Blog Written & Illustrated by Tawn Le

Posts tagged adultgapyear
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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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!

My Intentions for an Adult Gap Year
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I realized that I never went into detail as to what I planned to do during my year off. And while I love getting all the cool and random suggestions of what I should do and where I should go from people, some of the suggestions don't necessarily go towards what I wanted out of this year. And I think that's totally ok. Take what works for you and what you want - and for the rest, just acknowledge it, thank it, and move on. It's ok to not take every single cool suggestions that don't really resonate with what you want or need for yourself. I feel like I'm in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and I'm just picking the things that ultimately makes me feel good because what's the point of a gap year if you're not engaging in things that feels good to you?

Anyway, this article isn't about how you should do your gap year because I think everyone has a different purpose of taking time off. I just wanted to write more about what I wanted out of this gap year, provide a generic idea of what I've loosely planned, and some of the benefits that I've seen through the last few weeks.

Most of my plans/ideas are open-ended as long as it continues to resonate with me. For me personally, I allowed myself the option to pivot my gap year plans as new discoveries along the way. Who knows what can happen!

At a very high level I touched on what I was looking for during my gap year in a guest post I did on Hustle Juice and also in my first blog post called Quitting Amazon & Taking a Year Off - Adult Gap Year , but I never really touched on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to focus my energy and time.

So with that all set up, let's go!

What the hell do you want out of this year?

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 'Self-growth' and a 'career change' were the high level concepts that I set for myself. So what does that mean for me? 

This is how I broke it down for myself (and all of this is open to change along the way and that's ok):

Self-introspection & Self-awareness

Generally speaking, I think I'm decently self-aware of my actions, my thoughts, how I positively and negatively impact myself and those around me, ways I can be a better person to myself and to others, where my thoughts are coming from, some of the root of my issues, etc. etc. But, I believe there's massive room for more introspection which can yield purposeful thoughts and lessons. I mean, monks do this practice every single day and there is always something to be gained. So, if I can even do an itty bitty part of that, then that's worth something in my life.

With this adult gap year I have the ability and time to cut through noise that kept me mindlessly busy or confined in a certain manner (most of the time my mind was going through loops of my to-do lists despite having it all recorded, wondering if I fucked something up at work or with the people I knew, trying to control things I have no control over, unhealthy relationship with social media, etc.). I do have a belief that we all have a purpose (or even multiple purposes) here while we are still alive, and I wanted to see it more clearly while I had the opportunity.

Aimlessness is a part of it. Not having a plan of action, except to just be is how I interpret this, and what I wanted to engage more in my life. This is a Buddhist concept that my Mom and I recently joked about with what I'm doing. The word 'Dust' combined with a phrase in Vietnamese can have positive or negative connotations - for the majority, it's used negatively to describe vagrants or people who are living without purpose. However, if you were a Buddhist monk and you 'go dust' (used as a noun), then that meant you are living in the present moment with no end goal - everything is here (now, it's much more complicated than what I just wrote but that's the gist). I'm used to ticking things off my checklist, making sure shit's getting done, but what about just being there sitting, listening, seeing, feeling, tasting, and/or smelling? 

Now, you don't need to take a gap year for this and can do this at any moment in time (when I was working, I would go to the bathroom and just sit there for a bit and come out lighter literally and figuratively or just take a stroll outside), but this need really highlighted itself during my travels in Europe where I didn't have a clue of where I was going, what I was going to do, or even why I planted myself in Europe in the first place. I remember halfway through my trip I had nothing booked for the rest of my time there - I had no idea where I was going, I hadn't booked any housing, or means of transportation, I didn't know what to see or do, and I started panicking like crazy. I was so mad for throwing myself in a place without fully knowing every single detail and wants from this trip.

And then I stopped.

For what? All I needed was a good place to stay - aka shelter - and everything was all good. It didn't matter where in Europe, what mattered was that I was present with every aspect of it.  

 

Better Relationships with Loved Ones

I also wanted to have a better and deeper relationship with my family and close friends during my year off. And, damn, did it present itself to me in full force within the last few months with the hospitalization of both my parents (at different times and for different causes), leaving us kids to really start talking to each other about how we are going to approach elderly care planning this year. 

What this gap year has really done was given me the ability to not only spend more time with them (this was already part of my gap year plan prior to any of those incidents), but to now be really be focused on listening to them and capturing as much knowledge and lessons as I can. Because as cliche as it sounds - nothing is guaranteed tomorrow. Within the last year, I started to pick up some of the traditions that my parents did while I was growing up and incorporate them into my own life so I can continue and pass on these traditions.  There's so much more that I know I need to learn and now is the time.

And then there's having a better and more engaged relationships with my friends and siblings that isn't through social media (although, I do think chat apps are pretty good at connecting randomly throughout the day). I love my close friends - they are the rock who support me and they are the ones who will call out bullshit when necessary. Having a moment in time where I'm able to see them and be with them is precious.

Lastly, I want some time with my brother and sisters and their family. I only get to see them 1-2 times per year for nearly a decade, but now I can be that annoying sister again for a longer amount of time (muah ha ha). My niece and nephew are also growing up so fast, and being far away has made me miss out on the little things moments. Except now. So fuck yea!

One thing that I've concluded from this last month is the desire of now having a career that allows me the flexibility to work anywhere. I love NYC and I love it for me, but I also need the flexibility to travel whenever I want, and wherever I want.  

 

Creativity: Exploration & Play/ Exploration & Work

I've always been a pretty playful person and one that likes to randomly tinker with new amateur creative projects for the sake of having fun without any real purpose/output. But now, I want to fully immerse myself into creativity not only for exploration and play, but also as an integral part of my next career.

The only thing is - I have no clue what that means.

My hope is that I'm able to explore various creative communities and collectives that not only support the play, but potentially even support my growth and development in the case(s) where I want to fully immerse myself. That's why my traveling will stop at the end of January so that I can focus on creative development based on all these new learnings and perspectives I've had within the former few months. Will it work out exactly like this? Who knows. But it's ok!

And what if I don't find creative 'work' after a year. That's ok, too. At least I'm a step closer. 

This year, I've drawn more and am doing more personal arts and crafts at home. I don't show everything I do, but I have been working on things because they're just fun. I've also watched a lot more YouTube on nearly any type of design topic - it's one of those rabbit holes that I think are definitely worth getting into for my situation. 

 

Improve ways I can help others and myself

I guess this really goes with the first topic of 'Self-introspection & Self-awareness'. If I'm aware of myself as a person, I can take the right steps in getting more balanced/chill, and, in return, positively impact others. I think this applies to everyone regardless of who you are and where you are. The small decisions we make not only impact us but the people around us. For example, if I'm pissed, and I use words of anger to someone else, there's a whole ripple effect that follows afterwards, and in NYC, it is so much more pronounced.

I see it every day here in NYC. We are jaded, angry, and annoyed and we lash out at strangers and even loved ones. Not going to lie, I participate in that too, it's so easy to get sucked into that nasty motion. I've shoulder-checked people on the sidewalk because they were in my way, I've kicked the MTA Machines because I was so frustrated, I've gotten annoyed at people asking me for directions where I would look at them and walk away, etc. I could easily move where there's less negative stimuli but then that wouldn't allow me the experience of truly improving myself unconditionally. Even in a place like NYC, I do see examples of kindness woven into the people here each day...I just need to tap more into it.

Part of that is now being a bit more disciplined with my meditation, spending more time being 'aimless', fulfilling play, and practicing Reiki on myself and others. I still have days where I'm out of my element and get back into sadness and anger, but discovering these tools have been super helpful in making sure that the world gets the better version of me as much as possible, and for me to get the better version of myself.

 

Recap (2/2): Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Tuscany, Verona, and Lisbon - Photos and Thoughts
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Wow, time flew quickly and I can’t believe that I’ve completed my European trip! I definitely need a separate blog post(s) to even go through some of the different feelings I’ve had along the way, things that I’ve learned solo traveling, and even stuff that I’m still processing. There are definitely pros and cons to doing it the way that I did, but there’s nothing that I regret doing (actually, the only one regret I have was not accepting a dance in one of the village streets of Tuscany but that’s it - lesson learned. Go dance if you feel like it.).

So, if you want a quick picture journey, just go to my Instagram as I have them mostly all logged there!

Otherwise, I wanted to give y’all a recap of the second half my European journey, and I hope to also post other things that some of you have requested and that I would love to share.

Where Did I Go, What Did I Do? 

*Click here for previous recap post prior to Amsterdam (Berlin & Leiden)

  • Amsterdam. Going to Amsterdam would’ve been a lot more fun if I didn’t do it alone because let's face it, shrooming by yourself around a bunch of strangers is probably not the best or safest idea. It was also my first time in a hostel, and I didn’t like it. Now, had I gone with 1+ people, it would’ve been fine, but sleeping within a feet next to strangers is not what I call comfortable. Or, had I done it a decade earlier, I would've been fine.

    Needless to say, I got myself out pretty damn quick (like the next day I packed my shit up at 6AM and left by using the  Hotel Tonight app). The other thing about Amsterdam (and I guess Europe and everywhere in general) is the ugly history that is still represented and preserved through places like Anne Frank’s house. I'm happy places like this continues to exists as we need reminders more than ever of points in history that destroyed pieces of our humanity.
    • Went around the Red Light District. It’s always weird seeing a bunch of dudes because you can literally feel the heat from them. Ew. 

    • Yoga on the Canal which turned into indoor Yoga because it was raining. Kind of defeated the purpose of me doing it, but that’s ok. Learned something new.

    • Museum Quarter in Amsterdam. Again, didn’t get to go into the Van Gogh museum because I didn’t realize everything has to be purchased online, BUT I was able to walk around the neighborhood and take buses around town. Had a nice lunch and wine, and a great stroll through the park.

      • I also went to see Anne Frank's house (didn’t get to go in because I didn’t realize you had to buy tickets months in advance).

    • Bought a CBD Chocolate Bar as a consolation prize because I didnt' get to go into a smoke shop - and yes, I do realize it does not have the same high effect (your girl makes her own CBD lattes).

    •  Ate me some Bitterballen - fried balls of meat. Pretty tasty if you asked me!

 

  • Brussels. Ahh, Belgian Chocolates and some of the best chocolatiers are located in Brussel! 

    I didn’t want to miss the experience of learning how to make chocolates in a city that is known for it  - so I signed up for a chocolate making class through AirBnb’s Experience! Had so much fun and was very inspired by the teacher’s story of how she ended up getting into chocolates after working in finance as her prior career.

    • Because Brussels was also a quick stay, I ended up using Hotel Tonight app to quickly book a room for the day.

 

  • Paris. It was a very quick trip plus a holiday in Europe so a lot of the shops were closed during the time I went. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get some good food!

    • Foie gras ravioli at Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie. Taste was divine...practice...no so much...

    • I stayed at an amazing Bed and Breakfast with a great view through AirBnb.

    • Paris was the start to getting gelato every.damn.day.

 

  • Italy -  Tuscany > Verona > Venice. This was my longest stint in Europe - rounded to about 9 days and 2.5 cities. I said 2.5 since I didn’t really see that much of Venice.

    • I.ate.a.lot.

    • I met up with my friend and her family in one of Tuscany's villages called Sant’Ermo and stayed with them for 3 nights - it was AMAZING and was one of the coolest parts of my trip. Having the wonderful opportunity to be with them and really getting to know the various villages that most people don’t see was truly an amazing experience.

    • But I have to admit that my stomach was not ready for them. Every night, I had a tiny tummy ache from the amount of food that I ate. I clearly was not used to it, but I wouldn’t take that experience away. Next time, I’m PREPPING to expand my stomach!

    • I took the most trains in Italy, and to be honest I didn’t know the difference between the fast trains and Trenitalia at the time. Huge distinction being that it's the difference between having air conditioning or not having air conditioning for about an hour or so of your time. When it's 90 degrees outside, you can feel it. Next time, I will definitely pay an extra 10 EUR, because it makes a huge difference in the comfort of the ride.

    • Arena di Verona was such a crazy experience for me. Seeing ‘Carmen’ the opera in a Roman amphitheater was such a surreal moment because I was sitting in seats where spectators sat in 30 AD! How cool is it to imagine that? Albeit they didn't watch an opera at that time, more like bloody gladiator battles. But still, it was beyond amazing and fascinating.  

    • I ate at a different Gelato place every single day! Every day. It was self indulgent and I loved it.

 

  • Lisbon - I was going to make my way to Lisbon and then somewhere in Scandinavia afterwards, but because I didn’t want to take off again, I decided to just extend my stay. I stayed in a small neighborhood called Graca for 3 days and really enjoyed my time there because it was only a few minutes walk to the city center, yet was still had the relaxed neighborhood feel. I could easily go to the super market, get food, cook at home and see a beautiful sunset.

    • I learned how to make Pastel de Nata from an award winning bakery in Lisbon through another AirBnb’s ExperienceWhat we made was SOOO good and I met some really cool travelers from all over the world there.
    • Lots of massages at Karin Herzog spa when I got to Belem because it was situated in the Altis Belem hotel where I stayed after I left Graca.
    • Feitoria was my Michelin restaurant splurge. I was blown away by the food and service. Every piece was so beautiful, and I literally wanted to cry because it was just breathtaking. I know it sounds weird, but if you ever get a chance to feel like this, it's pretty cool.

 

Reactions from the Trip

  • AirBnb’s Experience are AWESOME and I highly recommend it while you're traveling. I've done it in Japan and in Europe and have had a great learning experience. Just make sure you read the reviews!
  • Get your Amsterdam Museum tickets in advance in Amsterdam, you just can’t buy it on the spot

  • If you’re in Verona, you must go see an Opera in the Roman Ampitheatre built during the 1st Century.

  • Italians can EAT and digest them carbs - prepare your tummy ahead of time.

  • While hotels are great, staying at an AirBnb from locals can give you a different experience! Just make sure you respect their homes and not treat it like a hotel (i.e. take out the garbage, clean up after yourself, etc.).
  • I used almost everything I packed in my Osprey 40 Liter backpack. I brought 6 shirts, but ended up wearing the same 5 shirts everyday. Because I didn't stay in a hostel very long, I didn't need to use my other sized padlocks.
  • Brought a tub stopper and it came in handy at some of the AirBnbs in terms of washing my clothes and making sure my contacts don't fall into the drainage.
  • I got me a personal fan. I looked classsssy, and it helped me cool down.
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Recap (1/2): Week in Berlin and Leiden - Photos and Thoughts
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It’s been a little over a week being here in Europe, and not being ‘busy’ feels oh-so-liberating!

It’s nice not having this terrible feeling of having to take a glimpse at my email box after waking up knowing that about a hundred more emails were piled on top during my slumber. 

Solo traveling within the last week in Europe felt (and continues to feel) wonderful, peaceful, and empowering. Knowing that what I choose to do that day - whether that’s to get up and do nothing or get up and see something - is my own choice. And I think that’s pretty cool. “I choose to do [insert activity] today” is how I lived in the past few days, and if another opportunity presents itself and I want to take it, then I will.  

In general, I consider myself a very low-key/lazy/chill traveler which means I can’t work with an itinerary that’s packed with activities (I guess this is the other reason why I dislike bachelorette parties so much). I can maybe do one or in some cases two ‘activities’ per day and I’m good to go (eating can be considered an ‘activity’ in my book).

So when it comes to traveling, I like to take my time, do what I feel like doing, and really just soak up the environment.  I am still intimidated to talk to people especially if I don’t speak the language, but if I’m in a public space I will try to muster up the courage to start a conversation with someone because there’s always something interesting to learn.

Below is a quick recap of the last seven days. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to let me know your thoughts!

Where Did I Go, What Did I Do?

London: Tower Bridge Area

London: Tower Bridge Area

 

  • London. Quick Stop in London to sleep at the Moxy hotel where I got a discount through Hotel Tonight.
  • I actually didn’t do much besides go see the London Tower Bridge, grab a bite at Tesco, and then go to bed.
  • Berlin. I would say out of the cities I’ve been to in Germany (Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Munich, and Berlin), Berlin won in my books not only because of the history there but also the diversity and culture. I stayed at a cute flat from AirBnb within the Friedrichshain district of East Berlin.
    • Took a graffiti class near the Berlin Wall and did my first graffiti art on the wall through AirBnB Experience (the instructor was nice enough to let me take the class, because I actually signed up for the wrong day...oops)!
    • Went to the Pergamon Museum
    • Met up with 1/2 of We The Matriarch Shoes, Sarah Waxman 
    • Met up with a former colleague and her family, Mounya
    • Best thing about having an AirBnb is that I can cook some of my own meals rather than eat out every single meal.
  • Leiden. I deviated from going to Amsterdam first because I wanted to discover something that wasn’t touristy and to be quite honest, I wanted quiet. Leiden is such a beautiful and calm city where people can leave their doors unlocked and it was exactly what I was looking for. I opted to stay in an AirBnb and was so happy with my decision (see some pics below of the home I stayed in!).
    • I spent a lot of time outside in the garden and within the home.
    • Walking around the canals and hanging out at the shops and restaurants was calming (everything in Leiden is like walkable)
    • This upcoming weekend, I’ll head back into Amsterdam

First Reactions from my Trip

  • OMG, there is not air conditioning system/units anywhere. During the hottest days, I’m DYING. When I asked Berliners how they survive, they tell me that it’s not common that it gets hot and they are suffering too - Global Warming.
  • I’m so sorry for some of my people (Americans). A lot of Americans are so loud
  • Vietnamese communities exist Berlin - what?!
  • Wow, Dutch people are super tall. I can’t see out of the peephole because I’m so ‘short’ at 5’4
  • Dutch people do not turn on lights if they don’t have to.  They also don’t use solid curtains or blinds in common areas of the home and people outside of the home can look in.
  • I can’t edit my blog as well with an iPad. DOH.

Where to Next?

  • Amsterdam
  • Brussels
  • ?
  • Tuscany

Google Map of Where I’ve Been

Because updating my blog with an iPad limits me from capabilities like embedding a map, below is a link where you can click to see where I’ve been!

Click HERE to be taken to my Google Map

Getting Ready for Europe - Where I’m Going & How I Packed
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I’m heading out to Europe for about a month and have decided to pack super light because I only have half of my trip actually planned and need the agility to randomly pickup and go quickly without being weighed down (yes, I’m going to try the “go where I feel like today” attitude and I don't know where I'm going or living for half of my trip). The good news is that it’s summer which makes packing light much easier!

For this trip, I'm doing carry-on only packing and that should suffice in terms of travel ease. However, for my next adventure I'm trying to figure out what it would look like to pack light for a multi-climate travel.  If you have any tips or suggestions I would love to hear, and stay tuned to see how I pack for that leg of the trip!

So let's get into what's happening in Europe!

My Travel Overview

  • Location: Europe (Berlin, Leiden, Tuscany is all I’ve got. Stay tuned to my Instagram/my blog to see where else I go!)

  • Climate: Mildly Hot (80-90 F.)

  • Date Range: August 2018

  • Lodging Type: AirBnbs, Hostels, & Friends' homes

  • Activit(ies): Walking, Eating, Learning, Chilling (i.e. I'm a low intensity kind of gal)

 

What's in my Bag(s)

I love learning new packing hacks and better methods of packing when I’m on vacation.  Below you will find a list of my gears and packing methods this round - I've tried to link as much as I can! 

Let me know what type of trip(s) you go on, what/how you pack, what your gears are, and if you have any hacks you've learned!

Gear & Tech (Not sure what else to really call this...)

 

Undergarments and Clothes

 

Essentials (Don't forget!)

  • Wallet

  • Phone

  • Passport/ID - copies in other compartments

  • Cash

  • Hotel /Itinerary

  • Lounge card

  • Clothesline (for washing my clothes)

 

Other Stuff

  • Earplugs, Sleep mask, Diva Cup (for the ladies)

  • Medication: Advil, Antihistamines, etc.

  • Collapsible Water Bottle

*=I'm wearing/using 1 of the items from the list on the plane.

 

What's in My Toiletry Bag?

 

 

 

Quitting Amazon & Taking a Year Off - Adult Gap Year
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After working at Amazon for more than 4.5 years, I decided to leave and embark on a new journey.

After initially telling friends and family what I was going to do, many of their first reaction was "what did Amazon do to you?!" Relax. They didn't do anything, and my time there was amazing and challenging.

My final decision to leave Amazon had nothing to do with what you may have read in the papers, nor was it because of the challenging day-to-day work environment.  If anything, being at Amazon gave me the opportunity to gain self confidence and work with many talented and wonderful people all around the world who have really shaped my views within the last 4.5 years that I was there.  

 

Why I decided to Leave

When I took the job at Amazon back in 2014, I already made a decision that this would be my last advertising job, and technically it was - it was just a very extended 4.5 years of more programmatic advertising! 

Now, I'm not going to say I had an easy 4.5 years there.  Like many people in general, I was about to call it quits because of burnout and the fact that my personal life wasn't gaining any grounds in my eyes (i.e. no hobbies, no sense of play, my relationship with people/friends was just blah, etc.).  This was back in 2015/2016. 

At that time, I was clocking in at about 65 hours per week along with travel to Europe and managing teams in the US, EU, and Japan. This continued into 2017.  I was constantly jet-lagged and I felt like I was just trying to make it through the day every. single. day.  My life was kind of like J.Lo in 'The Wedding Planner' where I'd run around all day to then just get back home to heat up my shitty meal and go to sleep, but then there was no dude that ever really showed up to sweep me off my feet (PS: I wouldn't have wanted that anyway - at least the part about 'rescuing me' - now the romance...I’d take that shit).  I was just scraping by at that time -  just work, sleep, and then occasionally I would see my close friends for dinner and drinks to catch up.  

Woe was my life, and I wanted to just quit and take a year off. That's really how the idea got started in the first place, but I'm glad that it wasn't the final reason as to why I decided to leave. 

Yup. That's really how it initially happened.  I was so upset at my job for giving me more and more responsibilities to take on, and I was angry at them for making my life utterly miserable.  Obviously, in hindsight, this was a telltale sign that I was delusional, tired and playing the blame-game, but at that time I didn't see it like that.   What I did know was that I was consistently unhappy, and one of the first things I did was take myself into therapy.  I knew that there was a lot of good things happening in my life, but I just couldn't get out of my funk.

 

Therapy, Reframing, & Self Healing 

I'm not new to therapy - in fact, I'm a big proponent of therapy to work things out in my brain instead of solely relying on my friends or family because, come on, people get sick and tired of hearing you bitch about the same things over and over again.  In general, most jobs offer them as part of your benefits package, and that is something that I recommend people use if they are hitting a rough patch.  Additionally, because of the internet, these services are now more accessible than ever before. (Ok, PSA done.)

Anyway, seeing a therapist allowed me to talk through my thoughts and emotions, but it also allowed my therapist to step in to reframe what I said or how I saw things because my mind made everything black and white, me against them, etc., when in many cases it was not.  With the reframing of my thoughts, I also started to look into more exercises and tools that I could do to make sure that I could start feeling better right at this moment (aka, my personal toolbox).  I was journaling more, writing down what I was appreciative of everyday (or at least saying them out loud), and making sure that I was balanced in terms of 'Mind, Body, and Soul'.  This was an exercise where I would personally gauge myself from a scale of 1-10 on how I felt in my mind, my body, and soul - when I felt that something wasn't an 8 in terms of my feelings, that's when I would try to dig more into what I could do to get me there (I did a brief example below if you want to see how it works).  It's a good self-reflection tool that I try to use often.  If I'm not at a good place with myself, I can guarantee you that I'm not very good to those around me and doing this helped me see what I needed to do for myself. (Side note: I didn't come up with this, a friend of mine shared what he did and I thought it was super cool and pretty pragmatic.)

 

Let's Talk Planning

Like I said, my initial reason of leaving was to just pack my shit up, breathe awhile, and find something else that was similar.  But with the healing process, it got me thinking more about where I was and what direction I wanted to go.  Had I packed up and left to a similar company, then there wouldn't be much difference in my satisfaction - I'd be trading in for the same thing. 

Going through therapy, being able to reframe my thoughts, and frankly being around people who were living and breathing examples of following their instincts gave me some really good pieces of information I needed to see what was next for me.  There were tons of amazing elements that I loved about my job that I wanted to carry over in my next job, but in total, I wasn't thrilled about the output from my work.   I wanted to reach this holy grail of work which I found represented really well in this Japanese concept of 'Ikigai' (referenced below of what it is) and I knew I couldn't get there without taking a step back and doing some exploration.  So as I got myself happier at work and in general at life, I worked to save money so that I could take a year off to not only travel, but dive into my curiosity. 

Oh, and one more littttle thing - I had to get enough courage to tell myself that after the year ended, I could still not know what I wanted, and I had to learn to be totally ok with it.  Sounds easy, but it took about two years for me to get my brain to not let fear get the best of me because I truly believed that the opportunities of quitting to go on an adult gap year for explorative purposes far outweighed not doing anything at all.  The cost of inaction was too great. 

Below is a very brief run-down on what I did:

  1. I did a Fear Exercise on myself. Using an Excel Sheet (I know - so typical of me), I wrote down everything that scared me about leaving my kush job and found ways that I could calm those nerves by thinking of tools or strategy to prevent my fear from happening, repair my fear if it did happen, benefits of doing what I wanted if I overcame my fear, and the cost of inaction because of it.

    • Click to watch Tim Ferriss' TED Talk to find this exercise (I've also embedded the video below)

    • I still have my Fear Excel Sheet that I did in 2017. Some of my fears were around not having healthcare without a job, not having money to cover my rent and bills, etc.

    • Not to mention, I also did a Fear Workshop with Eva Kornet.

  2. I got a Financial Planner and Coach. I wanted to better my money game so I can pursue my exploration without fearing that I'd go broke.

    • What I loved about Pam was that her services were based on a sliding scale so that no matter what your income was, you can afford to get financial help.

  3. I worked on Me (FYI, this should always be an ongoing thing).

    • I know, this sounds so damn cheesy, but similar to my program management job, if you can't find the root cause, you're not going to be able to solve things. For example, in the 'Mind, Body, and Soul' gauge that I do, if I know that my body's been weird and out of wack, I ask myself 'why'? And that's where I start identifying ways I can make improvements. "My body is out of wack because I'm not sleeping. Why? I'm not sleeping because I'm stressed out. Why? I'm stressed out because I took on a project that I thought I could do, but now realize I can't. How do I solve? Let my manager(s) know where I'm at and if I can either get more help or an extension." Boom, problem solved. It's not always this straightforward or easy, but that's my approach to a lot of things.

 

What's Next?

I hope that y'all found this helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions! Again, this was just my approach of how I got to leaving my job for a year.  It wasn't an overnight decision for me, but was a few years in the making.  Most of my 'adventures' will be on my Instagram, but I'm hoping to leverage this blog to answer any questions or just let y'all know how it's going!

 

 

 

 

 

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