Your Body Has Always Been Fine

musings

I think about my weight and my size and my fat and my thigh gap and my chicken wings and my double chin. Every day. I think about these things.

I think about the fact that when I was a teenaged I worried about the same things. At a smaller size. At a lower weight. At a thinner face and chin.

I think about how every single day as a women or a teenager and even a preteen has been a self-conscious rage inside myself. A narration of insecurity and hatred field at my body. A constant tune of how I was never good enough.

I also know, that every women feels the same way or has felt the same way. I also know that we rarely discuss the constant mental battering we do. To ourselves, sometimes to others,

Our culture has beaten an ideal into our mind that is impossible. Impossible because it changes all the time. Impossible because it’s manufactured. Impossible because the system is rigged in its favor.

Every day. Think about that. Every day we pick at our lives. Pulling at stitches and scans, sometimes to bleed, sometimes a reminder. We go under the knife more and more for thinner and slimmer and better. We dad and crash diet. We tell our friends to join the cult of Keto or vitamins or CrossFit or no carbs. We buy waist trainers and folds of fabric to hide.

None of this is “new” per se. Humanity has a long history of fashion with its own bindings and stitched to alter our looks. What is new is that we are constantly stewing in a brew of unrealistic ideals. What was once just movies and magazines is a constant pull for our attention. What was once books and parties is 24/7 advertising. We are born and raised in “everything about us is wrong – to be better we must…”

The body I hated at 16 changed at 26 and will continue to. Why couldn’t I love it at either stage? Why must I pick at it now?

I treat myself, and I know others do the same, with so much hatred at every stretch mark and bump. I fuss over numbers that only have meaning because we give meaning to them. We are unreasonably cruel to our existence and experiences.

The truth is that at size 0 or size 24 your body is fine. Your body is this amazing thing that keeps you alive and takes you places. Your body has free thoughts. It can create life. It is a beautiful thing. Yet we are so cruel and so hateful to it

This is joy to say be unhealthy, it is to say, be happy with yourself. Don’t sit in the mirror and hate. Exist and love and be in every moment. All of it is fleeting. When you’re 90 years old and covered in wrinkles, smile that you had experience that gave you the smile lines.

I remember my grandma looking in the mirror and bemoaning her aged skin, her crooked bones, her gray hairs. But I also remember always thinking she was so beautiful with her makeup and perfume and scarves, and most importantly her kindness and love that filled my childhood home.

The choice is yours. See your beauty for what you have, or live a life hating yourself. I’m personally choosing the former.

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Take Time to Enjoy Travel

adventure of the week, europe, France, italy, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

I see this same scenarios time after time in my job:

My client wants to travel overseas and check off some places on their bucket list. They have one week, three kids, and they want to cram as much culture in their little brains as they possibly can. They want to see ALL of Italy in a week.

My client is taking his dad to Europe, his dad is 80 years old, they want to see ALL of Europe in three weeks.

I research their top places and assemble a schedule that I think is ideal. I find options that match their budget, and activities that all extra time if someone needs a break or a coffee or if a train is late. The savvy travelers agree to my suggestions. The wild ones try to break records, or so it seems, on how many countries they can visit in no time.

While a week, or three weeks seems like a long time, the truth is there will never be seeing ALL of anything in a week, or a month, or a lifetime. It is literally impossible to see everything Rick Steves tells you to, or eat at every Michelin restaurant. It’s just not something that can be done. Besides, the best travel experiences are the unexpected, the moments when nothing was planned, and the stars seem to align. It’s when you actually take time to ENJOY traveling that good things come together.

My favorite meals, or my most loved memories don’t come from the days I planned out hour-by-hour they are finding randomness on this planet we call home. Sometimes it has been a funeral procession or a wedding. Other times it has been making friends with a child or getting lost on a side street. Sometimes it was simply sitting in a train station and people watching while I ate a sandwich. I saw the Queen of England when I just wanted to enjoy being in London in a park. I made friends while hanging out at pubs and hostels. I have always fallen in love with cities I never expected to, or never planned to originally visit.

When one takes time to slow down and breath in their time in a new location, then one REALLY understands the heart and soul of why people travel. It’s a cafe in Paris, or a bakery in Dublin, and taking the time to eat a pastry or drink a cup of coffee. It is a club in Edinburgh or a pub in London that opens up conversation and connection. It’s never when you have museum after museum planned. It’s never when you follow a massive group from sea of people to sea of people. It is always the in between.

As I have seen more and more of the world over ten years I have moved from racing to one place and another, and instead I have craved more of the in between. When I mentally picture a trip back to Paris, I see a mosey instead of a rush. When I mentally picture a visit to China, it’s sitting on the Great Wall and listening to others speak in awe. I imagine crying at finally seeing the Pyramids of Giza and sitting in the sand as I feel the centuries of life in front of and around me. I want the cups of teas and messy foods as much too. I want making friends and photographs of new connections too.

So, dear reader, slow down your plans. See two cities instead of five. See one less museum, and add in a park. Walk everywhere you can so that you can absorb the essence of what is around you. Speak to everyone you can so that you know the people better. Try new foods that would otherwise freak you out. Most importantly, live it all, as much as you can.

Happy Travels!

Why I’ll Always Travel Solo

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A lot of people seek out someone that is a reflection of them in a relationship. Reflections show you…well you…they don’t always help you examine your own back. Instead, I have the spotlight relationship, a person that shines light on where I can improve, and helps me build myself into a better person.

It’s fun to have someone that loves all the same things as you, but it’s equally fun to have someone to teach you new things and visa versa. My husband is someone that would prefer a night in to a night out. A day of video games to a day of hiking. A staycation to a camping trip. If you can guess, I like the opposite.

We have done plenty of trips together such as cruising, Santa Fe Road Tripping, and our Honeymoon to Mexico. However, there are journeys and activities Mr. Stillway will never be as keen on and that means I get to do one of my favorite things, traveling solo.

I love traveling with Ryan, but I also love being on my own in the world. I love the thrill of being independent and free to travel and do as I please. I love the opportunities and strength and wonders that it brings. I will always continue to travel by myself as long as opportunity allows.

I plan on, in 2020 to hike the Inca Trail. I plan on taking work trips with or without my colleagues. I plan on going to places like China and India as Ryan and many friends don’t hold the same interest in them as I do. In the decades to come I plan on checking off places like Antarctica, Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, Jordan, and many other places.

Traveling solo means time to reflect and learn the deepest parts of myself. It makes me stand taller and hold my head higher. It encourages me that if I can plan a trip halfway around the world, I sure as hell can kick ass at work and school. It helps me encourage my fellow woman and girl to dream of all the possibilities they also have in the world!

Where are you going?

Happy Travels!

Support Women on Your Travels

Travel

As I look at my next adventure around the world I often take moral and ethical choices to heart. When I have to go with a guide or a group, I want to make sure that company supports women domestically and internationally and that my money goes to lifting women up.

I have talked about in previous posts the importance of acknowledging workers and people in other parts of the world. Today, I want to draw sharp focus on how you and I can support women better when we are on the road.

  1. Bring supplies that go to schools, and if possible, to schools that focus on girls.
    • Pack for a Purpose organizes donations for local schools in developing regions around the world. Their comprehensive list makes drop offs easy, and even resorts in places like Riviera Maya offer drop of spots. This includes where we honeymooned in Mexico, Sandos Caracol. There are also drop points in the United States, or you can send some stuff with a traveling friend!
  2. Choose tours that support women’s arts and initiatives
    • Companies like G Adventures offer tours to women’s weaving co-ops in Peru, or cooking classes in Spain. Ultimately this connects travelers to life-changing experiences, and supports local non-profits. Make sure if you are visiting crafters to buy a small purchase or two as a phenomenal souvenir and to continue the initiative.
  3. Do some voluntourism
    • If you have extra time a little can go a long way to support a cause that supports women. A few days to a few years can leave positive impacts. However, make sure you do your research and your mind is in the right place for aiding the country you’re visiting, not yourself.
    • An example is working directly with girls and women in India, or working with kids in South Africa to have nature experiences.
  4. You don’t even have to travel
    • If you are planted for a while, the simple truth is that you don’t need to travel to help people in need. Your community probably has numerous organizations that could use some help.
    • Think of women’s clinics that just need a loving hand, or a domestic violence shelter you could sew blankets and scarves for.
    • Maybe take some time to help a Girl Scout troop learn a new skill or volunteer at your local school.
    • Even simple things like food banks, diaper banks, and medical clinics could use some additional kindness and helping hands.

While these are just a few examples of how to get out there and support women, remember the biggest and most important goal is lifting each other up and supporting those around you. We don’t need stickers or shirts or roses and candy for that matter, we need all people to value all people as equals. Feminism is the radical notion that all women are people ~Marie Shear.

To Camera…or Not to Camera

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I love photography, as anyone that has followed this blog for a while knows. However, I am conflicted with a constant concern when I travel if I should bring my camera equipment or stick with my phone.

The simple answer is I don’t know.

I don’t know because it depends so greatly on how one travels, what one is doing on a particular trip, or if you have a safe way to keep your gear. So I have a few check points when determining this. It is not an exact science but it helps me sort out if my camera on my Iphone is OK, or if the DSLR is worth the extra bag, weight, and effort.

I bring my camera under the following circumstances

  1. I am doing some portrait or fine photography
    1. this is a “well duh”
  2. I have the chance or time to do some real photography
    1. This means if I am going to be in nature for a good amount or time, or if I have a long trip I am taking.
  3. I have extra luggage space
    1. If I can afford the extra ten pounds, then it goes!
  4. There is no way my cell phone camera can capture it well
    1. This is especially true in situations where a zoom lens is a good idea, such as nature or travel photography (again more time/space is a must)
  5. I can keep it safe
    1. Traveling on a cruise or boat or water-based situation can be lethal to your best camera friend. Sand, wind, dirt, rain etc. is also an unfriendly mess!
    1. I don’t want my cameras, AKA my expensive travel tools, to be ruined on a wild trips.

I don’t take the camera kit for pretty much the opposite reasons but I also keep this in mind on certain trips. Am I going to “work” on this trip or am I going to play?

Because when you do photography professionally such as for weddings and your blog. When you write off travel as a business expense, which it very much is, you have to draw a line on fun and work.

I make an effort, some times better than others, to not make every trip a working trip. When I go with my husband, I tend to leave the DSLR behind because the point is to not work and be with my husband. When I travel by myself, the camera is likely in my bag. It’s a lot about priorities and what is most important on a specific journey. Is it to get more great shots (which I love love love) or to spend time with those I love (also love love love)?

Sometimes it is hard to leave my little digital friends at home, but I don’t regret the less weight and I don’t regret focusing on reconnecting with my family.

What do you do?

Happy Travels!

Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

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So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Don’t Plan Too Much

Travel

As a follow up to my last post, Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache, I wanted to share the opposite problem for travelers to ponder, planning too much.

Flash to January 2010 and I am a nervous 18, almost 19 year old, planning their first trip to Europe. I was working in a small gift shop in Manitou Springs, and while the day was slow I would plan out, step-by-step how my trip was going to go. I mean step-by-step. I had the time I woke up, map directions and times to get to the first spot I wanted to see, approximate times for a lunch break, and what area or grocery store, or park bench I thought I should stop at.

This was a classic case of a bored mind finding mazes to run, and a nervous first time (solo) traveler trying to figure out how to maximize time in other countries. I had no freakin’ clue.

I landed in Germany in April 2010 and within a week everything had gone to hell. I was luckily staying with friends outside of Stuttgart, but the next part of my trip was delayed an entire week as all flights were grounded due to a certain Icelandic Volcano. When I say everything was grounded, I mean this volcanic ash cloud left 10 million stranded, cost airlines 1.7 billion in revenues…etc. etc. Thank you Eyjafjallajokull volcano! 

On a personal level it meant my two months of planned travel was also interrupted and I played a fast game of cutting out places in England and Ireland that I had planned to see. I split London into two chunks. I cut out the Lake District. I spent less time with friends in Diss. Then I met a Scottish guy and changed my plans for matters of the heart (this was also a flop). 

However, the lesson was that all my hours and hours and days of planning meant that I had failed to see that life, especially in traveling, gets messy and disruptive, and REALLY hates strict rules. I learned hard and fast that on long journeys you often just don’t know how your desires may change and that your heart may find a new path. 

I learned this again in 2013, when my funding for my study abroad was late and I was staying with family with no money. That same trip meant I would catch whooping cough and be bedridden for a week instead of going to Istanbul. 

Since then I have become wise to these tricks, or so I pretend, and I try to find a happy medium. A set of “plans” maybe a few tours, maybe some reservations, but ultimately I let things happen and I stay open to opportunity. What I have learned more than anything is that it’s important to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. 

Happy Travels!

Winter Hiking

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I have lived in Colorado and until last week I had never been hiking in winter. At least not in the traditional hiking meaning of the word. Sure I had trekked through knee high snow to feed animals or to clean off our deck. Sure I had braved snow and ice to walk a dog down gravel roads. Yet, I had never been on a hiking trail in winter.

I had not even meant for it to be a winter hike. I had actually planned on everything to be pretty dry and easy going. Maybe home to a few snow patches. Yet as I journeyed into higher elevations at Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw snow, and more snow, and ice, and wind, and snow pack.

It was soon I realized at around 8,000 feet that I would be hiking in the snow if I chose to go. I hesitated some, worried about my clumsy nature on ice. Yet, being stupid, or stubborn, or both, I pushed forward with my hiking plans.

Luckily I had packed extra layers and I was wearing my thick athletic leggings. I had well- treaded hiking shoes, and thick socks. I put on my layers, made sure my pack was good, and off I went.

The trail proved to be somewhat snowy, but easy to trek. The blowing wind and ice from the trees made the journey cold but manageable, and if anything the floating ice crystals added a majestic charm I did not expect.

The wonders of nature hit me, even in the cold, birds hoped between trees, chipmunks scavenged in bushes, and the pine, mud, and earth released their elegant perfumes.

I crunched along uphill for a mile before the Bierstadt Lake trail plateaued by the lake. It was here that the muddy trail turned into a wondrous winter land, where the sun played gleefully through pines and aspens. The wind made the fallen trees, the victims of strong winds, had leaned into each other creaking and echoing a haunting tune.

The lake walk loop offered a two mile winter walk that offered solitude and relaxation, a chance to think, dream, and feel grateful to my home by the mountains.

While I enjoyed just walking, I found that winter hiking was a much needed discovery compared to my summer and fall excursions. It was nice to have the stillness and solitude away from the summer crowds. It was glorious to feel a freedom only deep-seated trails offer. It was refreshing to breath in the scents of an ancient land, untamed and wild.

So, if you are thinking of a winter hike. Do it. Just be smart. Take warm clothes, gloves, hat, jacket, boots. Take water and matches. Take a solar lamp if you can. And bring an emergency device to try to reach help (cell phone). Tell people where you are going. And try to visit a trail that others are likely to be on. If you can, take a buddy, if you can’t, make sure several people know where you are going and when you should be back.

Happy Travels!

Travel Is More Than Checklists

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In my work, and my passion, there is a lot of talk about “bucket lists”. Bucket Lists, for those unaware, are lists of things and places one wants to go to before they “kick the bucket” aka drop dead.

While it’s great to have lists and goals, dreams and wishes, it’s also important not to lose track of all the other reasons one should travel.

No doubt I have my own goals I want to accomplish, and a bucket list a mile long, yet I know in my heart of hearts I travel for much more than checking off places.

When I was 19 and I took off to Europe by myself, I kept thinking “if I die now I will feel fulfilled”. I felt this when I saw Paris. Then again in London. Again in Edinburgh. Once again in Ireland….and I have felt it so many more times in eight and a half years. Yet I have not run out of places I want to visit, things I want to experiences, beauty I want to absorb. This is because the act of traveling is much more than coming home and saying “I have been here” it’s the stories, the people, and the moments that make traveling whole.

Some of my more vivid memories have nothing to do with making it to a place I always wanted to see. While seeing the Eiffel Tower was spectacular. I remember the same wonder at a funeral procession in the Orkney Islands. Something about those moments connected me deeper to humanity that I was witnessing, and the glory that was our existence. I laughed as much at a comedy show in Dublin as I did a little girl in a park in Blarney who was trying to talk me out of my crackers as I ate a picnic. I have wept seeing the Mona Lisa and the Birth of Venus, surrounded by hundreds of people, because of the connection we all felt through time and to ourselves and those around us in awe. I have also cried sitting alone on mountain tops, flabbergasted at the insignificance of my own size and existence.

My point is that travel is an emotional experience. Travel is a humanitarian experience. I travel to be more in love with the people I share earth with. I travel to be humbled at the beauty of nature. I have traveled to get closer to family and friends. I have traveled to escape family. Traveling means pushing my comfort levels to a breaking point. Traveling means eating food I never would try otherwise (hello escargot). Travel means drinking and eating at totally bizarre places and falling in love with it. Traveling means looking other people in the face and feeling connected to them, even if they are a complete stranger.

Because checking off lists holds you to a form, and the earth is far better explored in its natural chaos.

Travel is to live your life to its highest value.

Travel, in its pure form, is magic.

Happy Travels!

Don’t Hold Back

musings, Travel
I have this conversation a lot, with men and women, mostly with women.
They say “I could never leave the country by myself”
I say “Why not? I have three times”
They say “WHAT? Did you stay with people? How? I’m not that brave.”
I say “Brave, or stupid, it’s so worth it….”
What I have learned, especially with women, is that so many feel that they either have to have male/friend accompaniment, or permission to go on their own. I know so many women that end up not taking a trip, or an excursion, or an outing without someone with them.
It’s not just on a trip in a foreign country, it’s even here in the states. And it’s nothing to do with a controlling partner, it has so much to do with people just fearing being on their own.
Many people won’t go to movies or dinner by themselves. They barely want to go to the grocery store without their kids, or partner or friend. There is an inherent cultural or biological fear on being solo out in the world.
Some of it is the fear of the unknown, the fear of loneliness, the fear of being hurt or pained. We have a culture that feeds on fears as if the world is falling apart, but the truth is that it has always been falling apart, and I refuse to be afraid of existing in it.
There is nothing wrong with this, I find it curious. I also have learned that I can’t wait around in my life for someone to come with me to see the world, to live my life. If I had waited, I would have never visited anywhere I have been.
When I was in high school friends would talk to me about traveling when I was planning my first trip. They would speak that they wanted to go, but no one really saved the money, no one got their passport, no one was serious.
I could have held back, I could have waited another year or two. But I realized that no one was going to actually follow through. I loved my friends, but their priorities were different at the time, totally ok, but I couldn’t wait.
Of course I was completely scared when I got on a plane to London, and then to Germany. I cried at the airport because I was frightened, I was afraid of all the horror stories people had sent me. I was afraid I would end up in a dumpster or on the sex slave market. Yet, nothing like this has ever happened, very little “bad” things have even happened, and mostly it was of my own making.
While the fear is real. Very real. While being aware of your surroundings and cultural situations is important, there is also a level where I will unapologetically jump into the world and live my life.
My husband is not nearly as adventurous as I, he will not leave the country without me, but it doesn’t hold him back because he’s happy being a homebody. It doesn’t hold me back because he doesn’t expect that I stay. I will continue to travel and embrace my existence, with or without him. Because I can’t wait around for someone else to permit me to have my best life.
So I encourage all of you, if you can, to get out and be by yourself. Explore the world, embrace your life, see new things, eat new food. Don’t be afraid.
Also, the best thing about being a solo traveler is that you are forced to make friends, forced to meet new people, and you will and they will continue to be inspiring voices and people as you traverse the world.