How to Save Stupid Crazy Money on Travel in Your Thirties..or.. Oh the Places You’ll Go..While Barely Traveling!

I love travel, but I love New York more. If I had to pick whether to travel and never return to New York, or whether to stay in New York and never travel again…I must admit, I’ve just stumped myself with that one…

Anyway…I’m lucky and grateful that I never have to decide between those two options. And I’m also lucky that I get to travel all the time for work, but during the summer, the work travel slows almost to nothing. And it’s during this time that I travel the most of all! But I don’t have to go anywhere! And I don’t have to spend any money.

I will explain.

I used to have a travel blog where I’d talk about traveling all the time. Ironically, I didn’t actually ever travel for pleasure during this time – only for work- because pleasure trips cost too much money for me. Since I’m still paying off my student loan– which I’m gonna kill dammit…soon..I save a lot of money by not taking vacations.But I found a kind of travel that costs me almost no money, is just as pleasurable as pleasure trips, and never takes up a lot of time. I go on staycations! I travel completely within New York, and see lots of exciting places..even ones I’ve somehow managed to miss during my 30 years living here!

My friend Amy does this best. She’s an expert staycationer who both staycations and travels the globe. No matter whether she’s exploring Greenpoint, Brooklyn, or wandering around Tokyo, she always goes alone. It’s pretty amazing and inspiring. She always finds great places to see and new experiences to have.

Amy recently walked the the George Washington  Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge in one day!

Amy recently walked the the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge in one day!

So here’s how to save stupid crazy money on travel in your thirties and go on summer staycations instead:

1. Look for free or cheap summer things to do in your hometown

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I happened upon yoga in Bryant Park one day..I’d forgotten that it was a summer thing in New York. Pretty neat.

2. Find somewhere you’ve never gone in your city or hometown and go there.

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My friend Zach and I recently went to Governor’s Island- a little island off the coast of Manhattan- home to a bunch of museums, and gorgeous views and great picnicking areas. It cost me a grand total of $2.00 for the ferry.

3. Go to an area in your hometown/city you’ve been to but find a street or ave you’ve never seen before.

Saw fireworks on the boardwalks of Long Island City, Queens. Somehow I'd never been there before.

Saw fireworks on the boardwalks of Long Island City, Queens. Somehow I’d never been there before.

4. Go somewhere you’ve already been, but never appreciated as a vacation spot..and call it your vacation day!

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I love Fire Island beaches- and with 32 miles of beaches, there’s always more to explore.

5. Go somewhere in your hometown/city that just opened!

I went to the new Whitney museum off the Highline recently ..it's brand new!

I went to the new Whitney museum off the Highline recently ..it’s brand new!

6. Go to a place you’ve been to before but pretend you’re in Europe. Or Canada. Or America if you live in Europe or Canada. You know what I mean.

Ferry off the coast of downtown Toronto

Ferry off the coast of downtown Manhattan.

Ferry off the coast of downtown Manhattan.

7. Go nowhere, stay at home, and say you’re on vacation. Turn off your phone. Disconnect wifi. Call it ‘mental spa week.’

Ahhh, I’m starting to feel better already just thinking about mental spa week.

Doesn’t a summer staycation sound good? Give it a try! It’ll seem even better after you take a look at your bank account and still have all of your hard earned money left 😉

Why You Should Get Global Entry In Your Thirties

I was always that weirdo who opted out of the airport scanner machines. I never liked them, and I knew that the jury was out on their safety and health risks (even though TSA always claimed they were safe).

If you opt out of the scanner machines, you’ll be subjected to a patdown. I never minded much (free massage!), except that waiting for a patdown always takes awhile, and you’re subjected to gawking stares from fellow passengers who think you’ve been pulled aside because you’re a terrorist.

It was actually a TSA agent patting me down a few years ago who recommended getting Global Entry. I’m amazed that I didn’t really know much about the program even though I fly over 2 or 3 dozen times a year for work.

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If you travel at all outside the country, and hopefully in your thirties you’re doing a bit more of that, I highly recommend Global Entry.

You’ve probably heard of TSA Pre-check– this allows you to bypass the sometimes crazy lines and go straight through security in your own line.

Global Entry is basically TSA Pre-Check PLUS. You get all the benefits of Pre-Check, PLUS you’re able to bypass Customs when you return from most travel abroad…plus other awesome benefits. You get:

-To bypass the long security line at most airports!

-To leave your shoes on when you go through security (soo nice!)

– To never have to go through the airport scanner (known as a millimeter wave device). You always get to simply go through the metal detector as long as the PreCheck line is open.

-You don’t have to take your laptop out of your bag

-You don’t have to take off your light jacket

-You get more respect when you travel (when gate agents or security agents see my Global Entry card, things always seem to go extra smoothly.

– With Global Entry, your chances of getting PreCheck on your boarding pass are way higher than when you just havePreCheck. I get PreCheck on my boarding pass almost 100% of the time, but a lot of my friends who just have PreCheck (vs Global Entry) get it on their boarding pass around 60%-75% of the time.

It’s easy to apply for Global Entry- just follow the directions here. It’s $100 for 5 years, so only $20 a year- very affordable and super worth it!

TSA Precheck is $85 for 5 years, but you get none of the international and extra benefits that Global Entry gets you. So pay the 15 extra dollars and get Global Entry. It’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself regarding travel.

You Kinda Just Had To Be There. (or- The Bats Fly At Sundown)

I used to have a boyfriend who didn’t understand travel. He had no idea why I liked traveling so much or why I felt the need to personally go and see so many different places.

“You can see them online,” he said, (he was a major techie), “you can see photos and videos and you can read about any place you want on the internet with some googling. There are so many travel blogs and there’s Wikipedia. Why do you need to go there?”

It always made me sad that some people (especially ones close to me) don’t understand how the internet can’t capture the feeling of a place. Photos and video and even the most beautiful words aren’t the same as actually being somewhere.

In my thirties I travel more than ever. I travel for work most of the time, but I’d love to travel more for pleasure (Soon! Right now, I usually stay put in New York when I’m off from work..this is because of financial reasons mainly (darn you, student loan!)), but soon I shall whip out my international bucket list once again.

I advise everyone to travel because it exposes you to all types of details and feelings you may miss where you are. Changing your location can really change your mindset- and your preconceived notions of the way other places (and other people) are.

This weekend I’ve been working in Austin, Texas. I went here once before with Jane, just for fun. We had the best time, and discovered that Austin was nothing like our preconceived ideas of Texas…even though we’d never been to Texas before. Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” and the whole place reminds me more of the hipsterville that is Williamsburg, Brooklyn than the cowboytown that I thought Texas would be.

Jane and I circa 2009 having a blast in Austin with the Longhorns!

Jane and I circa 2009 having a blast in Austin with the Longhorns!

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Yum!

Jane and I Yelping the best Mexican food in Austin...all cheesy goodness!

We Yelped all the best Mexican food in Austin…lots of cheesy goodness!

This time Austin brought a completely different feeling…though also very good. Firstly, I’m here with different people (my coworkers) and at a completely different time in my life. Austin feels almost like a totally different place – even though it’s still as fun as I remember.

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Something I missed last time in Austin with Jane was the fact that there’s a bridge downtown where 1.5 million bats live. They stay under the bridge until sundown when they all fly out to feed.

My coworkers and I were told we needed to see these bats fly out from underneath the bridge, so we arrived at 8pm and waited together. It was pretty exciting. We expected to see this sight:

Photo we saw online.

Photo of what the internet told us we would see.

But instead we saw this:

Nice view. But no bats.

Nice view. But no bats.

And then this:

It got dark. We could kind of see some bats, but not the way we thought we would (they were quickly flying out from under the bridge and then back in. Not doing a mass exodus like we saw in the photos.) Alas, it was too dark and they could not be captured with our cameras anymore.

Darkness. The bats were late. Then we could kind of see lots of bats, but not the way we thought we would (they were quickly flying out from under the bridge and then back in. Not doing a mass exodus like we saw in the photos.) Alas, it was too dark and they could not be captured with our cameras anymore.

But we had a good time anyway because we got to hang out together in Austin and watch for bats. And we did eventually see bats. And heard bats. Even though it was different than we thought it would be.

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And I can’t imagine getting the all the feelings I get from Austin just from googling it online. Because I felt this:

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And those pictures and my description can’t capture it.

Austin is weird. And young. And hipster. And Southern. And party. And foodie. And wild. And sunset. And morning. And healthy. And unhealthy. And night time. And yoga. And whisky. And bikes. And dancing. And all. And none.

It will be different for you.

You just have to go there.

Was that a gorilla I just saw on my run?

Was that a gorilla I just saw on my run?

Elvis? Is that you?

Elvis? Is that you? Are you in Austin?

The trash cans are solar powered? For reals?

The trash cans are solar powered here? For real?

Ladybird Lake

Ladybird Lake- I had no idea there was a running trail here.

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Wait, what’s this natural pool?

Wait, they made a pool out of LadyBird lake!

They made a pool out of LadyBird lake! Awesome!

You never know what you'll find once you're here

And who knows what you’ll find once you’re here…

Expert Travel Lessons Learned The Hard Way

In a recent post I wrote, Are You More Confident Now That You’re Older?, I touched on how a lot of times confidence comes from being okay with failing and getting rejected again and again.
Now that I’m 30, I’ve already accumulated piles and piles of messy, crazy mistakes I’ve made and lessons learned the hard way.

Before this blog, I used to have a travel blog called YouSomewhereElse (hence my wordpress handle LauraSomewhereElse). I don’t consider myself the absolute best expert on travel, per se, but I do travel more than 2/3 of the year for work, so I consider myself at least somewhat of an expert. And when you travel as much as I do, you rack up a whole lot of experience under your belt. Some of it is good, and some of it…not so much.

Right now I’m in the middle of a 5 city trip without hitting home between cities. I’m in city 4 out of 5. I’ve probably only spent about 10 days total at home in New York since the beginning of January. I’ve been traveling like this- at an ever increasing rate- for over 8 years, and have been on the road so much that I should be great at it, right? Well, sometimes even if you’re “great” at something, it just means that you do it so much that you’re bound to do a bunch of things wrong at least some of the time.

Just to prove that being a confident expert takes lots of failure, and to encourage you to not be afraid of the really bad experiences, here are just a few of the many mistakes I’ve made on the path to becoming a travel expert..

  1. I’ve gone to the wrong airport..twice. One time I completely missed the flight and they wouldn’t rebook it. I lost $550 buying a new last minute flight, and another $100 taking a cab from one airport to the other..only to miss that flight anyway.
  2. I’ve booked a flight on the right day,..but in the wrong month..and the $400 flight cost was non-refundable.
    3. I bought a cheap suitcase and had the entire handle come off on a hill in the middle of England.
    4. I bought a different cheap suitcase and had the handle come off in the middle of a staircase in Washington DC.
    5. I’ve exploded a bottle a seltzer all over my laptop and BROKE THE KEYS FOREVER in the middle of Philadelphia a month ago.
    6. I’ve been stuck in Charlotte airport for 3 days when the airport closed because of bad weather…and I had to sleep on a cardboard box because I was on the phone when they gave out cots.
    7. I’ve booked numerous bus tickets that ended up being at the wrong time..and they were nonrefundable.
    8. I let my phone fall off my lap while sleeping on a plane and it was stolen while I slept.
    9. I opened the back of a car where my suitcase was stored, only to find my suitcase gone! I thought it had been stolen and completely panicked, only to later realize that I was in the wrong car.
    10. I’ve accidentally tried to bring my permanent plastic Contigo water bottles filled with water through security…and have had them confiscated at least half a dozen times because I was in too much of a hurry to go back and dump them.

11. I recently dropped all my suitcases off at the wrong hotel. This was two days ago.

12. Today I went running in Fort Lauderdale, got completely lost, and had my phone’s GPS stop working on me. I had to continuously ask construction workers and random passerby directions for an extra half hour until my phone suddenly started working again. If it hadn’t finally worked, who knows when I would’ve made it back home.

So don’t worry about going out and failing. Failure probably means that you’re just putting yourself out there more…or at least I’d like to think so. Go ahead and make tons of crazy mistakes..and you’ll perhaps become a confident expert along the way 🙂

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How To Be a Good Houseguest

Having houseguests can be both fun and stressful. You have to clean the living room and possibly even the toilet (eek)! You have to blow up the air mattress or pull out the fold out bed or put away all that random clothing you’ve stored in the guest room. You possibly have to entertain and cook extra food. It can be a big ordeal even if the person you have coming over is the coolest person ever.

I understand this, and this is why I strive to be The Best Houseguest Ever. I’ve stayed with people A LOT. I’ve also had people stay with me A LOT. Since I’ve traveled for work for the past 8+ years, and am not put up in a hotel every single time, there’s a lot of back and forth going on with me and coworkers/friends/relatives in other cities.

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So here’s my list of top things you can do to be The Best Houseguest Ever as well. I’m sure you’re a very good houseguest already, but in your thirties you might as well be amazing at it 🙂

Best Houseguest Ever Practices:

  1. Thank your host(s) for letting you stay. They’re going out of their way. The very least you can do is genuinely say thank you. They’re being pretty awesome!
  2. Thank them again. I thank them a lot. It’s amazing how important this is and how many people may not do it. (My friends do, so if you’ve stayed with me, it’s all good). 🙂
  3. Be especially nice if there is a husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate that you don’t know very well or at all. This is HUGE. That person can sometimes feel very left out or weird about the whole thing. Go the extra mile and make sure to thank that person too. Go the extra EXTRA mile and ask that person a question..it could be as simple as ‘how was your day?’ or ‘how was work?’ or as much as a full conversation if they want to chat.
  4. If they make you food, offer to help cook or set the table.
  5. If they make you food, offer to wash dishes. They may decline, but at least you tried.
  6. Be neat and don’t leave stuff everywhere.
  7. Put items back where you found them (such as pots or pans if you cooked).
  8. Keep noise levels down if the hosts are asleep (TV, phone calls, etc).
  9. When you leave, fold the bedsheets if you’re on a pullout or an air mattress.
  10. Give them something back. In order to figure out what to give, lets get very honest:

Are the people you’re staying with not making a ton of money? Are they struggling artists or unemployed? These are important questions because they influence whether the person/people you’re staying with will be happy or insulted if you offer certain repayments. Repayments I’ve used have included:

  • Taking your host(s) out to dinner one night
  • Giving your hosts some grocery money if they’ve cooked for you every day (some people may be insulted by this, but you can feel it out based on the above.)
  • Getting your hosts a bottle of wine or champagne
  • Getting your hosts some other small gift, such as a fancy candle or whatever they seem to like.

Hope this helps you enjoy house-guesting a bit more! Have any more Best Houseguest Ever ideas for this post? I’d love to learn them. Happy travels!

We All Have the Same Amount of Time

Dear Ones,

Haha, I only started this out by calling you guys ‘Dear Ones’ because it’s something Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ does in her Facebook posts all the time… And honestly, it sort of annoys me. Did it annoy you when I called you a ‘Dear One’? Or did you like it? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I actually LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert, and her Facebook posts just about always make me very happy, but the ‘Dear Ones’ thing just seems…patronizing? Old fashioned? I’m sure she doesn’t mean it that way AT ALL, because she seems like the sweetest person, but it rubs me the wrong way every time I hear it.

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BUT if I can get past that (and I can), she writes some very inspiring mini essays on Facebook. Today she wrote a thought-provoking little post about not giving up the great for the good. She was recounting how there’s always the same amount of time in a day and we usually fill that time with GOOD things- important things that we need to do- such as emails, holiday shopping, jobs, housecleaning, etc. Most of these things are, of course, necessary to life. But then she said that there are GREAT things we can be doing with our days as well, and that we have time for them too.

Now, at this point in her post, I thought Ms. Gilbert was going to go on to explain great things to be ‘travel to Indonesia,’ or ‘learn to code,’or ‘go windsurfing’ or ‘‘volunteer at soup kitchens everywhere,’ or other major activities in a similar vein. Elizabeth Gilbert’s a travel writer and an inspirational speaker after all. I expected great things to equate to major goals I guiltily feel I SHOULD GET TO or want to get around to doing ‘some day.’

But instead her GREAT THINGS were the exact opposite. They included:

  • Going for a long walk or a run alone on the beach, or in the woods, or in the city. (I LOVE doing this! This is, indeed, great!)
  • Going to Target with my best friend for absolutely no reason (YES! I love going to department stores or even grocery stores with my best friend for absolutely no reason. Great!
  • Sitting down at the end of the day with a glass of wine (I do this! I love this! Easy!)
  • Calling my mom just to say hello (So simple. So doable. Yet I don’t always do it.)

 

Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Or spending time with my friend and wandering through stores and to bus stops..

Or spending time with my best friend and wandering through stores …and from bus stop to bus stop

Elizabeth Gilbert’s personal list consisted of activities that…were easy to do. And they provoked simple, easy joy because they were basic little things. And they blew my mind because I already did them! I’d just never considered them ‘great things’ before. But they are. And I don’t recognize them.

Many days, my ‘great things’ slip through the cracks while I anxiously check off a never-ending to do list.

We all have the same amount of time in a day…and we can fit great things into our lives in such doable ways. The requirement is only to recognize those teeny moments of joy and allow ourselves to live them.

My Roommate Talks to Strangers on Subways

When we’re both in our kitchen together, my roommate and I tend to have very in depth, funny, and deep conversations. I’m extremely lucky to have her as a roommate- we were strangers who met through Craigslist and we get along extremely well.

We’ve known each other only three months but we talk about everything from meditation to relationships to street harassment to retirement accounts with an equal degree of ease. Our roommate relationship can only be described as a rare personality click.

The other day she described the conversations she has with random people on the subway. I was surprised to hear this- she doesn’t seem like the sort to have impromptu conversations with strangers on public transportation. She’s a fairly quiet and unassuming girl, tiny and thoughtful- a 29 year old english professor and writer who listens to calming music and chills in her room a lot.

She thinks that people probably open up to her because she enjoys hearing their stories; they may sense her friendliness and feel a green light. It’s true that she always gets me opening up, so I guess her energy works with subway people as well.

I recounted to her that as of late I rarely talk to anyone in transit- even though I travel all the time. I used to have lots of conversations with new people at airports and on planes- in fact that’s actually how I met my ex-boyfriend. But lately I’d been using the old ‘kindle and headphone’ trick to stop people from talking to me before they started. My job involves a ton of talking and lately the last thing I wanted to do on a flight to or from work was to talk.

Sometimes while I'm traveling I'll look up from my Kindle to take a funny photo of fellow travelers, but I've rarely talked to them anymore.

Sometimes while I’m traveling I’ll look up from my Kindle to take a funny photo of fellow travelers, but I’ve rarely talked to them anymore.

But after my roommate told me her subway stories, I began to crave conversation with fellow travelers again. “Just be open,” she said. “They’ll sense it.”

And they did.

Once I felt open to listening again, people began to talk. It was like magic. I turned off my kindle and took off my headphones and I met the LA shuttle driver I talked about in my last post. And on my flight from LA, I met an accountant who used to sell time shares and lived in Cancun. There was a young mom chaperoning a crew of girl scouts on the way back from Dallas, various folk from New Orleans, Vancouver, and Hungary at a recent hostel, and a really cool travel blogger named Jo (Indiana Jo) who apparently travels 9 months out of the year and lived in a cave for awhile.

Both being an open listener and a closed privacy-craver have their pros and cons. I heartily enjoy hearing stories and learning about other places and lives, and travel conversation is a great way to do so. But I haven’t yet talked to strangers on the subway…maybe I’m just not open to that yet.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to just sit quietly while in transit. Like now, I’m actually sitting and writing this on a bus to Philadelphia, while the man next to me sleeps soundly against the window. We never said hi to each other. By the time I got to my seat he was already tuned out and closed off with his kindle and his headphones.

I understood.

The Happy Shuttle Driver

When I got on the FlyAway Shuttle to LAX this morning, I was greeted by an incredibly friendly, happy driver. He immediately started talking about growing up in LA, his love of driving, his nine uber-close siblings, and his passion for motorcycles.

There was a lot of talk of pranks played as children, precocious brothers and sisters, and flying home for the holidays. I laughed so hard I nearly cried as he told story after zany story.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the driver said, in the same even tone of voice he’d been using before, ‘My two best friends just died.’

I jerked my head hard as if I’d been slapped. The comment was completely out of nowhere. “Oh god- I’m so sorry!” I said. There was a silence. I squirmed. I didn’t want to pry.

He opened up without me asking. “We were all part of a motorcycle group. We did daredevil stunts and jumps and all kinds of tricks that most motorcyclists won’t do. Then one day we went to a motorcycle meet, and I was watching as my friend pulled his motorcycle out of the garage. A drunk driver came by and hit him then, and he was dead on the spot. He was just pulling out of the garage..”

“Oh my god,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. “That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t even the motorcycle that got him killed. It was a drunk driver.” He paused for a second, and then continued in the same even tone, “the other one too. My other best friend…hit by a drunk driver. I was actually working my shift at the time, driving the FlyAway Shuttle, and I looked over into the lane next to me. For his birthday, I’d given my friend a pair of sneakers he’d wanted, as a gift. And I looked over that day. And I saw a sneaker, the same sneaker…all alone, all by itself. And I wasn’t able to stop and see anything other than that sneaker, but I found out later. My friend had been cycling down the freeway, and a drunk driver started going the wrong direction. My friend swerved and was thrown from the bike. He still had one sneaker on. He died, and I just happened to drive by right then. It was too late. Both of them hit by drunk drivers.”

I was heartbroken. How was it that underneath this man’s happy exterior was the darkest, most earth-shattering sadness? And before we got to LAX, he continued his stories, telling me he’d been a shuttle driver for over 10 years and that he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. “It’s good,” he said, “It keeps my mind off the hard things. It’s very good to be distracted.” And he smiled.

We arrived at the airport and bid our farewells. I’m shaken by the deep pain hidden under his smiling stories. Shaken by his love of his job for the saddest of reasons…and if the shuttle ride had been just a bit shorter, I would never have known.

You never know what people have going on under their happy, smiling exteriors.

Laura comes to LA

It’s Laura’s final night visiting me in LA, and it’s been a really fun couple of days! We’ve been doing a lot of eating, talking and wandering. Since I moved to LA about fifteen months ago, she’s come to stay with me twice. BOTH times it has rained consecutively for several days straight. For those of you that don’t know SoCal weather, that’s odd for LA. One day of rain is somewhat normal, but not several days in a row.

We’ve made the best of the crappy weather though. I introduced Laura to my favorite TV show, Nathan For You on Comedy Central, and today we went to see the movie Wild, about the woman who hikes the Pacific Coast Trail to deal with her grief from the death of her mother. (FYI, it’s amazing and we left the theater sobbing, dying for a life-changing camping trip in the woods.)

While we were on the bus earlier this week, we started talking about our 30’s, and we agreed on one major thing. While this decade definitely has left us feeling uncertain about our futures, the truth is, that as we grow older, we keep feeling better about ourselves and our experiences in the world. This is not to say life somehow gets easier, in fact, it absolutely gets harder – we have more responsibilities and more challenges, but still, life feels better. You go through tough situations but discover that you’re still standing after each one, having grown into a more flexible person than before.

The key thing is that you don’t fear things as much. You’ve seen enough to let the fear dissipate a little. You can deal with it.

There’s a gorgeous quote from the Cheryl Strayed book Wild, on which the movie was based, that I feel like is appropriate to growing older in your thirties:

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Here’s to us all getting stronger every day in our thirty-something journey!

Here are some pictures from our public Transit experiences in LA. And yes, taking the bus is possible, if hard, in this city.

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How to Be Away From Home For The Holidays

I was away from my family this Thanksgiving…and the last one too.

Then last Christmas was spent at an airport, watching people with large wrapped gifts excitedly take the cheapest flight to see their families, while I headed away from mine. And last Valentines Day night consisted of 2000 miles between me and my boyfriend at the time- he spent the night with cocktails in New York, I spent it with a rather large plate of Mexican food in Spokane, Washington. New Years Eve went down working a tradeshow in Indianapolis.

Valentines Day with some Spokane Washington style Mexican rice

Valentines Day with some Spokane Washington style Mexican rice

My brother’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, my own birthday, my best friend’s birthday- I was away for them all. I had to turn down work a year in advance in order to make it to a friend’s wedding.

My job takes me all over the United States, and I love it. But more and more, the work falls on holidays. It can be isolating to be away from family during Thanksgiving or Christmas or both….these are holidays all about family and it’s sad to shake the tradition. Holidays break up the year into familiar pieces… Christmas spent at grandma’s, Thanksgiving spent with parents, New Years Eve with friends. It’s jarring to realize that I can’t rely on that anymore.

Last year, I cried when I realized I’d be working away from home on Christmas and Thanksgiving. My family was really upset. My friends and boyfriend at the time were disappointed. I felt like I’d let all my favorite people down.

But I couldn’t let myself down. I needed to work. So I got through the holidays as best I could. I had a mock Thanksgiving with friends days before I left for Phoenix, Arizona. I took the latest flight out on Christmas day in order to have Christmas ‘brunch’ at my parents house before having to run. I celebrated New Years Eve back in New York weeks after the actual day. There was a lot of rescheduling, shifting of holiday dates, and apologies…a lot of celebrations with coworkers in cities far away from home.

Does it get easier to be away from home for the holidays? Yes and no. I feel more comfortable with it this year, but it’s still trying. If you end up being away from family for the holidays due to work, financial obligations, scheduling, or otherwise, here are some strategies I’ve used to help get through it:

  • Reschedule the holiday for when you can be with your family, don’t skip it if you can- you’d be surprised how Thanksgiving can still be fun in December.
  • Celebrate the holiday twice- if you’re away from home with friends, roommates, or coworkers, celebrate with them as best you can the day of. Try not to be alone on the holiday- it can be depressing. Ask around- there are lots of other people who can’t make it home and celebrate the holidays with friends and/or coworkers
  • Know you’re not alone- even though it seems like everyone’s with family for the holidays, lots of people can’t make it home.

The holidays can become even more important to you when you don’t take them for granted. Being away from home for the holidays really makes me appreciate the time I have with my family, and makes me love the holiday season even more.

New Years Eve in Indianapolis with my coworkers ended up being pretty awesome.

New Years Eve in Indianapolis with my coworkers ended up being pretty fun after all.

The Secret Lives of Your Friends – Their Jobs

How much do you know about the nitty gritty of what your friends do at work? When you think about it, this is where your friends spend most of their waking hours. And it’s funny how we probably don’t know much about what compromises their days. Phone calls, meetings, emailing, all of that stuff, sure. But what aspect of their job do they love the most? What gets them excited to get through the day?

When we first graduated college, office jobs were something of a novelty, and I remember emailing my friends several times a day with updates from cubicle-land. “I just got inter-officed an envelope. Awesome.” “OMG, my boss is crazy.” “Ughhhh….so bored right now. Need a coffee.”

But as we inched into our late twenties and early 30’s, the emails stopped as we became more focused and dedicated to our work. Now, while I know my friends’ job titles, I don’t know the specifics of their day. I love specifics. Call me nosy, but I want to know what a typical hour of their day looks like.

Well today I got to visit Laura at work and see what her job is like. She was visiting Southern California, where she was working as a Product Specialist for Ford Motors at the LA Auto Show. Laura’s job is a mixture of marketing and sales and it was pretty fascinating to see her in action. She travels across the country, presenting the new products to consumers. She’s interacting with consumers all day and getting sales leads. It’s also exciting to see what a non-office job really looks like. I think it’s pretty great that she doesn’t have to sit tied to a computer screen all day.

Here’s some pictures from my visit today.

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Laura and I in the crazy big Ford truck. Not sure which one this was.

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My dude, Me and Laura in front of the underside of a Ford Mustang

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