Celebrating life

I’m a big believer in honest introspection and learning from the string of moments that make up our lives. My friends call it real talk, so let’s get real. 

Here’s a look into what I’ve learned, and am still learning  in my own life:

1. You are incredibly powerful and capable, stay passionate.

2. Soak up experience. There’s no rules how to live.

3.  Travel is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself.

4. Loving someone means accepting and celebrating everything about them.

5. Don’t be apologetic about your faith.

6. Nothing is worth sacrificing your own joy.

7.  Take care of yourself-mind, body, & spirit.

8. Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in one day.

9. Confidence in your own individuality is straight up sexy.

10. Make an intentional effort to strengthen your friendships.

11. Don’t underestimate the power of eye contact.

12. Reading is an easy form of knowledge and perspective.

13. Fall in love with yourself. You’ll realize how freeing it is.

14. Be dependable, keep your word…people appreciate that.

15. There is beauty everywhere and in everyone.

16. Learning how to love again is just as incredible as falling in love for the first time.

17. There’s no such thing as strangers, we all have to start somewhere. Be friendly towards everyone.

18. Be in tune with your aspirations and future goals.

19. Challenge yourself often; learning never really ends.

20. Your vulnerability unfolds into courageous beauty.

21. Stop waiting/complaining for something to happen, make things happen.

22. Liberate your mind. There’s nothing sexy about hatred or close-mindedness.

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How to fall in love with your life

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Let go. Find your bliss. Give joy.

Love without ceasing. Appreciate exactly where you are. 

“Realize that the world is athrill with beauty and excitement. Keep yourself sensitized to it. Never lose your enthusiasm.”(Stay Alive All Your Life, by Prentice Hall1957. Discovered serendipitously in my college library)

Memories of Morocco

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I could only hear bits and pieces of the conglomerate of noises that surrounded me on both sides. We slowly walked down tiny, jagged alleys as men draped in long battered cloths loudly called out to us in broken English. “I give you good prices”, one said. I stopped feverishly—I was curious to feel the handmade leather of the bags displayed. Each leather bag felt tired, worked for hours, designed purposely with a contrast of color from the hand woven carpet. My eyes marveled through the amount of treasures I saw within each burrow that belonged to the individual merchants. Pops of burnt orange of the walls and the vibrant colors of every market caught my eyes. I could smell spices and a steam cloud from the woman frying dough down the street filled the air. The streets were busy with swarms of people—it was like we were caught within a hectic maze as locals zoomed by us on rustic motorcycles, and as the stray cats followed our every move. Small coves of hanging lanterns led me inside. There, I saw a hamsa pendant dangling on the walls. I had seen this symbol before in other cities and countries. It was a comforting reminder of the journeys these past few months between a foreign land. It spoke to me-as a sign that I was that I was safe. Even thousands of miles away from what I was familiar of, I felt at ease knowing I was protected wherever my feet took me.

I don’t know if it was the rawness within each corner of the bustling city, or the meticulous detail shown through the impeccable architecture, or the smile from the local old man as I kindly asked to take his photograph, but I was smitten by the chaos of Marrakech. Morocco had stolen my full attention—and it still often lingers in my mind.

My heart aches to live with intention

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Morocco Feb 2012/ Photo credit: Stephen Doyle

The most powerful thing travel taught me was how to live.

The memories you create, the people you meet, the things you see.

It changes you. Inspires you.

For the past few months, I’ve felt like a storyteller. Now, I want to take serious action to serve others.

Action on a global, tangible scale.

While researching humanitarian organizations to collaborate with, I came across charity: water. Their mission is simple yet groundbreaking: bring clean water to those who desperately need it. We take water for granted, but it’s the most basic, deserving daily need. The integrity and authentic enthusiasm of this nonprofit is what caught my eye. Immediately, I thought to myself: wow… I want to work with people like this. People that share the same passion to serve others, because we understand that taking action and giving love brings life meaning. This is what life is about. To be blunt, my goal is to work with a passionate, creative group of people who actively seek living life with intention and courage.

I want to share this because this is what’s on my heart and I know the world isn’t so big after all. Life is sometimes a series of actions, and I choose to make my dreams happen.

“I learned from a very young age that if I pursued the things that truly excited me, that they would reward in more important ways, like happiness.”

What adventure do you choose?

 

How to make Spanish Paella and Sangria 101

I have to be honest when I say I wasn’t too crazy about Spanish food. I did however fall in love with the genius combination of paella and sangria. Sangria is the perfect refreshing drink, especially in that Spanish heat. Sangria will always be a little reminder of the bold sweetness of my experiences in Spain.

Check out a taste of Spain from a cooking class I took while backpacking– and I hope you take a day to get your loved ones together and try it out!

chicken paella
chicken paella

To give you a little background on the delicious dish, Paella is Valencian rice dish originated near the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards think of paella as Spain’s national dish, but Spaniards think of it more as a regional dish. Mixed paella is what I saw the most, so I had to share what I learned with you. This is not the only  recipe for paella, and I am no expert–every chef has his or her creative method in creating their favorite paella.

Preparation:

  1. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large frying pan (paellera), if you don’t have a paella pan, you can use any flat type of pan (not a Wok).
  2. Add the chicken & cook until golden. [400 gr of chicken]
  3. Add a sprinkle of chopped garlic, salt, & pepper
  4. Turn ingredients around, & turn everything on strong heat (it’s important to always stir in the same direction).
  5. Add fish (king prawns, mussels, whatever fish you love) & let liquids steam away for 5-7 min. [8 pieces]
  6.  Add rice, saffron & paprika. Then move ingredients around so rice is evenly spread. [500 gr. med grain rice]
  7.  Add tomato sauce, white wine, then wait 2 min for wine to steam away. [1/4 liter dry white wine]
  8.  Add chicken stock & then add the water (will remove rice from sticking to the pan). [1/2 lit chicken stock]
  9.  Move ingredients around again, then leave paella to cook at medium to strong heat (until you see it boiling)
  10.  Once paella is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer & add 100 gr. of diced red pepper.
  11. When rice appears to be cooked, add fish in “decorative way”. Leave paella cooking until fish is properly cooked.
  12.  After approximately 10 min, turn the heat down.
  13.  When fish is pink, sample the rice to check if it is al dente.
  14. For the last 4-5 min of cooking, leave paella covered by aluminum foil.
  15.  For a nice aroma, add lemon. Add the fresh peas if you like as well since they don’t need to be cooked.
  16.  And lastly, enjoy with friends & pour the sangria!
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Cooling down from the heat with sangria in Sevilla

Sangria is a light, affordable wine punch that is usually from the province of Rioja. It’s perfect for any time of the day and I highly recommend it with your favorite tapas and paella.

To make your own sangria, add pieces of your favorite fruits like oranges, lemon, apples, grapefruit, and peaches to soak in with the wine. White wine can be used instead of red called sangria blanca. I learned that besides wine and fruits, sangria normally has sweetener like honey, sugar, orange juice, or fruit nectar. A small amount of brandy, triple sec, or other liquors can be added as well.  Lastly, add ice and carbonated soda. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon to stir and to get the fruit out.

And as my friend Meg always said:

“you know it’s going to be a good night when you eat the fruit out of the sangria!”

Enjoy!

Doors leading to Europe

Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Marrakech, Morocco
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco
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Stockholm, Sweden
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Paris, France
Paris, France
Cortona, Italia
Cortona, Italia
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Córdoba, España,
Córdoba, España
Roma, Italia
Roma, Italia
Morocco [Sammi]
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco [Sammi]
Espana
Ronda, España
Rastina, Serbia
Rastina, Serbia
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Budapest, Hungary
Capri, Italia
Capri, Italia
Sevilla, Espana
Sevilla, Espana [with Tamara]
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Perugia, Italia
Perugia, Italia

A door can symbolize openness–an opportunity and freedom to explore for those curious enough.

I was fixated on distinguishing the variations of doors while I was traveling. There was just something about admiring them that spoke to me about what it means to discover a culture. Was the door open? Who was leaving and where were they off to? What color stood out the most? How tarnished did it appear?

I was smitten by discovering the stories behind these doors.

Months before I left for Europe, I was anxiously applying for scholarships to study abroad and was reminded of this quote: “when one door closes, another one opens”. This rang true when I did not receive the travel scholarship I so desperately wanted. Fortunately, I had the incredible opportunity and honor to become a global ambassador. I wanted to inspire students just like myself to travel with me, even if was just through a computer screen. If I could leave you with any advice, hear this: stop making excuses–do yourself a favor and just buy the ticket already. It doesn’t have to be just a dream.

More about me as a Abroad 101 Global Ambassador here .

P.S. Do you gravitate towards something in particular too when you travel?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

First spontaneous trip: Budapest, Hungary
First spontaneous trip: Budapest, Hungary

It’s remarkable that one decision can unfold into a myriad of memories that encompass your journey. Transitioning into living back at home in California after almost a half a year of living and traveling abroad has honestly been difficult at times. Sometimes I feel like I need to satisfy my craving for a change of pace and have days that remind me that life isn’t about routine and playing it safe. I’m also learning that “home” is no longer just a place.

Home is a feeling. It’s laughing with my family and friends. Regardless if it’s under the roof I’ve lived under since I was just 3 years old.

I don’t think I realized this until I was able to live thousands of miles away from my family, in a place that was once completely foreign to me, and have it turn into that feeling of home. I remember the times that I came home to my apartment in Perugia and my friends were cooking dinner and we started all singing together, when mornings started by enjoying my espresso as I peered out my window just to see Perugia waking up, and the times my friends and I had late night chocolate and vino runs to our favorite spot– just because.

These moments piece together why I’ll never think of life differently than the little moments we create.

Yes, the big picture is important. But if you miss the smiles from people around you, the deep conversations in between mundane activities, dancing to your favorite song, and enjoying that delicious Neapolitan pizza like it was your last meal on earth–what’s the point?

I’m a big believer in the power of putting action behind your dreams. It’s silly to argue that dreaming big is enough, it’s not. Actions make things happen, not wishful thinking. While backpacking on my own, I remember feeling fearless; capable of accomplishing anything. Not as in I didn’t feel fear at times, but as in I didn’t buy into it.

I didn’t let being scared hold me back in doing the things I wanted to do. If I felt like going off to Sweden on my own, I just did it– like it was some normal thing like deciding what to eat for lunch.

What if I felt that fearlessness everyday? Well I’m continuing to pursue my dreams. I’m currently saving up (and trying not to go out for margaritas) so I can afford a trip to Brazil in January. Latin America is so intoxicating and the opportunity came up, so I figured, why not?

Returning from an adventure that was the time of your life creates opportunities to explore your current surroundings with new eyes, plan your next adventures, and share your stories. So that’s what I’m doing, and I like that life is keeping me on my toes a bit.

So what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Wednesday’s wisdom: do it with passion

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Loving my new home for summer… beautiful San Francisco at dusk

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations… and you find yourself in a new and wonderful world, dormant forces, facilities and talents come alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed.” -Patanjali

 

So friends, what inspires you?

Backpacking through Andalucía, España

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Backing through the south of Spain was easily one of my favorite experiences during the past 6 months of traveling. Here’s some highlights from my six-city adventure through Andalucía!

Excited to experience my first bullfight in Sevilla
Excited to experience my first bullfight inside Plaza de Toros
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One of my favorite spots in Sevilla
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Plaza Santa Cruz is a peaceful part of Sevilla
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Beautiful Córdoba and a view of the Mezquita

For my first evening in Córdoba, a few of us took a night bike tour/tapas crawl to get to know each other and the city. At a small bar near the roman bridge, a girl from Salamanca leaned towards me asking in British English: “So if you don’t know any Spanish, then… how are you getting by, all by yourself?”. I smiled, then answered: “Well, I guess I never thought of it that way. I’m learning basics from people I meet and enjoying figuring it all out”.

I know how to order my favorite tapas, my coffee just how I like it, how to ask for directions, and…that’s about it. This was all part of the fun for me though I’ve got to admit.

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Streets of Cordoba
Streets of Córdoba
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A view from Cordoba from my hostel terrace
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Inside the famous Alhambra [Granada]
My second flamenco show
Flamenco show in Granada
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One of my favorite views of Monachil in Granada

If you have time to do the hike through Monachil, I can’t recommend it enough. I’d argue that day was one of my favorite memories with friends I had just met earlier that day through my hostel. You can swim in the water (the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful) and the hike itself is exciting. You feel like you’re in a hidden treasure of nature.

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Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada
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Playing around on the beaches of Marbella
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View of Ronda [Málaga region of Spain]
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Ronda’s famous bridge
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Old town in Marbella

I wrote a snippet about my backpacking trip here, but I’ve also learned that some people come into your life for years and some for maybe just a few hours. But regardless, that time is important. The beauty and heartache of traveling is leaving so abruptly;  and yet it’s amazing to cross paths with people from all over the world. Backpacking opened my eyes to the core of human needs and the simplicity of life. It’s not a style of travel for everyone (understandably), but I never thought I’d enjoy living out of a backpack either. It really challenges you and teaches you–and I’m so grateful for all of it.

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go”

P.S. I’m working on my “favorite hostels in europe” post for all the avid European travelers!