than a “hey, let me get your number.”  Granted, some of those men might have just been friendly and/or already taken, but I get the feeling that the vast majority find it a lot easier to miss a match than to get shot down in person.

Additionally, online dating has made open sexuality permissible.  If the initial messages aren’t sexual from the start, its becoming more and more acceptable to introduce sex as a topic on the first date.  I went out for drink with one guy, my age, from Tinder last week, and by the end of the first cocktail he mentioned that (R rating alert) he wished I was sitting on his face.  I had known him for less than 12 hours and he felt that this was an acceptable addition to the conversation.

This is contrasted to a date that I had on Saturday night with a guy who was older than me by 7+ years.  He checked about my dietary restrictions, made reservations at a vegan friendly restaurant, and bought tickets to a show that I’ve wanted to see for forever.  There may have only been 7 or 8 years between those two men (and I met them both on Tinder), but there was a world of difference in how I felt about how I was treated.

So what’s the solution?  How can we balance all the amazing things this new generation has to offer with all of the pitfalls that come along with it?

Honestly, it comes down to you, the individual.  You decide how you will view the world, and you decide what you’re going to accept and what you’re going to reject.  It may take more work and more time, but you WILL find someone who has decided on the same values.

When you find someone who gets you, truly gets you, it doesn’t matter how many matches you made or how many right swipes you may be losing out on.  All that matters, truly, is how THEY make you feel and how much you elevate each other to become your best selves.  And that, friends, is the best match you could ever make.




Be Careful What You Wish For


This weekend is the very last weekend of the summer *stifles sobs*.  On Monday, I will be greeted with 150 smiling faces in rotation, all filled with as much trepidation and anticipation as mine will be.

This year, it’s going to be different for me because I chose to move schools after the whole being laid off thing got taken back just as quick as a toddler grabs back a toy he’s offered to someone else after he’s changed his mind.  I had the choice to go back to my old school, but instead of sticking somewhere where I was well-known and had built my reputation as a good teacher, I decided to branch out and move to a high school a) because I’ve always wanted to teach high school and b) I felt like I had already reached the peak (or close enough to it) at my old school and I was ready for a new challenge.

Oofda.  Did I ever get a challenge.  Firstly, I discovered that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade (not quite the high school experience I was envisioning) along with some 9th grade classes.  That’s right.  Three preps.  Considering that last year I taught 8th across the board, that in and of itself was enough to make me think that perhaps I should opted for comfort over novelty.

Secondly, not only will I have three preps, but the middle school classes are designed to prepare the students to enter the IB Diploma Programme in 11th and 12th grade that has just started at this high school, which means that they need to have TOP-NOTCH instruction in an inquiry based setting.

Now, in my previous schools, if you were able to get the kids to behave and respect you and also learn something along the way, that was enough to get you through (not to mention middle school is less rigorous than high school).  I have my relationship building tools with my kids down pat, but I have not yet had a chance to really test my actual TEACHING capabilities with kids who are, shocker, eager to learn.

Of course, I wouldn’t be teaching if I thought that my kids didn’t learn from me.  But my focus has always been on more of the social-emotional piece for my kids, because that’s where I saw the most need.  Now, on top of preparing for three different classes each day, I need to make sure that my lessons are interesting, high-level, and relevant.

ON TOP OF the academic side, there is the reality that I have no real support system at this school.  I chose this school specifically because my old principal worked there as well as several old coworkers who moved there during the last couple years, and because of the IB programme; being trained in that will be invaluable for my own skill set and my ability to move anywhere should I chose to ever leave California (doubtful, but possible).

However, all of my old coworkers have since formed new bonds or tighter bonds with their fellow middle school cohorts, and I left our first day of meetings feeling a bit adrift in the sea of it all.

Now, at this point, I could either curl up in a ball and wish my hardest to turn back time and go back to comfort and familiarity, OR I could narrow my eyes, set my shoulders, and prepare to knock this shit out of the park.

When it comes down to it, challenges are the spice of life.  Think about it.  Every single thing that is good is challenging at first.  Learning to walk?  There’s a reason diapers are so fluffy.  Marriage?  There’s a reason counselors make bank.  Parenting?  It’s a wonder that we’re still alive as a species.

Challenges make you grow.  They make you question things.  They make you stretch yourself in ways that you never thought possible and then stretch a little more.  You may chose your challenges or have your challenges thrust upon you, but the outcome is still the same: you get better.

An unchallenged life is truly an unlived life.  Think back on all the times you have grown and changed as a person.  Usually, it was the direct result of a challenge to your security, belief system, or familiarity with something, and when you look back you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing is, you WILL get what you ask for if the Universe knows you are ready (and sometimes even if it knows you’re not).  Most of the time we have no idea what we’re really asking for until it comes to us and then we realize that we have called something into reality that we aren’t quite sure we actually want, but by that time it’s too late.

Most of the time, however, these unexpected manifestations help us hone what we really want, and build up strength to get through the tough times of life.  I wanted nothing more than to get married young, and boy, did I get what I wished for even though it was quite possibly the worst decision of my entire life.

Yet, I’m thankful for this challenge that I overcame, because there have been so many times I’m able to share my experience with someone who is going through almost the exact same thing, and it is so gratifying to be able to see them relax and know that I truly understand what they’re going through.

If your life is on autopilot, choose a challenge for yourself or open yourself up to the Universe providing one for you.  While the temptation to stay in the cocoon is quite strong, remember that no one looks twice at a brown lump hanging from a twig, yet a butterfly can capture the attention of even the most hardened of hearts.  You are that butterfly.  All you have to do is narrow your eyes, set your teeth, and never stop pushing until your wings are free.

And then, friends….you are free to FLY.


Your World WILL Evolve (if you’re doing it right)


Do you remember when you were a kid, and sometimes your legs, back, or arms hurt for no reason? “Growing Pains” was the conventional excuse, and even though we look back now and are thankful that we are taller than an 8 year old, at the time it seemed like the most irritating thing in the world to have this discomfort that we could do nothing about.

I feel like I’ve been having some growing pains lately.  I left for nearly the entire summer, and it feels like things are not the same with certain people in my life now that I’ve come back.  Other bonds have been made, and it seems as though my importance to some around me has dwindled.

Of course, this could be completely in my head and I could just be paranoid and feeling insecure.  However, I usually have pretty good intuition when it comes to feeling things out with other people, and I can usually tell if a connection is there or not there, especially if it was previously stronger.

This brings about the question of WHY.  Why would previously strong connections be dwindling?  How could only three weeks apart dismantle previously solid relationships?

In my opinion, if the relationship is solid, time apart doesn’t matter (as long as it’s not years and years with no quality communication).  My best friend lives on the opposite coast, and it is my most valuable relationship and one that I know I can count on 110%.

So, if the three weeks (or 3 months, or nine months) doesn’t matter, what gives?

If you are in any way involved in the self-improvement or success or entrepreneurial spaces, you have no doubt heard that the more you improve or change, the more people will start to drift away from you.  Not because they want you to be unsuccessful (although secretly I’m sure that’s the case for some people), but because they simply don’t vibe with you anymore.  More accurately, you don’t vibe with them.

This obviously sucks.  We are social creatures with a strong inner desire to ‘fit in’ and to have a tribe surrounding us.  SO much of our energy is spent trying to get others to like us; simply think of a stereotypical high school scenario.  In high school, however, we usually don’t hold the knowledge that just because a certain group is popular, doesn’t mean that they are the best group for us.

Sometimes, we can fall back on this mentality as adults as well.  If we are used to hanging out with certain people just because they are convenient or because they have always been in our lives, it can be extremely difficult to admit that ‘you know what? I actually hate spending my Saturdays at sports games.’ And freely gravitate towards a knitting club that is much closer to your own personal interests and personality.

Once we stop focusing on the PERSON and how long or how much they have been in our lives, we can start to focus on the VIBE.  Maybe that person you just met loves writing songs, and you’ve quietly held a passion for jamming and creating musical magic together without acting on it because none of your other friends like the same-why wouldn’t you dedicate more of your time to that person who helps bring out the best in you??

This doesn’t mean we can forget a key factor: if you are focusing on VIBE, you have to BRING that vibe in order for things to move forward.  I have always admired athletic people, but I simply cannot bring a supreme athletic ability to the field; I wasn’t brought up playing sports, and I never developed the skills necessary in order to be a good overall athlete.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t play with people who also like to play for fun, but I most likely won’t be spending time on the court with people who are serious competitors.

However, if I practice my ass off and continually get better and better, it’s more than likely that I will evolve from playing with the little leagues to competing with those who are more serious.

Sometimes, you realize the kind of tribe you want and put in the work to get to that level.  And sometimes, you don’t even realize how much you are changing until your group starts to drift away from you.

Losing connections always sucks, even if you know it’s for the best.  And many times the connections, if they are not toxic, are never lost entirely, but simply weakened to one degree or another.

If you feel that you are on the brink of being between tribes, stop and really think about where you want to be before blindly grabbing back on to the tribe you once had.  At times, it’s you who have DEvolved, and you may have to get yourself back on track to be worthy of said past tribe.  However, and most likely if you’ve been truly working on yourself, it may be that going back to your old tribe won’t serve your goals, and may in fact slow you down or stop you altogether.

Your connections in life are precious; the people around you, if they are the right people, will lift you up, propel you forward, and help you open doors that you never would have imagined.  There is absolutely no way that anyone can have a fulfilling life on their own.

Most people subconsciously know this.  However, they can also use that as an excuse to cling to relationships that have stopped being productive for them, thinking that it is better to have the wrong people than to be alone.  What they don’t realize is, the people you are going to meet after you’ve shed the filters on your authentic self will be a LOT better for you than the people you will leave behind.

Don’t fear change. Change means that you are evolving as a person and growing into your own.  Don’t shortchange yourself by clinging to what already was.  Instead, bravely release your hold on the old and keep your hands open to embrace the new.  If you’re doing it right, the new will ALWAYS come, and you will look back on those painful separations the same way we look back on growing pains: briefly, or not at all.



What I Learned From Three Weeks Abroad


This summer I went on my first ever trip abroad; a travesty, really, because I’m almost thirty (*sob*).  Not only did this trip show me a wide variety of awesomeness in regards to architecture and planetary beauty, it also taught me several valuable lessons of which all persons should be aware.

People are awesome.

The whole reason for the trip to begin with was the fact that (long and windy story short), my student’s mother offered me her place to stay in Grenoble, France whenever I wanted.  That, in and of itself, is a testament that there are still amazing people left in the world even if everyone likes to focus on the assholes.  She also took the time to put me in contact with several different people that she knew both in Paris and in Grenoble so that I wouldn’t be thrust into the thick of things alone.  As much as I like to think that I am high and mighty and could have done just as well on my own, the truth is she saved me valuable time and money and went above and beyond what I even imagined when she first offered up her place.

In addition to being hooked up right from the start, I did not meet one person that was not awesome in one way or another throughout the trip (Minus the person who stole my phone, of course.  They belong in the asshole category).  My hosts took the time to show me around to all the hotspots of Grenoble and Paris, and the people that I met in my hostel in Barcelona were full of amazing stories and immediately made me feel like one of them.  Overall, this trip has shown me that the best face of humanity is still alive and well in the world, and it is all we can do to strive to be one of them.

 The world is huge.

In just the three short weeks that I was traveling, I met people from over 15 different countries: Turkey, Australia, France, Denmark, Czech Republic…the list goes on.  All of those people represented corners of the world that I have not yet explored, and it was made fully real to me the sheer expanse of our planet and how many things we are privileged to be able to experience.  You could spend three lifetimes traveling the world, and still be in need of a fourth and fifth to fully take it in.

The fact that the world is so incredibly expansive made me ashamed that I have experienced such a tiny portion thus far.  There are SO MANY different ways of doing things and SO MANY areas that take your breath away with their beauty.  I think it should be mandatory to have a semester abroad in every high school—extreme, yes, but think of how many relationships would be built, how many minds would be expanded, and how many soon-to-be adults would come back and make a positive impact on our society.

No, you do NOT need that thing.

XL Airways, my carrier of price, er, choice for the trip, gave me the standard two carryons AND a free checked bag.  Because I was given so much space, I merrily stuffed each of the three bags with pretty much my entire wardrobe—and spent the entire trip regretting it.  I wore probably ¼ of the things that I brought, and it was nothing short of torture hauling my ginormous and h.e.a.v.y bags around the metro and from place to place.  Next time, I will definitely be packing much, MUCH lighter.

Traveling really prompts you to embrace a minimalist mentality.  Do you need a cute outfit in case you do something where you need to look nice?  Absolutely.  Do you need 10 of them?  Hell to the no.  Most of your time traveling (unless you specifically book a party trip for whatever reason) is spent walking, which is most comfortably done in a good pair of tennis shoes and yoga pants.  Travel is amazing because of the experiences you will have, and you will have those same experiences if you are wearing a new combination every day or re-wearing an outfit for the 10th time.

Travel is necessary.

When I was in France, I didn’t speak a lick of French.  Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by a sea of words foreign to my ears and an array of indecipherable colorful signs.  While that obviously sucked, it gave me a new appreciation for how it feels to be surrounded by the unknown.  It was a terrifying yet exhilarating feeling.  It also opened my eyes to how important and cool it is to know several languages.  I have had zero desire to learn any other languages in the past, and my trip has definitely sparked an interest to develop the rudimentary Spanish that I possess into full-fledged fluency.

Aside from the whole language thing, travel is a catalyst for mind expansion in its fullest capacity.  You become aware of your priorities, take time to soak up the beauty of the physical universe, and come into contact with so many people who either cause you to solidify your values or mull them over in your mind to possibly be reshaped.  Without travel, we have no contact with something different, so we always remain the same.  And an unchanged life, to me, is the saddest life of all.

Overall, I’m actually grateful that I took the initiative to travel alone.  Traveling puts you in some hairy situations, and you learn how much you can actually rely on yourself.  Getting to know yourself and having the opportunity again and again to authentically be yourself with each new person that you meet is a gift, and one that should be fully taken advantage of.  As much as I would prefer to share the experiences with someone, there were actually relatively few things that I did completely alone-the rest of the time I was with the connections that I had made just a few hours before, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself.

So, friends, where have you traveled lately?  If the answer is to the kitchen and back, I strongly encourage you to book a trip somewhere you’ve never been before.  If there is no one who will accompany you, who cares?  Go alone.  Either way, it will definitely give you amazing memories to look back on and awesome connections to cherish.  And what is life if not a colorful collection of shared and solo moments?

Paris Day 4-5: I Dance With a Hot Fireman, See a Terrible Show, and Eat More Amazing Food


Friday I woke up in the outskirts of Paris and ate yet another awesome breakfast with my Turkish host, Peter*.  We had decided the day before that we were going to go on a run and explore several different areas in the countryside that were Peter’s personal favorites, so we changed into our running gear and headed out to the bus.

The bus dropped us a mile or so away from our first stop, and we took up a light jog to reach a gorgeous and tranquil house in the middle of a generously lush and densely green plot of land.  There was a pond in the front lawn, and although the house itself (formerly a place for artists, I was told) was abandoned and hence run-down, the area around it was well-maintained and had a beautiful vegetable and flower garden complete with vined arches.  It was a perfectly picturesque scene.IMG_7086

After wandering the whole of the property, we set off in a light jog yet again to reach Parc de Sceaux, a huge park looked over by a big (BIG), old country house.  The grounds were massive, and have been turned into an awesome community space with expanses of green grass, fountains and ponds, and wide walking paths meandering the impressive view.  After jogging around the park to take it all in, we stopped and rested for a bit in the grass (pleasantly surprised by a group of Bollywood dancers filming a short dance segment in front of the house-an impressive backdrop!)

After sufficient rest, we walked back to the bus stop and caught a ride back to Peter’s* apartment, where we took turns showering and getting ready for the night’s activities.

Since it was Bastille day in Paris, the only logical course of action was to find a spot near the Eiffel tower and wait for the spectacular fireworks show later that night.  We met up with his friends outside of the tower area, and after being checked by security were able to make our way closer to the Iron Lady.   I was super excited about the whole experience, and I tried to ignore the heavy police presence that permeated the entire night.

After settling on a spot with a decent view of the tower, we enjoyed the live classical and opera music that filled the air-which was a striking difference from the Jay-Z or Beyonce that would have been blasting over the loudspeaker in the USA.  Finally, at around 11:00pm, it was deemed dark enough to start, and the sky was set ablaze for the next 45 minutes with round after round of rainbow color highlighting the Eiffel.  It was truly an amazing scene.IMG_7198

After the fireworks ended, we joined the massive thong of people walking to the nearest metro station.  Our goal?  Get to the nearest Fireman’s party!  The Bal des Pompiers, or Fireman’s ball, is a traditional event held in the fire stations around Paris; men in uniform await to set your heart aflutter, and DJ’s and makeshift bars get the party pumping.

When we arrived at our party of choice, we were confronted by a huge line.  One of the girls and I decided to walk to the front to see how long the wait was (i.e. see if we could get in).  After chit-chatting with the fireman at the front of the line, we were told that we had to wait–but then he asked where we were from.  When I told him I lived in California, he immediately perked up and told us all about his upcoming trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  After giving him a few suggestions for his visit, he motioned us to come inside.  Success!

The rest of the night went off without a hitch.  It was my goal to dance with a fireman because, come on now, you can’t be at a Bastille Day Bal des Pompiers and not dance with a pompier.  I spotted one who immediately perked my interest, and I made my way over to him.  Pointing at his hat, I motioned that I wanted to wear it, and he immediately handed it over and we started grooving.  Pictures were taken, dancing was done, and fun was had by all!  All in all, it was a good night.

The next morning was my last morning in Paris, and I packed up my giant bag (note to future self-YOU DO NOT NEED THAT THING, PACK LESS) and headed into the city.  Peter’s friend had an extra ticket to a modern dance show (a 80 euro ticket for 10 euros-wahoo!) so I happily went along with her since all of her other friends were busy.

I absolutely love dancing, so I was super pumped for the show.  Five minutes in, I was racking my brains to see in what universe the dance moves they were doing would be considered dancing.  One torturous hour later, it finally ended and I made a promise tsqo myself to never, ever subjugate myself that experience again.  I don’t know about you, but modern dance does NOT float my boat.

After the dance show, I said goodbye to my friend and wandered around the Bastille square area.  A cheese crepe and ice cream were a must, obviously, and the crepe had so much cheese on it I had to squeeze some into the garbage (I know–normally sacrilege, but a necessity in this case).  Both were delicious.IMG_7229

Hopping on the metro yet again with my ridiculously huge suitcase-sweating profusely as I hauled it up and down the flights of stairs-I arrived at the train station where the TGV (France’s fast train) was waiting to take me to Grenoble.  Settling into my seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find to nice French women as my seat partners, and we chatted merrily for the duration of the trip, thus ending my sojourn in Paris on a highly pleasant note.

Lessons Learned?  A) Don’t ever accept an invitation to a modern dance show.  Ever. B) There IS such a thing as too much cheese.  C)  Fireworks aren’t really fireworks unless they are set off with a backdrop of the Tour Eiffel.