How To Feel Alive: Face & Conquer

“I would never be able to do something like that.”

I think more than anything, this phrase really annoys the shit out of me.  The second I know that I am terrified of doing something, that it’s going to push me outside of my comfort zone, when I start to feel those anxious butterflies going wild; that’s when I know I have to do it. Whatever it is.

I realize that not everything thrives on adrenaline or likes being pushed outside their comfort zone. But the thing is, neither did I for the longest time. I grew up an indoor kid, happy to stay on a couch watching T.V. and terrified to my core anytime my cousins did something daring or against the rules.

So it just makes me kind of angry when people out there won’t even open their mind to doing something that will change their outlook, their attitude, their entire life perspective because they “could like, literally never do something like that.” And I know I am supposed to be accepting of everything and love everyone because that’s the persona I portray, but this attitude makes me want to shake people and scream at them: “Don’t you know what you’re missing?! LIFE is out there!” 

The reason I fell so in love with traveling is because, while every time I travel I learn so much, I also realize how much more there is to know and to do.

The more I see, the less I know. – Michael Franti (got it right.)

So I’m recapping my South Africa trip not from the beginning of the trip but at the moment I was sitting on a bench, in a harness, with my legs wrapped tightly in a velcro wrap, on top of the world’s highest bungee bridge, the Bloukran’s Bridge.  Oh not to mention, laugh crying. Not because something was funny, because I was panic-stricken and very emotionally confused by the fact that there was house music blasting around me, people were dancing, everyone was a hype-man… and the fact that I was 15 seconds from going against every natural preservation instinct I had and jumping off this bridge.  In that last thirty seconds, my inner anxiety finally physically manifested itself in the form of big fat tears that I just couldn’t stop.

The calm and helpful bungee guys put my arms around their shoulders and helped me shuffle my constrained feet to the edge, toes sticking out over the side. Though I don’t remember much at this point, the video footage shows me with a very concerned look on my face and taking deep breaths. Fairly certain I blacked out for the first 5 seconds (or however long it took to hit the bottom) of the fall and the first thing I remember is as soon as I started to recoil and slowly bounce back up and down, I was sobbing full fledge tears streaming down my face. Well I was upside down, so they were more like streaming up my face. This time though, the tears were more like holy shit I just did it tears. How beautiful is this life tears. For someone who spent a solid portion of their life dealing with depression and anxiety, this moment brought a rush of exhilaration, disbelief, and pure awe at how much humans can do and how much we can feel and how beautiful these mountains and the ocean were around me. Why would I ever worry about anything when I can experience feelings like this?

Post-jump I was elated, and while I may not be a bungee jump junkie just yet, I absolutely can appreciate how alive I felt and how awake I was every moment of that experience. I will now pursue feeling this alive for the rest of my days and I shall accept nothing, and no one that makes me feel less.

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How To Get the Most Out Of Your Work Travel

Work for a globally based company? Want to travel the world without quitting your career?

If you’re not already travelling internationally for business purposes, negotiating this is your first step.

If you are travelling internationally for work, all you have to do is be strategic with project deadlines and PTO or negotiate remote work days.

Convincing your boss you should travel internationally:

This can easily be the most difficult part of the negotiating package, because sometimes, your position simply doesn’t lend itself to a defensible business case for international travel. But if you have even a sliver of hope, these suggestions and tips may just get you on the plane.

  1. If you have team members that sit in other parts of the world, GET INVOLVED. Figure out exactly what their pain points are, what projects they’re on, and how you and your skills can contribute.
    • I.E. You have a colleague in Europe working on automating a manual and time consuming process. He is having a hard time communicating with IT and you happen to be a great PM and have IT experience! Offer to help PM his project and take an ACTIVE role in the project. Key word is active, if you’re constantly engaged, you will have a better case for arranging in person meetings.
  2. If you operate in a consultant capacity, you’re in luck, because chances are high you can get a client to pay for your travel.  Engage in a conversation with your foreign colleagues about the clients they work on and see if there is any skill gap or if they are maybe behind in the processes and technology that your company is using domestically. While you work at the same company, you will often find that separated entities act in a very separated manner. If there is a skill or task you engage in on a regular basis, this could be something you could knowledge transfer to the rest of the company!
    • Network with your colleagues and see if you can spot a client account that has a lot of cash to burn and a huge need for people or for a skill you have. Tell your boss you think it would be beneficial for the inter company relationship and the client engagement if you were to spend some time helping the account. If they can find it in the contract budget easily, there’s a good chance that no one will object, since it’s not coming directly from the company’s pocket!

Negotiating personal travel time in conjunction with work travel:

Already flying on a regular basis for work? You have a couple options, as mentioned above.

  1. You can use your PTO and plan it before or after your work-related obligations in the new area. As long as the cost of the flight is the same or less, companies rarely care if you fly back a different day, or fly in to your destination early. Even just a week extra (5 days of PTO) can give you plenty of time to see a new country (or even two!)

Feel pressured to not take your PTO or are you surrounded by a culture of workaholism? Read this article about why employees who take their PTO are more likely to get promotions and raises.

2. If you don’t have any PTO accrued and are not able to go into PTO deficit, another option is remote work. As more and more companies adopt ‘workplaces of the future’ with open office floor plans and snacks, the flexibility in working from home also increases. Really, what’s the difference between working from home and working from a different country? If you are accommodating for any time difference and are still getting your work done, many employers will see no issue. And good news, WiFi is everywhere!

Sometimes, negotiating these perks is a lot easier than you’d expect, and there’s no harm in asking. Strip yourself of any guilt feelings you have about it, your relationship with your employer should be mutually beneficial! And who knows, this could be the first step in negotiating a recurring remote week every quarter so you can explore the world without quitting your career!

I’d love to hear about any experiences you have with combining work and personal travel, tell me about them in the comments below! Thanks for reading and happy traveling!

 

 

An Icelandic Adventure

A common stopover country, Iceland’s popularity with tourism has been on the rise for the past couple years. And if you’re looking for a unique and breathtaking getaway (and you have a decent chunk of change to spend) Iceland is absolutely your place.

Being an island, just about everything in Iceland is imported, so prepare yourself for a pricey vacation. I don’t want it to take you by surprise when you see beers ranging from $12-$20 USD, cocktails around $24, and a decent meal being at a bare minimum $25.

Given that, though, there are amazing things to do in Iceland, especially if you’re an adventurous and outdoor-loving person. Here are my top suggestions for a quick trip to the Land of Fire & Ice:

P.S. As always, visit my Instagram for more reasons to go to Iceland!

 

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Outdoors

  • Frost And Fire (Hveragerði) – Notably nicknamed the land of Fire & Ice for it’s varied landscapes, Iceland has numerous hikes that take you around some of the natural geothermal hot spas. There are ropes that block you from getting too close to the hot spot but if you decide to get a little closer anyway, be cautious as these natural hot spots can get up to 250 degrees Celsius ( 392 Farenheit!)

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Golden Circle- The Golden Circle tours which are offered by tour guide companies many times everyday, takes you through three of the main tourist spots in Iceland: Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir. The Gullfoss waterfall is a breathtaking site and an immense waterfall. Wear a raincoat for that one! The Geysir is an incredulous geysir that goes off approximately every 7 minutes or so. Þingvellir is a national park with huge significance in history and geology. There are two submerging rifts which you can even scuba dive between (if you’re certified)!IMG_4357

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Bars

  • The American Bar
  • Icelandic Bar – a low key local spot, this bar doesn’t attract many tourists and you won’t find the typical raging young crew here. Instead you’ll get a taste for the locals and it’s also a great spot to try out the black death shot.

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  • English Pub (are you noticing a trend?) Icelanders tend to be straight forward, and this goes for their bar names as well.
  • The Big Lebowski– A fun, disco-like bar, this is where you want to go for groovy lights and music and a yummy breakfast reminiscent snack (drink). Live out your favorite movie with the famous white russian cocktail with cocoa pebbles on top. Yummm.
  • Kex Hostel. Yes I realize this says ‘hostel’ which typically means 100% tourists. However, the bar in the lobby of this ultra hipster hostel is a hot spot with the locals as well. There is plenty of space to work, meet new people, and get a few local Icelandic beers.
  • Austur– Now this is place you want to end your night. Since Icelanders party hard and late, you want to head to this night club around 3 or 4 am and ride out the rest of the night dancing in a crowd full of sweaty people while probably getting alcohol spilled on you.

Food & Drink

  • Fermented Shark. While it’s not a real staple of an Icelandic diet, it is something that basically all locals have tried. It’s honestly pretty putrid, so you should really have a shot of black death ready to wash it down with.

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  • Black Death. Exactly what the name sounds like, this clear liquid will surely lead to the demise of your evening. I hope you have a high tolerance if you take more than one of these shots.
  • As you can imagine, fish a huge part of the Icelandic diet. Dried fish (think fish jerky) is a must when trying the local seafood.
  •  Skyr is a type of yogurt that is famous in the country. It is similar to Greek yogurt, and with the plethora of dairy farms and cows in Iceland, it is quite possible to get it seriously fresh! If you want to have a legitimate dairy farm experience visit the Erpsstaðir creamery, detailed below.
  • For an affordable breakfast, try bergesson mathus a small hidden cafe where you can get a smörgåsbord of a European breakfast. For a cool $24 USD, you can get a hardboiled egg, bacon, potatoes, melon, pineapple, proscuitto, cheese, bread, and yogurt with granola.

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Other Tourist-y Things

  • The Erpsstaðir creamery is a dairy farm in Northwest Iceland, run by farmer Thorgrimur Einar Gudbjartsson and his family. You can see the cows and try lots of fresh whey protein, Skyr, and ice cream!

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  • Blue Lagoon- perhaps the most famous tourist spot in all of Iceland the Blue Lagoon is a natural hot spa that is massive in size and attracts around 700,000 visitors every year. Cure your hangover from the night before by getting a algae or clay mask from the Mud Bar and then heading over to the swim up bar for a refreshing vitamin packed juice smoothie – or a Bloody Mary if you’re ready for that kind of commitment.

Hygge: What it is and how to find it.

The danish concept of hygge (pronounced hue-geh) encapsulates everything that people love about the holiday season. When the cold makes your cheeks rosy, hygge. Hot glüwein from the brightly lit Christmas market, hygge. Cozy blankets and warm oversized sweaters, hygge. While there is no english equivalent it’s a very merry concept that can be felt all over Denmark, and specifically, Copenhagen.

When I arrived in Copenhagen the second week of December, I expected to be met with a white wonderland, having come from Denver, CO in the midst of a snowstorm. Nope, turns out I had over packed and simple jeans, sweater, and jacket would have sufficed.

As Copenhagen is repeatedly ranked as the highest cyclists per capita, it was only suiting that my first adventure was a bike tour. I signed up with Bike Mike, a highly revered 60-something year old man dressed as ornately as my Christmas tree and whom was there to provide you with the real, no bullshit, history and current events of Copenhagen as well as insider information on the locals and customs.

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After a three hour bike ride around Denmark at the speeds of Bike Mike, your bum will absolutely be sorry, but nothing a shot of Gammel Dansk won’t cure. This Danish liquor is Jägermeister-esque but imagine 3 times as strong. Based on what I’ve learned from Bike Mike and my week of feeling the hygge, here’s my top recommendations:

Food


Danes eat pork. A lot of pork, in fact there are more pigs in Denmark then there are people! This is in part why you will see at least a few hot dog carts on each street. Coming every way from bacon wrapped, to topped with fried and pickled onions and are actually pretty good! And not to mention relatively cheap, ranging from 20-30 Krone ($2.75-$3) for a decent sized dog.

Sm∅rrebr∅d is a traditional lunch in Denmark. It is an open faced sandwich typically served on cold rye bread and topped with literally anything you can think of! At the “Lunch Halls” Torvehallerne which are sort of like an indoor market you can find many different types of meats, cheeses, salads, and sm∅rrebr∅d. Be sure to check out the east building for a huge selection of gelato, desserts, and Danish pastries!

As you are probably already aware, Copenhagen is home to one of the world’s (supposedly, I wouldn’t know first hand) greatest restaurants. Noma, whose waiting list is nearly 6 months to a year at a time, is not your typical restaurant concept. Headed by chef, Rene Redzeppi, all of the ingredients in the dishes are foraged from within 60 miles of the restaurant. Averaging 2,000 DKK/$284 USD per person, it is a 10 course meal that is lavished with things such as moss, pine cones, and 5 year old rose petals. In their food lab, they age foods for up to ten years to experiment with the molding and fermenting processes, and this is why your meal will cost you a pretty penny. While I was unfortunately not able to get in to this exclusive 45 seat restaurant, I was able to snag a table at the bistro spin off, 108. Just right around the corner from Noma, the bistro is still not cheap, but features similar dishes. Except I only got 1 year old rose petals instead of 5 years. The meal here consisted of two shared small plates (as you can see by the photos) followed by a shared main dish. With one glass of wine each, our meal came to about $145 USD.

  • Braised Oxtail topped with fresh pine
  • Shrimps and plums covered with last year’s roses
  • Lamb Shoulder

Nightlife


The nice thing about night life in Copenhagen is that most of the good ones are fairly close to each other, making it very easy to bar hop and experience more. Staying near the Nyhavn is the smartest way to hit the most.

One of my favorites was called Zefside. Every Friday between 16:00 to 22:00 they have 2 for 1 on select cocktails. And those cocktails are no joke. Incredibly strong and sometimes on fire, you will find this place the perfect place to spend your entire Friday night. This fruity cocktail, (served in a mason jar, of course, because hipster) came with a fig shell filled with a shot of vodka ON FIRE. It brought a whole new meaning to the burn of a shot of alcohol.

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The Bird and the Church key  was a different kind of vibe. More on the relaxed, quaint side their prices weren’t nearly as generous. With wooden tables, candelabras, and brown leather couches, The Bird was an interesting twist on the throwback bar.

Sites


Nyhavn River: Pronounced (new-hown), I had been incorrectly pronouncing it for at least half of the trip. This river is the centerpiece in every iconic Copenhagen photo you’ve ever seen. You know… the one with the colorful buildings lining a waterfront with boats docked on the side? No bells? Alright, this one:

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Lined with street vendors selling glüwein and hotdogs, this river is the center for all the shops and city life in Copenhagen. If you keep your eyes peeled wide enough, near the river’s mouth, you will see the house where Hans Christian Anderson did all his writing.

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Hint, hint. There’s the door.

Tivoli: The Tivoli Christmas Markets are a must see if you are visiting Kobenhavn during winter. While the theme park is open all year long, during Christmas time it is extremely beautiful and really just out does itself with twinkle lights wrapped around every branch of each willow tree. If you’re willing to embrace the cold, all the rides still run, too. It does cost just a few dollars for entrace (ride-free) but definitely worth the experience if only for the lights and decorations alone.

Frederiksborg Castle: Located in Hillerød, Frederiksborg Castle offers self guided tours through the beautiful building allowing you to see the woodwork and craftsmanship that was commonplace in the Renaissance period. Built in the early 17th century by Danish King Christian IV, in the summertime the castle also offers bout tours.

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The Little Mermaid: Copenhagen is where Hans Christian Anderson lived when he wrote all of his fabulous fairy tales, and on Langelinje pier there is a medium sized mermaid statue erected upon stacked rocks that was donated to the city of Copenhagen by the Danish Brewer Carl Jacobson, who fell in love with the character written by Anderson. The statue itself was cool to see, but a bit underwhelming as there were at least 50 people all vying for their own footing on a slippery rock slope to get as close as possible to the statue that could have easily ended in disaster. Go, see it. But if you don’t make it for some reason there’s an exact replica in the Copenhagen Airport…so…yeah.

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Strøget St.: Having accidentally stumbled upon this street without meaning to, while it was on my list of things to do anyway, it is central to the city and is basically an extremely large street lined with high end shops, restaurants, pubs, and common American dining/shopping too. It is worth mentioning that the high end shopping is not very much different than the same high end brand in America. So if you’re traveling for luxury goods, Denmark is not the place. This street did provide the majority of my walking for the trip, as well as leads you straight to Tivoli!

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I Didn’t Study Abroad & Traveled for the First Time after College Graduation

I was constantly berated with stories of my peers, specifically the wealthier ones I knew through Greek life, going on Christmas vacations to Paris, spending summers in Patagonia, and spending a year of their life exploring Thailand. I was simply not that person. My family was (is) poor and growing up international travel was absolutely not even something I thought about. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I was even missing. As junior year of college approached quickly and violently, I considered cost first and foremost when choosing if and where I would study abroad. Since my alma mater has one of the best programs for study abroad (the same cost as a semester of school!) I thought maybe this would be my chance, this would finally be the time I would join everyone else and do what was normal for people my age. Nope, after getting rejected from my number one choice of South Africa (very affordable program and it was alluringly beautiful) I gave up all at once the idea that I would study abroad at all. I was among 5% of my junior class peers that did not study abroad, and so it was a lonely campus and four solid months of social media fomo.

So after spending my entire senior year lingering on the opportunity I had missed, I began looking up tours. I was offered a job 6 months before my graduation date, so I was set! They were flexible in allowing me to take a month off between graduation and my start date, and I knew that this is how I would take advantage of it. I researched many travel tour companies and came up with my final choice- EF College Break. I  will do a review of their service and my trip with them in an upcoming post. Please subscribe to read. 

My trip with EF was scheduled for 16 days, 7 countries, and called the “European Road Trip”. Our journey began in Netherlands, then went to Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and UK. This was my first real taste of international travel as the only time I had previously been out of the country was a weekend in Mexico during high school to my friend’s beach house in Rosarita. Of course, I was living in San Diego at the time so a one hour road trip to Mexico didn’t really count as ‘travel’.

As it was my first experience with travel I learned a lot, but mostly I learned how much I regretted not studying abroad when I could have. I was hooked, infected by the travel bug and I knew this was only the beginning. I learned how to maneuver public transit written in indecipherable languages and how to embrace every moment of the journey with my eyes and not my camera lens.

I guess the biggest takeaway I want this to leave you with is, travelling is so much more than a plane ride, a backpack, new foods, and new sites. It is diversity embraced, perspectives and opinions altered, and child-like wonder renewed. Remember that pure happiness and excitement you felt as a child seeing a bouncy house castle? I had always thought that feeling was fleeting, meant only for a child’s mind unaffected. Turns out that feeling of wonder and happiness is still out there, waiting for you in another country.