Most Important Lesson I’ve Ever Learned

My favorite book of all time is 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said by Charles Wheelan. I received it as a graduation present from my aunt almost seven months ago now (wow!) and just finished my third time reading it cover to cover. I hadn’t read it since my trip to Cancun in June (see all about my post here) and found new things in it this time that I found inspiring. The one thing that continues to stick with me, and had even more meaning now, is number 6 1/2.

Number 6 1/2 is “Your parents don’t always want what is best for you.”

Before you immediately start disagreeing, think about it for a minute. Your parents have spent your entire life caring for you. They have supported you in all aspects and it is very difficult to let that control go. Imagine your family is a family of birds. When it’s time for the bird to leave the nest, the mother bird just wants to see the baby bird fly on their own and not fall straight to the ground. Your situation is similar to that. Your parents don’t want to see you fail financially, in school, or in general. This is why they urge “safe” jobs/majors/paths, like medicine or law. Most doctors and lawyers are very successful and are able to support themselves, which is all your parents want for you.

But what if you don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer? What if you want to win a Pulitzer Prize, be the next President of the United States, or have your own Food Network show? All of these options have much higher rewards, but the risk is high as well. The chances of failing to be the President are a lot higher than not getting through medical school.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Many of the readers of this blog are young adults (or my extended family), and this is one of the most critical points in our lives. During this time we are going to college, getting our first jobs, and beginning to understand what being an adult means. This is the time to make mistakes. Go out on a Wednesday night, work only when you have to, and live. There will come a time when we all have families, actual jobs, and will be tied down to homes and cars. The ability to take risks lowers with age because of how much is at stake.

We spend our twenties working our way up the corporate ladder; working, working, working. Then we get to our thirties where we get married, have children, buy homes, and continue working to pay for all of these things through our forties. Then the mid-life crisis hits around age 50 and we wonder where our lives have gone. What have we been doing for the past thirty years? Working. Purchasing an excess of goods that society tells us we need. Watching the news channels that filter information and talk about new animals at the local zoo. We haven’t been learning new things every day. We aren’t truly rich, just wealthy.

I have no idea what I want to do with my life yet, but I know that there is no way I’m spending 40 hours a week in a cubicle wasting my twenties away.

This brings me to my final point: live your dreams. Whatever it is you strive to do with your life, go for it! And if you don’t know yet, travel. It is one of the biggest eye openers in the world and every person should be worldly educated.

Your parents will most likely disagree with whatever your dreams are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for them anyway. You just have to believe in yourself and other people will too. Hey, I believe in you and that makes two! Who will be the third? Keep up the hard work and that number will grow exponentially.

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“What is the Meaning of Life?” + Other Casual Coffee Date Questions

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Yesterday I completed my application to volunteer abroad for six weeks over the summer. And it was one of the biggest leaps I’ve taken in awhile.

After completing my application I began to truly imagine myself in a foreign country, knowing no one, and teaching English to people of all ages in a village; and I was immediately reminded of what the purpose of this blog is and what the goals of my life are.

It also lead to me thinking about the meaning of life – I know, something totally cliche to think about. I also watched The Giver yesterday so maybe that has something to do with this too.

Whenever I think about the meaning of life I always go back to the beginning of it, or the beginning of the universe. I begin to think of the possibility of multiverses and extraterrestrial life. I become filled with wonder and passion, thinking “I have to know the answer.” However, all of this wonder and passion gets morphed into sadness when I realize I’ll never know. In my lifetime humanity will never know the answers to these questions, and probably will never know the answers to these questions. And yet, we keep trying to uncover new planets and create new technologies to find our way there. That is the beauty of life though, we continue to live on and try to accomplish even if it is all for nothing. Our lives most likely have no meaning; we are all just evolving beings living on a ball of rock that revolves around a ball of fire.

So if we’re all just parts of Earth’s system, why is the state of the economy more important then the air we breathe? Why is it more important for a student to make good grades then learn important information and have a hunger for knowledge? Why is it more important to have a stable job, house, car, and successful family then it is to live a life of adventure, love, and happiness?

As a whole, humanity is failing at living. We all exist, yes, but are we really living? If there really is no point for our existence and we’re all going to die anyway, why aren’t you living the life you love? As much as you’re telling yourself right now, it’s not that easy, it is. It really is that easy.

My goal for the coming year is to start living a life I love. A life that isn’t revolved around materialism and what society tells me it should be. A life that is rich with joy, warmth, adventure, and love. And wish that for everyone else as well.

Reflection + New Outlook for 2015

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As 2014 comes to a close, the need to reflect on my past year surfaces and I would like to share that reflection with whomever finds themselves reading Indulging in Wanderlust.

When I started this blog, I wanted to write about travel and the exciting things that were happening in my life, but as time went on I realized that travel writing was not really my forte. Or at least not yet. At only 18, I have yet to travel to many of the places I’d like to visit and cannot really give as much insight as I’d like about the places I’d be writing about. And for those reasons, I’ve decided to change the focus of this blog from being about travel to just living a happy and beautiful life.

Throughout the past year, I have gotten tastes of what that looks like.

Singing the University of Kansas Alma Mater on a crisp fall day with my arms wrapped around strangers. Waking up on a chilly November morning to see snow on the ground for the first time in years. Being initiated into Alpha Gamma Delta, one of the most beautiful things in my life currently. Sharing laughs with friends that you can see in your wedding years down the road. All of my experiences on Friday nights out with friends.

All of these things added together have created a beautiful life for myself at KU and I so grateful for them, but what happens when you take those things away? Learning to happy by myself is something I have to learn how to do. Yes, I have always appreciated my own company, but that is not the same as being happy by myself. At the end of the day, all I am left with is myself and if I’m not happy with that person then what’s the point?

That’s the main thing I’d like to focus on for 2015: loving myself and treating my body, mind, and soul as a temple.

Also, to stop relying on giving people compliments on physical appearance. I see some of the people around me as so much more than physically beautiful. My mother for being so strong and wise, and for being the exact type of person I strive to be every day. My father for being so intelligent and strong, yet kind. My brother for being one of the hardest workers I know and that I can see being so successful in his life no matter what he does because of that drive. All of my friends for their unique stories and how lives can intertwine so easily.

I once saw this list of how to complement someone not based on their physical appearance and I’d like to share that list with all of you.

  1. You’re empowering.
  2. I like your voice.
  3. You’re strong.
  4. I think your ideas/beliefs matter.
  5. I’m so happy you exist.
  6. More people should be listening to what you have to say.
  7. You’re a very warm hearted person.
  8. It’s nice seeing such kindness.
  9. You’re very down to earth.
  10. You have a beautiful soul.
  11. You inspire me to become a better person.
  12. Our conversations bring me a lot of joy.
  13. It’s good to see someone care so much.
  14. You’re so understanding.
  15. You matter a lot to me.
  16. You’re important even if you don’t think so.
  17. You’re intelligent.
  18. Your passion is contagious.
  19. Your confidence is refreshing.
  20. You restore my faith in humanity.
  21. You’re great at being creative.
  22. You’re so talented at …
  23. I don’t get tired of you the way I get tired of other people.
  24. You have great taste in …
  25. I’m happy I’ve stayed alive long enough to meet you.
  26. I wish more people were like you.
  27. You’re so good at loving people.
  28. I like how many things you teach me.

All of these compliments mean so much more than ones about physical appearance and I wish people would use them more.

Finally, I’d like to see more people less reliant on the opposite sex, or the same sex if that’s their thing. I hear stories of countless girls always wanting boyfriends and wanting to find someone to marry at age 18. Slow down, allow yourself to experience life yourself and love yourself. No relationship you have will ever work out unless you truly love yourself and your life. Give yourself some time.

And with that, I say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in the new year. I hope the next year is filled with even more beautiful memories than the past one. 13 more days!

 

Long Time, No Post + Birthday Beginnings

Here I was, sitting on my computer wondering what to do, and then I realized that I have not posted on this blog in a few weeks! One of my biggest goals was to regularly post on this blog, but have found myself busier then usual and apologize for that. Not much has been happening on the traveling or planning front, so it may have been a good thing that I have not posted in a while.

With a week left until my 18th birthday, I’ve begun reflecting on the past year and seeing where my strengths and weaknesses have lied. Around my birthday every single year I always go through a change in mentality and end up doing a lot of things in the coming year I never would have done before, which makes this year even more exciting. No longer being considered a child is a major step in growing up and I don’t think I’ve really come to terms with it properly. Of course I’m excited to finally be an adult, but what comes with that? More responsibilities, but also, more things to look forward to and have the opportunity to do.

This past weekend I was also initiated into the Epsilon Beta chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta and have never been happier. These two major life events are happening within the same week and I’m beginning to feel the beginning of a new chapter. I’ve gotten a nice taste of this new chapter within the past week and am very excited to begin.

In honor of this new beginning, I’ve decided to make a bucket list/things I’d like to work on list to help me get through the next year in the best way possible.

To-Do List for my 18th Year:

  1. Stop using social media as much and start reading more.
  2. Actually use the gym membership you have through your university.
  3. Enjoy the richness of my life and don’t waste time on things you don’t wish to be doing.
  4. Don’t put up with people who don’t deserve your friendship.
  5. Be picky with your purchases.
  6. Do as many exciting and spontaneous things as you possibly can-you’re only 18 once.
  7. Keep your possessions limited and live a minimalist lifestyle.
  8. Stop trying to fix things that aren’t broken.
  9. Write in a journal more.
  10. Keep up with this blog.

I plan on keeping my next year filled with blog posts, so get ready! Can’t wait to share all of my future experiences with you.

Embracing Minimalism

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I have always been a person that has excess. Whether it’s the little tchotchke or a Nars blush I always have too much. I spend my money on clothes, makeup, and other things that I don’t really need when I could be saving that money for travel expenses. I’m going to be spending the next few weeks embracing a more minimalist lifestyle in order to allow for my monetary savings to grow. There is something to be said about having little, and I think it’s a very beautiful lifestyle that I’d like to obtain.

How does this relate to travel? I’d like to think that having a minimalist lifestyle is one of the best foundations for having a life filled with travel. There is less stress about packing, storing, and the items you’re leaving behind.

I’m starting out with my closet because it’s one of the easiest, and hardest, places to start as a college girl. Before, my closet was pretty filled. We have rather small closets here at KU, but I managed to fit all of my jackets, jeans (on a 5 tier rack), skirts (on a 4 tier skirt hanger), tops, scarves, dresses, and jewelry. That ended up being about 70 hangers, with over 80 garments actually being hung up. I decided to cut this number in half.

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The first thing I did was take out all of the clothing that wasn’t this season, which was almost half of the clothing being hung up. I stored all of it away underneath my bed and will most likely bring it home with me; I won’t need it until spring. I may also pack them into Space Bags to contain them in my room, as I may not be going home for spring break.

The next thing I did was take out the items I hadn’t worn in the past year or didn’t like anymore. Some of the pieces in my wardrobe had been there since seventh grade and could certainly be donated. I decided that if I didn’t reach for these pieces in the next 21 days, they’d be donated to a women’s shelter.

I then counted what I had left and saw that I only had 33-35 pieces in my closet currently, leaving room for me to pick up a few items for the next season.

I had 69 hangers in my closet before and now I only have 40. The other 29 are currently under my bed and are waiting to find a home. I may give some of them to a friend, or bring them back home with me and use them in my closet at home.

I also went through my shoe collection and am only putting out shoes that I know I’ll wear in the next month or two. Then they will all be switched out for my winter shoes. All the rest of my shoes are under my bed as well and will stay there unless I have to use them for some reason.

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I also went through my bins/baskets and re-organized those as well. I have two bigger ones on the bottom of my shoe rack that hold all of my hair tools and the other holds my dishware, laundry supplies, and mini iron. I got these two bins from the container store a few years back and they have been one of the best additions to my home closet, as well as my dorm closet. Above my closet I have 3 bins that hold my Alpha Gamma Delta apparel, scarves and sweatshirts. Behind those I have my magic bullet set and another bin that holds purses and travel bags. These bins are from target and are used in the cube organization set that I have at home.

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I am very pleased with my new closet and hope to continue to use 40 hangers or less in my future wardrobes.

My transition to a minimalist lifestyle was inspired by http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2013/05/24/40-hanger-closet/#_a5y_p=671895.

Gilding a Lily

The other day’s topic for my 365 Day Writing Challenge is “Gilding a Lily” which essentially means “to adorn unnecessarily something already beautiful”, or to actually put gold foil on a lily flower. Shakespeare originally created this metaphor in his work King John by saying that putting gold foil on the already beautiful lily was completely unnecessary and that the natural beauty should be appreciated. This brings me to a new series I am starting on this blog: Vacations Dedicated to Natural Beauty. I have always been very appreciative of natural beauty and would argue that more trips need to be taken for the sole purpose of exposing yourself and others to the Earth’s natural beauty instead of for luxury and relaxation.

The featured location of today’s post is China. Mostly known for its urban cities, China is one of the most beautiful countries to visit in the world and many people do not know that about it. I chose 4 locations in the country that are extremely beautiful and can be added to your trip to China!

The first is Jiuzhaigou National Park in Songpan, China. This location is known for its amazing beauty and attracts over 12,000 tourists a day during its peak season – April to mid-November! Although it costs almost three times as much-about 220 Yuan- to visit during the peak season, a lot of the trails are not available for hiking during the off-season, making your trip to Jiuzhaigou National Park a lot shorter.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Jiuzhaigou National Park is located near Songpan, China. There is are bus stations in the northern and southern parts of the city, which is a very nice way of getting there. There are various budget-friendly and upscale accommodations in the area and lots of delicious food options. The bus ride from Songpan to Jiuzhaigou National Park is about two hours, so make sure that you plan that into your daily travel time. Most people walk from place to place inside the town, but there are tricycle taxis and horses as other forms of transportation. The city of Songpan itself is a very beautiful and cultured place definitely worth the visit!

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

The next location is the Zhangye Danxia Landform in Zhangye, China. There is a newly built airport about 13 km south of the city for easy travel. Flights happen four times a week from a few airports, so that is a nice option when traveling to Zhangye, China. In the city, you can travel by taxi or bus, as these are the two most common forms of transportation. The actual landform was named a nature preserve in 2005 and a lot of the tourist aspects of it (viewing decks etc.) were unfinished as of May 2014! It is truly a beautiful landform and deserves to be visited!

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

The mountains are known for their beautifully colored rocks, which are smooth, sharp and several hundred meters tall. The unique landform is the result of deposits of sandstone and other various minerals over the course of over 20 million years. These mountains are connected to the tectonic plates that are responsible for the Himalayan mountains. Wind, rain and time sculpted the unbelievable landforms called Zhangye Danxia today, which include towers, pillars and ravines each in their own patterns, colors and sizes. The best time to visit Zhangye Danxia is June to September due to weather conditions. Entry into the park is 60 RMB, but that includes transportation inside the park. Overall, Zhangye Danxia is one of the most beautiful locations in all of China and is definitely worth the visit.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Every time I look at the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park I think of the magical floating mountains featured in the beautifully cinematographic Avatar. In fact, one of the pillars was named “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain” after the film in 2010. The mountains in the film were inspired by these mountains, and I cannot blame the designers. These mountains are in Zhangjiajie City, China and were named China’s first national forest park in 1982. The weather in the area is moist year-round and in turn, there is a lot of greenery. A lot of the erosion is caused by the ice that forms on the pillars and then causes foliage to grow. The climate of the region usually fairly pleasant, which attracts visitors year-round.

 

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

The entrance fee to the park is CNY 245+ CNY insurance, but this includes almost all areas of the park. This ticket is valid for three days, which makes it a better deal then buying the places individually. Each of the locations for a single day are anywhere from CNY 38 to CNY 100; and if they were purchased for all three days, it could end up costing more than the package deal. All of the locations in the park are beautiful and I would try to visit as many as possible. Additionally, I would recommend traveling to Zhangjiajie from a city that flies directly there to make it easier. Some airports that fly direct are Chengdu and Xi’an, and are good options if you plan on visiting other cities in the country. If not, flying into one of the more major airports is a better option. For accommodations, staying just outside the park in Wulingyuan is just as good as staying in Zhangjiajie itself. If you’re looking more for the scenic factor, staying in Zhangjiajie is more likely to be the better option. The local food is a very spicy and strong flavor, so if that’s not your thing, bring snacks!

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

The last location is Detian Falls in Daxin County, Guangxi. Although not all of the park is in China, it is right on the border of Vietnam and China and totally worth a visit. It is the fourth largest waterfall on a national border, and a truly beautiful sight it is. There are actually two waterfalls that make up the Detian Falls and during the wetter summer months they can join to become one waterfall, which can make visiting in the summer months a more interesting experience. If you have a limited time at Detian Falls, I would recommend taking a tour- it should cost around 200 RMB and will save you a lot of time. If time is not an issue, you can take a bus from Naning to Daxin and be on your way to the falls. It is a little more time-consuming, but totally worth it. Most travelers pack a lunch with them when visiting the falls, as the nearby restaurant is nothing special. There aren’t too many nice hotels in the area, but a few are advertised as 3-star, which are nice options.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

When many people plan their vacations, they don’t tend to think about the natural beauty they can see in the areas they visit. The next time you plan a vacation, try to add in an area of natural beauty to appreciate the world we live in.

 

If you have a country/location you’d like me to write about, comment it down below. I’d love to know what my readers are interested in learning about.

18 Things I’ve Learned in 18 Years and Would Have Told Younger Me

Since I turn 18 in about a month, I thought that I’d make a post stating all of the things I’ve learned in the past 18 years of my life. I’d consider myself to be a very insightful person and think I’m very good at giving advice to people, so here we go:

  1. Stop with the BS. Life is too short to play games with people and not say what is really on your mind. If you like someone, tell them. If you don’t like someone, don’t pretend you do. Seems simple, right? It’s harder then it seems. Being honest with people allows for there to not be confusion and you can focus on the big things in your life instead of petty arguments.
  2. You have to learn to defend yourself. People are pretty shitty. There’s no other way to say it. You have to learn to stand up to the people who try to put you down, they aren’t worth your constant distress.
  3. You never know as much as you think you do. In high school, I thought I was so smart. Then I would do something and realize how much I really had to learn. That continues, and the feeling of not knowing anything continues tenfold.
  4. Some of your best days lie ahead. High school sucks, no one is doubting it. College is ahead, though, and it will be some of the greatest years of your life. Don’t sweat it, kid.
  5. Study for that test tomorrow. “Winging it” doesn’t work. This is pretty self-explanatory.
  6. Work harder in school in general. You’re going to end up regretting not working harder in school. Even though everything seems easy enough to get by, when you get dropped by sororities because you didn’t have a 4.0, you’ll wish you worked harder (not that I wanted to be in a sorority that requires a 4.0, that’s some crap).
  7. No matter what age you’re at boys suck. If you think that the maturity suddenly triples because they’re no longer in high school, think again. Do you know how many penises have been drawn on my door’s white board? Too many.
  8. Your parents may not always want what’s best for YOU. Parents usually want what is good for you, but that may not always be what is best. Likely, your parents will disagree with every decision you’ll make until you’re 30. I don’t want to get a job right out of high school. I plan on living abroad for a few years, doing who knows what. I just know I’m never entering a cubicle. Most parents want some type of “tenure” for their children, something to make sure that they will make it and survive on their own. Tenure won’t leave you the option of winning a Pulitzer Prize, winning a National Championship, land you on the Ellen Show, or leave you to achieve greatness. The most important things you do that shape you in your life they’ll probably disagree with, but if that’s what tickles your fancy, do it. But this leads me to my next point…
  9. Don’t try to be great. If you try to hard to be something, it’s not going to come. It’s that simple. Don’t go into something trying to be great, go into something because you’re passionate about it and you’ll achieve what you want through that passion.
  10. It’s hard to keep in touch. It’s really hard to keep in touch with friends when you’re in college. Don’t expect to do so and spend as much time with them while you can.
  11. Be stupid. This continues on in college as well, but go out right before a test. Use your friend’s fake ID and go to a bar. Make memories. Before you know it, you’ll be too old to do these things and you’ll wish you did.
  12. That being said, don’t be an idiot. Don’t walk alone at night, don’t talk to strangers, don’t drink and drive etc. You’ve heard it all before.
  13. Stop researching. I don’t know about you, but I was a huge researcher. I stalked every sorority before I rushed, went on Rate My Professor so many times, and looked at so many Pinterest posts about college I could write a book. There’s nothing for you to really prepare for, so don’t sweat over which hamper you buy.
  14. Save more money. I had terrible spending habits in high school and I wish I was better now. When you don’t have your parents to give you money when you’re going to the movies, budgeting becomes essential and it’s what I am having to learn now.
  15. Get a crap-ton of school apparel. I don’t have that many items of school apparel that I can actually wear (cute and doesn’t have an advertisement on it). I look at other people’s cute outfits with envy as I wear the same outfit to every sporting event.
  16. Get a sports pass for your college. If your school has a popular sports team like mine, you’ll want to go to every game. If it’s available then get it, you won’t regret it!
  17. Stop wishing you were older. You’ll have plenty of time to be older, enjoy your teens.
  18. Stop caring what people think and just be you. It took me until my senior year of high school to finally come out my shell. Do you know how many more friends I made? Stop caring about what people think of you and just be yourself, people are much more attracted to people who are confident in themselves. Wouldn’t you rather be friends with someone that was sure of themselves? Be whoever you want to be, and own it 🙂

That is my advice for y’all and I hope you take it to heart. If you’re older then me, then I hope you agree with what I’m saying.

P.S. Comment below with any cities or locations you’d like me to do travel plans on! I got a huge response from the Patagonia post and would love to continue doing those! Thanks xoxo