Blog Written & Illustrated by Tawn Le

My Diary

Adult Gap Year Comes to an End - What's Next?
 
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First off, what a year this has been for me! I could’ve never imagined how life-changing this experience was and I’m grateful for every moment this year.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for lovingly being a part of my journey whether it’s been actively or passively - I felt y’all in ways that helped me continue living with a lot of love and laughter. I felt y’all watching and cheering me on these last 12 months…I felt your loving embrace as I went through grief and pain. I felt it so hard, y’all.

I don’t know how to express in words how much love I have for y’all…thank you for everything.


What’s Next

As my gap year comes to an end on July 20, 2019, I’ve decided to ‘extend’ my Adult Gap Year so-to-speak. I’m continuing my exploration of what’s next in my life while picking up part-time gigs in NYC, launching my holistic offerings with my new website Tawn-Le.com, and creating more personal storytelling projects which includes Sticky Situations. I don’t know what my body of work and contribution will be, but I’m excited about it and have even started my own funding page for anyone who wants to support my work (https://ko-fi.com/tawnle). It started off as a joke, but I figured “why the hell not!”

Because of my pride and ego, it took me a bit to finally be at peace with picking up odd-jobs around the city, but I can happily say that I’ve found a good temping agency that will allow me to work less than 20 hours a week doing basic admin work. This will provide me some structure and income while allowing me to continue creating the next phase of my life by doing the things that I want to do, collaborating with others, and being wherever I want to be.

Don’t worry, I’ll continue to be living out of Queens, NY! In general, I don’t plan on moving, but I do plan on being a bit more ‘everywhere’…not sure what that means yet, but I’m excited for it! One of the biggest lessons I took away with me this year, was the fact that I wanted to be more flexible and mobile - so at the drop of a hat, I can catch a plane to wherever I need or desire to be. That is something I want to integrate into my life forevermore.

In terms of this blog, I’ll still continue using Diary of an Old Millennial as a space to free-write my thoughts - so feel free to subscribe and stay in touch through this portal!

In the next 3-months, I plan to concentrate primarily on healing and creative work with a focus on providing private Reiki energy therapy, growing a community meditation practice, establishing creative collaboration, and general learning for myself.

What lies after that, I don’t know. But I know it’s going to be awesome!

Thank you again for all of your love and support.


Recap of my Adult Gap Year

  • August 2018 | Solo Travelled Europe (Post 1/2 and Post 2/2)

  • September 2018 | Back to Texas - Dad hospitalized due to medication side effects

  • October 2018 | Travelled around Texas & Mexico City

  • November 2018 | Went to Vietnam to Visit Family then Crazy Rich Asian’d Singapore with Friends

  • December 2018 | NYC to Rest, Reflect, & Prepare for Part 2 (Non-Travel Edition) of my Adult Gap Year

  • January 2019 | Travelled to South Africa

  • February 2019 | Back to Texas & with my Dad Before He Passed

  • March 2019 | Started Reiki Practice and became a Practitioner at MINKA Brooklyn & Re-Imagining the Future

  • April 2019 | Celebrated my 35th Birthday!

  • May 2019 | Went to Blue Cliff Monastery NY and then celebrated Dad’s 100-Day

  • June 2019 | Travelled to Los Angeles

  • July 2019 | Launch Website, Soon —> Ash -Spreading of Dad in the Atlantic Ocean



The shoes that took me all over the world to experience the experiences.

The shoes that took me all over the world to experience the experiences.

Featured in Episode 4 of the Fun Shoot Podcast

There’s so much that I wanted to write within the last few months, but it’s been so daunting to me. Luckily, I was kindly given the opportunity to share my story with a former colleague and friend, Johnel Clemente in his newest podcast series called ‘Fun Shoot Podcast’. And with that said, I’d love to share with you my episode where I talk about my Adult Gap Year and what it’s mean to me.

You can check the video podcast below or listen on Apple, Spotify, or other podcasting services!

Also, checkout his other guests as well - they are amazing.
Apple: https://apple.co/2Glz2iV
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2I3M1p8
YouTube: http://bit.ly/funshoottv

Re-Imagining My Life After Dad's Death

It’s been quite a crazy and wonderful journey for me on this Adult Gap Year. By the time you read this, I’d be nearing my 8-month mark. If you’re new and haven’t followed my story, here’s a brief outline of how things transpired within the last few months.

Recap of my Gap Year

  • July 2018 | Left Amazon.com in NYC

  • August 2018 | Solo Travelled Europe (Post 1/2 and Post 2/2)

  • September 2018 | Back to Texas - Dad hospitalized due to medication side effects

  • October 2018 | Travelled around Texas & Mexico City

  • November 2018 | Went to Vietnam to Visit Family then Crazy Rich Asian’d Singapore with Friends

  • December 2018 | NYC to Rest, Reflect, & Prepare for Part 2 (Non-Travel Edition) of my Adult Gap Year

  • January 2019 | Travelled to South Africa

  • February 2019 | Back to Texas & with my Dad Before He Passed

  • March 2019 | Started Reiki Practice and became a Practitioner at MINKA Brooklyn & Re-Imagining the Future


Re-Imagining with Fresh Perspectives

Before leaving Amazon, I didn’t know how everything would eventually unfold for me, and I’m grateful for how each experience and story eventually prepared and led me forward. This year has taught me to really lean in to what I’m already doing, and to trust that it’s the right thing. It’s helped me to trust my own instinct and intuition in terms of not having all the answers but having enough emotional clarity to continue.

Do I worry and get anxiety sometimes? Of course, it’s a natural response of protection and self-preservation, but like many things in my life, I’m now a bit better at how I observe, understand, manage, and adapt if need be.

Being with my Dad in the last moments of his life made me realize how quick and impactful life can be. The last few days before we knew he would pass, I asked him if he was ready to go, and he answered with a firm nod. He was ready and even knew the exact day he would transition.

I’m grateful that I spent the last few days sleeping in the hospital room with him, seeing him smile in satisfaction after carefully feeding him ice-chips, turning YouTube Buddhist mantras up on full volume, and cleaning & moisturizing his face on Lunar New Year with a special towelette I picked out for the big day.

As I got ready to head back to NYC the day after New Year, I prayed to our ancestors. I asked that if it was truly his time to go, to help him transition, and if it wasn’t, then to help him through his recovery. After the prayers were done, I drove to the hospital to say goodbye without knowing it would be the last one.

When I landed in NYC, and turned on my phone, my Mom’s text message appeared: Your Father has died! Your Father has died!

I couldn’t cry. I went into shock, then quickly into logistics mode to figure out how to get back to Dallas because that’s just how I deal with things at first.

I’m grateful for having siblings like my brother and sister - from the moment we all got back, we immediately started all funeral planning and execution. We were a team (lol, we also used Asana as our project management tool), and we were executing things the way Dad wanted, and I hope he’s proud. Being there together gave us time to focus and honor his life while at the same time set him up for the next part of his life.

My Dad’s Funeral was a reminder of how he lived. While he lived a pretty solitude life within the last few decades, what he’s done for people in terms of liberation will last for lifetimes to come. The outpouring of love from all over the world was a reflection of his life, and I felt so honored to be his daughter and be able to witness someone who lived purposefully with an anchored belief in human freedom.

About a month afterwards, I eventually returned to NYC, and started to work on small projects that I created for myself. My NYC family has welcomed me back with open arms, and I’m excited to move on with life and do things that I’m passionate and excited about. All the goals that I’ve set for myself at the beginning of the year are well on its way.

It’s been pretty scary, I’m not going to lie. There are days where I’m manically working on so many things because I’m scared that I will eventually have to return to the corporate world to make money. But at the end of the day, it’s my own ego and pride that I need to work through because NYC is the hub of so many different jobs - who gives a shit what I do as long as I’m not hurting myself and/or others AND I have time to work on things that I love and enjoy.

One thing that I’ve learned from Dad’s passing is that life’s too short, do what makes you feel alive, and do it with purpose & intention.

And that’s where I’m at in my journey, friends. My world is once again re-imagined, and it’s pretty damn cool.

Eulogy to my Dad - Luc Trong Le
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This past weekend my Dad’s funeral took place in Arlington, Texas and I had the honor of being able to deliver a eulogy for my Dad. I’ll probably write a bit more later in my blog about me processing things, but I just wanted to share a little bit about my Dad and also the gift that he gave to me through the eulogy I wrote.

An understanding of life, mindfully and truly living, and an appreciation and excitement for the end of our lives were the gifts that I was able to receive and I hope that I can be able to share that to y’all as I continue on my journey.


INTRODUCTIONS VIETNAMESE

Kính chào Thầy và Sư Cô chùa tự viện Liên Hoa, các ông bà, các bác, va anh chị em vói các bác trong Hội Sĩ Quan Hải Quân Đệ Nhị Hổ Cáp Khoá 20

Tên con là Le Thi Hiếu Thinh Trưởng Nữ. Con có vài lời cám ơn đã đến đây viếng thăm Ba con lần cuối. Cho con xin phép chuyển qua tiếng Anh nói rõ hơn.

INTRODUCTIONS ENGLISH

Good morning.

To Thầy and Sư Cô from the Lien Hoa Buddhist Temple, my family, The Vietnamese Navy Officer Class 20, 2nd Scorpion, and friends here today: from the bottom of my heart and my family’s heart, thank you for being here to remember my Dad.

My name is Thinh Le, or Tawn as friends call me, and I’m my father’s middle child and I’d like to say a few words about my Dad, or as we called him, Ba.


Stern, disciplined, principled, observant, rebellious, and kind are a few words that described Ba.

He always taught us to be good human beings first, above all else, and displayed this in many ways throughout his life and always led by example.

While the softer and loving side of Ba showed up near the end of his time, Ba’s actions throughout life always stemmed from a mindful act of love regardless of the circumstances. And this is something that is reflective in the strong partner he chose, my Mother.

Ba saw a lot during his lifetime, including the civil and political unrest in Vietnam leading up to the Vietnam War, the lost of country, his long imprisonment in post-war Re-Education Camps, his plight to escape Vietnam, the loss of his first child at sea, and finally his journey in navigating the United States as an immigrant and refugee.

Ba didn’t see his life the way I saw it, or the way many people saw it.  For him, he lived a life of constant struggle and solitude.

But for many others like myself, he lived a life where he overcame adversity with actions anchored in his belief of human liberation, actions that gave people freedom, and actions that gave people the opportunity to live as they truly wished and as they truly are.

Ba risked his life and gave others the chance to experience freedom and liberation, and that is something rare.

He was responsible for planning escape routes that saved many Vietnamese people after the Fall of Saigon, and I’m forever grateful that he gave my siblings and I a chance to live and be free.

A place where we can live in our own truth and a place where the pursuit of imagination is not only endless but possible.

He didn’t know it then, but I’m sure he knows it today when he looks back at his life, that he, Le Trong Luc, led a purposeful life. One where each of Ba’s action was carefully thought through and the results from those actions continue to ripple beautifully to others for lifetimes to come even if he’s gone.



The Buddha once said:

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.
Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp – a phantom – and a dream
. *

*Vairacchedika 32.


Today, not only do we remember Ba’s journey in his life, his death is a gentle and kind reminder that we all must truly live in the present and in the most compassionate way we can.  Each time we live, we connect, and we can create a gentle ripple that can can carry on lifetimes.

I ask that as you leave today, take a moment to reflect on the beautiful ripples that you may have experienced from Ba and from all of those in your life.

And then ask yourself if you’ve mindfully tended to your true loving actions and released a gentle and serene ripple from yourself onto others... because life is all about the little ripples we experience and give.

Like I said to Ba before he passed. While I am sad that he is no longer physically here, I am truly happy of his return to Mother Earth and back into the ocean of life.

Thank you.

Eulogy - Photo: Louis DeLuca

Eulogy - Photo: Louis DeLuca





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Starting Over
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Starting over is scary, overwhelming, exciting, and refreshing all at the same time. With the gap year in full bloom (and almost halfway ‘done’), I have to admit that I have days where I sit in my apartment wondering how the hell I'm going to find a 'job' or even multiple 'jobs' that will pay the bills but give me the opportunity to continue exploring my creativity and a need for learning all at the same time. Since settling down from my travels, I wake up each day excited about the endless opportunities that are ahead of me, but sometimes fear and self-doubt seeps its way back in and leaves me in a panic of having to go back to the past or even wondering what the future holds. But, then I remind myself of why I did this and what it means to me, and I continue to move forward.

When I was in Italy a few months ago, someone I met told me that I was courageous and brave for doing what I was doing. When I hear these kinds of words about myself, I often brush it off because ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ was only reserved for those who are pushing against crazy odds and risking their life for something they believed in. I’ve seen and met people that had all of this, and it definitely wasn’t me.

But if it wasn’t courage or bravery that powered me to manage my simple fears and continue moving forward, then what was it? What empowered me to try and live the best version of me as best as I can before it’s too late?

Despite still holding these words for the amazing people that I’ve been able to meet through the years or those that I’ve read about, I started feeling that it still takes a little bit of ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ to move through life truthfully and authentically. Perhaps ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ is part of the spectrum like many things in life and deserves some recognition even if it’s micro.

I’m definitely not at the higher part of the spectrum that deserves a medal of honor, but I think as human beings with human experiences and a desire for something beyond our wildest imagination, we need to be part of the spectrum of ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’. Because what is ‘courage’ but an act to continue moving forward despite having fears looming? What is courage but managing our human fears accordingly with integrity and moving forward from there?

Starting over is scary, overwhelming, exciting, and refreshing all at the same time.

I’ve seen people do it, and I’ve seen people fail and get right back up and head straight back to the drawing board. It’s not pitiful, it’s courageous and brave and I hope that I too can live this way. To grow, and to continually evolve perhaps mean that we can incorporate a little bit of ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ into our lives then.

So that leaves me here, and y’all probably wondering what I’m doing (I’ve heard a lot of funny speculations recently including me going into selling household seasoning & spices btw).

And the answer is, I don't know exactly (which can be the scary part because there's nothing tangible) except I just want to create funny stories and empower people in the best way I can.

So what have I done since December 2018? Plan, plan, plan, do, plan, plan, do!

I created some goals that I wanted to accomplish this year and majority of it is around creativity and putting myself out there in a city (NYC) where its DNA dances in creativity and the arts. I'm continuing to write, draw, and narrate for my weekly comic, "Sticky Situations", and am working/helping friends out within the comedy circuit so I can learn what all goes on behind the scenes.

As far as my Reiki practice is concerned, I’m planning to slowly ease my way in this year because I still love working with people. I will definitely let y’all know if I’m practicing in the NY area in the next few months or so.

Also, if y’all don’t know, I still like making silly music videos for fun. I posted this on my Instagram which is linked here. :-)

With everything said, I hope y’all have an amazing day and can incorporate a little bit of ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ into today so that we can manage our fears a little bit more positively :-).




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5 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Adult Gap Year in 2018
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I started off my adult gap year thinking that I'd do a lot of traveling, to which I did, but not in all the places that I imagined. Home, being one of them, with a hospital wristband that stated "Do Not Resuscitate" staring directly at my face. 

After 5 months off from work for my gap year, I've made it to the end of 2018 with much more appreciation of life and even more happy with the decision to leave work.  This privilege allowed me to take a step back and give it the attention it needed.  In certain aspects, I honestly didn't think taking time off would be as difficult as I thought, but life has a funny way of presenting life lessons to you so you know what to do next, and I'm forever grateful for those lessons. 

Below are some lessons I've learned.

  1. It's good to spend some alone time with your thoughts. It's not always pretty nor feels very good at times (ok, a LOT of times), but those are the things that are subconsciously pulling you in your life and you don't realize. Sometimes you don't know why your auto-pilot is set at the speed that it is without taking a look at it.

  2. Love and connection looks and feels the same across the world, and it is still one of the most beautiful things to me. From afar in observations to intimate interactions with people, love felt the same to me even at times where I could barely speak or understand language.

  3. For everything that is ugly, there is something much more beautiful and powerful on the other side.  Let’s be real, the world can be extremely cruel and disgusting and leaves me feeling so hopeless, but for every time I get jaded I witness something miraculous. And that gives me hope.

  4. Time is so precious, spend it wisely even if you're not in the best position. What we do with our time, even the times we spend in our heads, matters.

  5. You are so precious, treat yourself as kind as possible and nourish yourself as best as you can because the world needs you even if you don't think it does at times. Everyone creates a ripple.

So what's next for me?

Great question!

With the exception of some planned trips in 2019, I've decided to stop traveling and stay put so that I can continue to learn and grow (traveling takes a huge toll on my body and I often times get super exhausted).  I want to continue to learn about holistic wellness, improve on my personal health and wellness, and I would like to start practicing Reiki more in the next year. As a student, and not an expert, I'd like to share with you some of my learnings next year because...why the fuck not - education should be democratized.  And finally, I would also like to turn my focus to being more creative and work on fun small projects on the side (also going along with the article “My Intentions for an Adult Gap Year” I wrote earlier this year)!

I’m super excited about the next year and am so happy that I’m able to share this with y’all. I hope you have an amazing holiday season and can’t wait to see everyone then!

And, Of course, nothing is better than pictures right? Below are some pictures from my gap year. Enjoy!

5 Free Self-Care Ideas That You Can Start Today

The new buzzwords and latest trend: self-care.

Definition: Self-care is something intentional that we do to take care of our mental, physical health, and emotional health. Or spiritually speaking, mind, body, and soul.

I’ve noticed recently that many people believe that self-care should cost money when in fact it can be done for free despite what you may see on social media. Self-care is not a new concept and has existed for thousands of years and can be traced to spiritual practices like Buddhism where the Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

I’m willing to bet that Buddhist monks didn’t go out to high-end salon in order to refuel themselves and the work that they do, and you don’t need to as well - unless you want to or can afford it.

Please note: I really dislike using the buzzwords ‘self-care’ because I think it’s oversimplifying why you would want to do these loving acts on yourself in the first place. Self-care is only the tip of the iceberg and if you’re looking for alignment, authenticity, and truth, then your practice needs to go much deeper. However, I do understand that we all need to start somewhere in our own journey, and sometimes we just need to first start by escaping and getting a gasp of air from whatever it is that we have going on in life and that’s fine. I just don’t want to sound as if self-care will solve everything, but it is a component of something much more. If you’re more scientifically minded, then self-care can be used as stress reduction as well as shifting your head into being more mindful and present. It won’t solve everything, but it’s a start to self reflection and self awareness.

Below are just my 5-Free Self-Care Ideas that I do habitually. There is so much more you can do! Self care is about intentionally refueling yourself. If you want to read more about what self care is and is not, here’s a great article called “What Self-Care Is - And What It Isn’t.”

 

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  1. Rub my Feet aka DIY Foot Reflexology. Here’s a YouTube Video Link on how you can do it!

    • I usually do some form of this at night before I go to sleep. I also send a lot of thanks to my feet because the weight day-in-and-day-out on my feet is a lot and it’s cool to acknowledge how awesome your body is!

    • You can do this with your hands as an alternative as well.

  2. Meditate. You can start off very simply with just only 3-minutes, and here’s an image from a meditation teacher in New York, Eva Kornet (IG: @evakornet). There are also a lot of guided meditation on YouTube as well!

  3. Journal. This is a great way to really be in touch with yourself. Here’s a YouTube Video on ‘How to Journal with Prompts’.  There’s a lot of different things you can journal about, but if you’re feeling stuck, I think the video is super helpful.

    • I usually journal about my thoughts and try to dig deeper into it or sometimes I like to journal as the future me back to the current me. It’s really fun and I think it sets the tone for what I can do to achieve that future state. Or sometimes I just write whatever the hell it is that I want.

  4. Stare out the Window and Name 5 Cool Things. I some times get caught up on what’s not going right that I forget to really stop and smell the roses and this is what I do to remind myself that I’m surrounded by amazing and beautiful things.

  5. Take a Bath. You don’t need to buy swanky bath stuff to give yourself a proper relaxing bath. Just fill your tub with warm water and hop in. Sure, you can add epsom salt, bath bubbles, essential oils, and/or other cool stuff but if you don’t have it, don’t worry just fill up your tub and get in.

    • Taking a bath does waste water, so I only do it about once a week.

    • If you don’t have a tub, I would fill up a wash basin with warm water and just stick my feet in it and relax. Or, maybe even do a foot massage!

       


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Top 10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers
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This is to my ladies!

During my trip out to Europe, a lot of the questions I received were about how I stayed safe during my travels. And if you’re like many women, you definitely know why this is top of mind.

Traveling can be so enriching and fun, but can also be extremely scary when you’re especially alone. During my European trip, I was alone for 27 out of my 31 days across 8 countries. Below are my Top 10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers. If you have some safety tips you’d like to share, please comment below!

1. Take a Self-Defense Class for Women

Empower yourself in worst case scenarios by taking a self-defense class in your local area. They’re offered pretty much everywhere and at a reasonable cost or even at no cost at all.  A simple Google search will lead you to the right place (search terms of ‘women self-defense class’, ‘self-defense course’, etc. are some examples of what you can use).

One of my friends gave me a self-defense class as a gift for my #adultgapyear and I can definitely say that it was one of the most empowering things I could’ve done for myself. I definitely think many women who have taken courses like these would agree as well.

Please note: While having a pepper spray is great, some countries have a ban against them so either research before you go or just leave it at home. If you feel like you need something, you can definitely bring a whistle.

2. Go Out When the Sun’s Out (And Same Rule for Transportation)

My of my biggest rule of thumb is setting a curfew for myself when I travel alone. I know, LAME, but again, I’m not 21 so I’m not traveling to party.

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Know what time the sun goes up and what time it goes down. You can use sites like TimeandDate.com/sun where they offer you sunrise and sunset times.

For example, if I know I’ll go perusing in an area that takes me an hour to get to and I know the sun sets around 7pm, then I need to leave that area at about 4pm to account for an hour or two of issues aka buffer time so I can be sure I’m in the house by 7pm. I always trying to add in a buffer time of 1-2 hours - otherwise known as my ‘I fucked something up’ time. 

I only go out when the sun’s out, unless I’m with people I trust or in an area that I feel is fairly safe, but that usually takes me a day or so to really feel it out.

I also use a similar rule for planning my transportation as well; I try not to land or arrive at my destination around dusk and often aim to get to my destination midday/afternoon. The reason for this is that it gives me buffer time in case something goes wrong.

3. Use Technology When Possible

Having a mobile phone that works abroad has really helped me navigate alone.

I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile recently (T-Mobile Data works in most European countries without any extra charge) and it definitely made me feel a lot more safe and sound. Google Maps, Google Chrome, and Google Translate are the 3 things I used the most on a day-to-day basis followed by apps like AirBnb and Hotel Tonight.

If you don’t have a carrier that works internationally, I would invest in a SIM card. This just means you need to have an unlocked phone (a phone that isn’t tied to a specific carrier).  In other countries like Japan, I opted in renting a Pocket Wi-Fi, and it worked equally as well and was cheaper than getting a SIM card. Some of the best tips I’ve received when I’ve ever had questions about mobile connection has been on TripAdvisor. Totally recommend for y’all to go there!

Now, try not to be a tourist and look down at your map while you’re walking. Instead, I try to memorize the map as much as possible ahead of time and use my phone as an aid if I can’t remember.   

While I highly recommend spending extra money to be safer, you can still use your Google maps offline so long as you have it mapped out while you’re online.

4. Be Culturally Aware & Mind Your Manners

Remember, the things you do in America is not how others do it abroad so make sure you respect their culture and mind your manners when interacting with people (aka, please be aware of how you speak - in America, we are already loud, speaking louder when trying to enunciate your words is really offputting...).

I know this sounds very anti-feminist, but try to blend in as much as possible. If certain countries require more cover-up for women, then do it. I would just advise you to do more research on the culture and customs of the places you’re going to visit as you plan out your clothing options. Remember, this is THEIR home, behave accordingly and don’t act like a colonizer. 

I’d also recommend learnings a few key phrases. I start off toddler style and learn the basic of hello/goodbye, yes/no, numbers, ‘where is...’. You’d be surprise of what you can communicate using simple phrases and hand gestures. Majority of people are appreciative if you try.

5. Use ‘Stranger Danger’

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I always struggle with this one when I’m alone.

This is a hard one because on the one hand you want to meet locals and really immerse yourself in the country and culture, and on the other hand you want to be safe. One of the ways I was able to talk to locals was to get to know my local AirBnb host if possible. I was also really lucky on my trip and was able to stay with my friend’s parents out in Italy and the experience was so amazing.

Another way I recommend is to go on legit tours (I use TripAdvisor for research) or highly rated experiences on AirBnB Experiences where you can meet locals and other travelers. I’ve had really good experiences with both locals and travelers with AirBnb Experiences and highly recommend it!

Again, always be aware of your surroundings, and never be on your phone. See how people are acting around you, and have a plan of action. 

6. Check-In with your Friends and Family

I was lucky to have had internet service on my cell phone and would let my friends know where I was and where I was going - I also gave trusted folks copies of my passport just in case anything happened. Because I did a “decide-as-you-go” way of traveling, I wasn’t able to provide them my itinerary ahead of time so it was important for me to continue talking to friends and family. On the other hand, if you have your itinerary in advanced, then providing them to folks you trust before leaving is a good idea.

7. Know Where the US Embassy/Consulate Is in the Country You’re Visiting

Shit happens. Know where to go and who to call. Here’s a great traveler’s checklist created by the US Government and provides up-to-date information on safety/security news around the world as well as proper emergency contacts: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-checklist.html

8. Practice Safe Home Security

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If you’ve ever gone camping (or watched Naked and Afraid), having a safe shelter/place to stay is one of your first priorities. Research the area that you’re wanting to stay and whether it’s safe or not before you book.  Sites like TripAdvisor are amazing since they have user-generated content meaning that many of the reviewers are real travelers like you and want to provide helpful information. I used this to try to figure out what I should or shouldn’t do based on what others experienced. Sometimes you need to take things with a grain of salt, but if there is a consistent messaging across multiple people, I would heavily take that into consideration. I like to book my place through AirBnb and will usually not book anything if there are no reviews, low number of reviews, bad reviews, and/or low ratings. While I understand that some hosts are new and don’t have enough reviews, I am not willing to take that risk when I’m traveling alone.

Also, really read every single review. I made a mistake once and didn’t carefully read a review where a guest wrote something about the host being “interesting.” While she was far from dangerous, she was just a bit too intrusive for my taste. I just wanted to be left alone, and I don’t think she was able to pick up on that social cue.

Cover an exposed peephole with toilet paper. This was something that I started doing when I traveled for work because I didn’t want people to know whether or not I was in my room nor did I want some pervert looking in. Ew.

I did something similar as well while I was in Europe. If a place had any way for an outsider to look in, I covered that shit up. I even went as far as using towels and bedsheets to cover windows if I felt exposed.

Always check the locks. This is more of an everyday home habit I have, but I always check my locks whenever I leave, enter, and/or before I sleep.  If there is a lockbox offered there, I’ll normally use it to stash my cash and documents (just make sure you take it when you leave!!). In places like Europe, I don’t carry too much cash on me since most places accept cards.

I’ll be traveling to Vietnam soon where there isn’t a prevalence in using cards…I’ll return back to this topic accordingly on how I end up managing my cash.

You also don’t need to answer the door, and always have an escape route planned so you never feel as if you’re cornered. In a way, it’s like planning for your fire escape. When I was in Graca, Lisbon, I figured out a way to jump the back of the building to get down. Now, you don’t need to go this far, but it’s something to think about.

9. Don’t Be a Hero

Just because you knew someone or saw someone do something ‘cool’ or ‘adventurous’ on their trip, doesn’t mean you have to. Period.

Unless you want to and have a good feeling about it.

10. Research, Research, Research

Google is a powerful tool - use it. Go to sites like TripAdvisor and watch YouTubes to see what people say about the places that you’re wanting to go to. And using your network of friends is also a great way to find out about a place.

We live in a world where we are super connected now, and there are tons of travelers who are doing this as a job or hobby - use them!

A good website that I’ve been shown and really like is Girl Gone International.  Check it out and connect with other women around the world who are living their best life!

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My Daily Schedule When I'm Not Traveling

Awhile back I received a question as to how I focus myself during my year off of work. At that time I didn’t really have an answer because there was nothing that I was really focusing except to just chill, learn, and have fun. My gap year wasn’t all about traveling, it was much more than that to me and I didn’t want my answer to come off as a one-stop solution that anyone should follow.

However, after some thought I realized that chilling, learning, and having fun was part of my focus and showing people how I section my day could be helpful in terms of allowing people to really think about what they want to do with their day. This is not a one-size-fits-all type of schedule, and I hope you can use the chunking of hours to focus on what it is that you want.

Without further ado, below is the schedule I normally have when I’m back in New York and not traveling around. Again, this doesn’t happen every day, just a lot of the days. As I go into 2019, this schedule will definitely change again. Enjoy!

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