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Fresh Food For Your Furbabies

Making my own dog food has been something I have been debating on doing for a long time!  My eyes were first opened to the many issues with Kibble and what we feed our pets when I adopted my dog Ziggy.  The rescue we adopted him from made me aware of how different dog foods were rated and I was stunned to find out the expensive food I was feeding my dogs was rated 2 stars!!  The owner of the rescue recommended never feeding your dog anything below 4 stars.  Something that was interesting to me in the beginning of my investigation into what we feed our pets, was that price and brand did not necessarily correlate with quality.  The website that I find these ratings at is Dog Food Advisor.  I highly suggest starting your journey here to make small changes initially with what your pet eats!  For those needing to stay on kibble and a healthy budget my recommendation is the Costco Kirkland Dog Food (earning 4 stars).

As my journey to learning more continued, I then became aware of the dangers of kibble through a great documentary called Pet Fooled on Amazon Prime.  Just like the human world of food myths and lies, what the pet industry tells us is best is not always the case – there are hidden agendas in marketing and advertising from well known brands we think are good for our furry friends!  After watching this documentary, I knew I had to make a change in my animals diets if I wanted them to live their healthiest lives.  My animals are my babies and they mean the world to me.  If I can do something to make their health better and life longer, why wouldn’t I try?

This led me to reading more about a fresh food diet on Bunnys Buddies Rescue website and ultimately decided to try The Farmers Dog fresh pet food because I did not think I was capable of cooking for my animals daily or weekly with my busy schedule.  At this time, I was back down to 1 dog and 1 cat, and so although The Farmers Dog is expensive, I could afford it for the two of them (yes, my cat Charlie was on it too and loved it)!  Now, I have 3 dogs and 1 cat who I love dearly and I have found it unreasonable to spend over $500 a month on food for them.  As much as I adore them, that is more than I spend on my own food monthly!!  This led me to finally make the jump into cooking for them.  The recipe I am using is a mix of what I wanted to do and what Bunny’s Buddies recommends on their blog How To Make Your Own Dog Food.  Please remember the size of your dog, health and activity levels play into how much they should have and what items they should specifically eat, so it is always best to consult with your veterinarian on your animals specific needs.

**Please remember, Grapes, Raisins, Xylitol are all food items that will kill your pet so never include anything like that in their diet.  Xylitol is found in many sugar free items (esp. Peanut Butter) so make sure to double check always!

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The recipe I am using for my dogs and cats is as follows:

3lbs Organic Turkey

1 Yellow Squash (organic if possible)

1 Zucchini (organic if possible)

2-3 large carrots

1-2 containers of organic beef bone broth from Trader Joes (Walmart and Amazon carry as well)

1 head of organic cauliflower

  1. This all goes into the crockpot on low for 6 hours.
  2. I start with meat then layer some veggies, bone broth, more meat, veggies, broth etc.
  3. When I serve them, I add rice and blueberries to the dogs portions and leave my cats portion as is from the crockpot.

 

 

Some thoughts I have on switching my animals from Kibble to fresh food:

  1. They love this food so much more (so much so they drive me insane until I feed them)
  2. Their allergies have cleared up and they rarely have flare ups
  3. I spend less money at the vet due to digestive issues being little to none, very few allergy flare ups, and an overall stronger immune system.
  4. They do have worse breath and I think it is because they are not eating hard food to break away plaque (my only criticism).  I am learning new ways to improve their breath and overall mouth health and am finding that yearly cleanings, brushing their teeth, and giving them hard chews or dental chews helps!  Any recommendations in this area are welcomed.

Overall, this change from kibble to fresh food over the last year has been more positive than not!  Now that I am cooking for them, I feel foolish for thinking it was so time consuming.  If you can set aside 30 min a few times a week and have a crockpot it is truly  worth the little effort.  Your dog, your wallet and your heart will thank you, hopefully maximizing the time you have with your cherished furry friends.

Quarantine or I’m going Crazy(tine)

The end of the world or so we think….

As I sit here writing this, I know I am not the only going WTF, and that is what prompted this post.

I think we can all agree (regardless of age or any type of demographic) that we would never see days like this in our life.  Is this exaggerated?  What’s to come?  What does tomorrow look like?  Can I even make the spaghetti I want for tonight if I can’t get the necessary supplies (yes that would be noodles and prego sauce LOL)?  What will I do for 2 weeks in my apartment without a gym? I can’t go shopping? Don’t even get me started about the BARS!  And what about being with the same people everyday all day? OH BOY! 

These are just a few of the questions and concerns running through my brain, the list goes on and on.

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I feel very blessed that I have a job that will continue to pay me even through these weird times and I am grateful for technology keeping me busy working remote daily.  Everyone is not so lucky though… just a month ago I was working at a restaurant as a server and now that restaurant is shut down until at least March 31.  So many of my friends are in the boat that I am lucky to have just missed.

Regardless of your situation, whether you are like me and have an income still or you may have hit the lowest of lows – remember this:  What is happening today is out of our control, what happens tomorrow is also out of our control, but what is in our control is how we respond to what’s happening now and how we choose to live each day.

We are all going to have challenges during this time regardless of each individuals circumstance. Today, I thought I was going to lose my mind every time my dog chewed on his annoying squeaky ball and also every time my cat meowed at me to refill his bowl with more food…. doesn’t he know theres a shortage on cat food?!  By the way, homeboy is eating very well, he is just taking advantage of mom being home all day and thinks I will give into his sly ways.  As I was on the verge on becoming more frustrated than I should have been, I decided to flip the switch and be grateful that I have a beautiful dog that is still playful, a cat that wants to bug me because he knows I am his mom, and a job that constantly keeps me busy through every ping of an email and buzz of the phone. I realize my frustrations are much less than many people right now, but I am trying to illustrate the humor and how I am usually not dealing with these nuances.

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Everything in life is about perspective.  We are so blessed that usually, on any given day, we have access to every type of food we can think of, many activities, and the ability to work in a job that we enjoy and can make money at.  Let’s all remember to stay positive during these weird and unpredictable times, I know it won’t be easy, UNPREDICTABLE is my least favorite word, quality and action.  Usually thats in reference to men… but hey another reason to be grateful – you could say my hinge and bumble dating are most definitely on hold for a bit!  TIME TO FOCUS ON ME.

Time to enjoy ourselves and connect with our souls on a deeper level, time to figure out how we as humans can do something for someone else and make another persons day better.  Time to bust out your favorite DIY project or something you’ve complained about not having the time to do for months.  Time to make those phone calls that you haven’t had the time to make and repair relationships that have taken a back seat due to our busy world we live in.

I think after writing all of this, it is really to reassure and affirm to myself that it is all going to be okay and to do what my mom and dad have always said – and that is look at the glass half full.  I can’t help but to think that through every tragedy and tough time, that there is a silver lining to it all.  I hope you all stay positive, find the silver lining in this situation for yourself and believe that we will all come out of these lonely times better people ready to change the world.

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In the meantime, if anyone needs a book to read, I have hundreds…amazon is still delivering as well and audible is great too!  YouTube has amazing self-guided meditations that have left me feeling so light and happy and ready to conquer the world.  Lastly, maybe it’s time to spring clean your closet and donate some clothes to the less fortunate.  I have seen a lot of homeless people on Bristol Street in Costa Mesa who are freezing and maybe they need someone to install some hope and drop off a jacket or blankets (happy to do this if anyone has extras lying around).

Youtube Self Guided Meditation – Positivity

P.S. maybe now is a great time to make a list of goals and dreams for the rest of 2020.  There is nothing that gives me better vibes than thinking about all the beautiful things that are to come.

My After Quarantine Bucket List for 2020

  1. Make it to Cabo to be a bridesmaid in one of my best friends weddings ❤ 
  2. Celebrate another besties bachelorette in Mykonos 
  3. Spend more time with my 2 best friends Liz and Steven…regardless of where we are in the world
  4. Attend another besties wedding in Tuscany
  5. Travel to Bali for the first time 
  6. Go back to Thailand
  7. Continue to grow in my travel business as well as recruiting
  8. Spend all the time I can with my pup Bear and maybe add one more to the fam 😉

xoxo

Christy 

The Real Cuba

Cuba. A place that a lot of us truly no nothing about. A forbidden place. A place rich in history that’s been skimmed over in school over the years.

 

When you think of Cuba, what comes to mind? And why?

 

When I was getting ready for my trip, I lost count of the number of people who told me they were concerned for my safety and thought it was a bad idea to be going. I didn’t exactly know why other than that people didn’t know much about this place making it a grey area. I knew nothing about this destination other than something with the Cold War, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and that America was not cool with Cuba and us going there.

So there’s that version of Cuba we all think we know and then there is the real Cuba – and let me tell you the two could not be farther apart.

 

Cuba marks my 37th country visited. I’ll also go as far as saying that it is the second safest country I have ever been in. Thailand coming in first. I have not once felt unsafe or that I had to continuously look over my shoulder. I felt quite the opposite. Any time I felt lost or needed a recommendation or help, someone was always lending out a hand. We definitely stuck out like sore thumbs, being the only blonde women in the city and that still did not bring negative energy or attention our way. The people could not have been nicer, always asking where we were from, always smiling and telling us how Bonita we were 😊

Some of my favorite trips are ones that surprise me and the ones that are stuck on my mind for a long time. This is one of those trips. We are so blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to create, say and do what we want without having to give away 90% of that to the Government at an unfair and low cost. I can sit on this beach in Vadadero, Cuba, typing this out and know that I will be able to eat dinner tonight for a whole 10 cuc (roughly $10 US) at the nicest restaurant here and that I can take a shower tomorrow.

In Cuba, most people make between $20-$40 a month. Yes. A month. Everything around them though does not reflect that income. Restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels are not for them, it’s for the tourists, the government or the few rich. That was the strangest thing to me, I think. To go to a bar and you wouldn’t be interacting with the actual majority of people in Cuba.

 

As scary as it was to go off the grid we did. We only got WiFi every few days for about 15 minutes or so and that was lucky! The people of Cuba, just recently got access to WiFi but they cant even truly afford it, so I suppose it made sense that it wasn’t readily available. I finally had to cave and pay $2.99 a minute to let my mom know I was safe!

I am proud to say we really got to see the real Cuba… staying in Airbnb’s that had nicer amenities than an actual Cubans place but still nothing like we have at home. We saw a typical Cubans home, visited a ration store, a local supermarket, a coffee shop, rode in cars from the 50’s… maybe even older. We visited a tobacco farm that makes organic cigars and also makes their own rum and coffee beans. We walked the streets and interacted with the most amazing locals. We saw so much of Havana, Viñales and Varadero.

There were times I felt homesick and i didn’t recognize anything around me. There is no such thing as fast food. No such thing as a bag of chips. No American brands. No seat belts! This trip was not for the amateur traveler and even after all of the places I’ve been, there was nothing that could have prepared me fully for this experience.

With that being said, I would seriously encourage everyone to think about expanding their horizons if possible and taking the road less traveled to understand the world, different cultures and people more. It doesn’t even have to be Cuba, it could be taking a drive to an underprivileged neighborhood in your own county or making a detour on a trip anywhere. We are so lucky to live the way we do and I feel blessed to have gone on such a life changing trip with great people who appreciated all of these things as well.

Any questions or help with planning this destination or any others -do not hesitate to reach out!

As i lay under the stars at Nizuc resort in Cancun on the last night of my trip right now, I feel like a lucky lady for this experience- also definitely not going to take my comfy bed and down pillow and air conditioning for granted tonight …. or that nice roll of toilet paper in our bathroom that doesn’t have cockroaches 😂 yes it happened… yes at 3 am and yes while I was looking for toilet paper and shined my iPhone flashlight to find it. You could say I woke the whole neighborhood up with my screams.

 

Long live the adventure and all we have to be grateful for

 

Xoxo

 

Christy

P.S. for those who were worried.. I made it out alive, just a few rashes, some purple hair, and the desire to take all the dogs and cats home. Nothing unusual for this chica!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to Me – My Journey to Finding Self-Love After Heartbreak

After losing who I thought was the love of my life back in October and as if going through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and my birthday alone were not enough, here we are on the most dreaded day of the year- Valentine’s Day.  My first Valentine’s Day being single in 4 years and my first one after a major heartbreak.

After giving this some good thought and anticipating the dread surrounding this day, I originally thought I should just stay ultra busy, so I picked up a double hoping it would take my mind off of my lack of a love life, and at the very least I could pray on all the hopeless romantics out there and make some good tip money!

As time continued to progress though, I really started to think about how my life had evolved from being ready to get married and have kids and being so in love to where I am now.  To the outside looking in, I am a single woman, borderline crazy with 2 dogs and a cat and probably look like I drink too much via Instagram.  Now all of that is not completely inaccurate…because much of that is true and got me to where I am now.

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Me writing about all of this is not me professing to have anything figured out as I know I am far from that, but it is me being vulnerable and open about my journey to loving myself more than I knew possible 4 months ago, and also me admitting many of my faults along the way and the long journey still ahead of this moment in time.

When I think back to the first Valentine’s day I can remember, I think of Ms. Mazzaros 5th grade class at Wagon Wheel Elementary.  Oh young love!  Now back in the day this was one of my favorite holidays…partially because I am that weirdo who likes SweetHearts and I also loved the attention from all my classmates who would put cute little store bought themed valentines in my decorated shoebox on my desk.  If you ask me that should still be a thing.  Not much has changed since those days except that the SweetHearts go straight to my ass and believe it or not I crave attention even more than I did then.  They were doing something right back then though… everyone was required to bring enough Valentine cards for every single classmate.  Now that’s spreading the love!  After an eventful day at school, I loved coming home because my parents made Valentine’s Day a holiday that we all spent together, either having dinner at home with heart shaped cookies or going out for the evening, so imagine my surprise when I grew up and life wasn’t quite like that.

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I think as a millennial we have this weird concept of love.  We either don’t put enough emphasis on it or we put all of our eggs into one basket of love surrounding just one person.  We either throw “I love you” out to every person we speak to or we pour all of the love we are capable of into one person (usually a significant other).  By the way… GUILTY.  I am the queen of telling every single person I love them because I do in some way and our society is so used to overusing this phrase, but I was also the person who made my significant other my entire life because I thought that is what you are supposed to do when you find “the one”.  Having “the one” taken from me out of the blue left me feeling unloved and like I lost all the love I was ever capable of receiving and giving.  Boy, was I wrong.  I have received and given more love in the last few months than I even knew possible.  I found a love greater than anything I had ever experienced in my friends, my family, my animals, coworkers, and complete strangers.  Redirecting my focus of love opened my eyes to all the other places it could be found and the most surprising place was in myself.

After spending too much time feeling bad for myself, asking myself why constantly, starving myself because it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as my heart, and crying at everything, I finally realized that this was no way to live.  The longer you feel sorry for yourself, the longer you stay in the deepest holes of life.  A major turning point for me was when all of my girlfriends flew out for my birthday to make sure I felt more love on that day than on any other birthday I had ever had.  Mission accomplished.  How could so many people put their problems and heartaches aside so that I could feel so much love and happiness?  They reminded me of the badass chica that I am and that anyone who gets to have Christy in their life is lucky.

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After letting someone dictate the way I felt about myself for years, this was the first time that I decided only I would be the person to dictate how I felt about me.  And for all those years, that person never even made me feel bad about myself, but without him I didn’t feel validated in who I was and when he disappeared from my life, it left a hole and lack of sensing who I was and how great I was.

So, how did I go from the lowest of lows to being in a place where I am finally comfortable and see my greatness and all the potential ahead?  I started with remembering how to do things for myself…simple things like the dishes, laundry, working out and walking the dogs.  It was amazing how taking control over the most basic things in life made me feel so productive and in turn made me realize I was starting to gain control of my life again.  That then turned into reminding myself on sad days what I was grateful for.  Some days it was things as simple as getting out of bed and going for a walk, other days it was for my motivation to kill it at everything I could do, and on others it was family, the dogs, and a walk to the beach.  It’s funny, when you start thinking about everything you do have instead of what is lacking and you realize so quickly how lucky you really are.  My best friend Liz was just telling me how her mom always says, if we all wrote down our problems on a piece of paper and threw it into a pile, that we would hope to God we would get our own piece of paper.  Ain’t that the truth!!  Now my list of grateful is way out of control and I could go on for days!!

I think for a lot of people the idea of control really messes with their self-love and healing.  I am an absolute control freak and to gain control of my life again, I had to contradict myself and give up the idea that I can control anyone or anything.  Once I did that a weight was literally lifted off of me.  Of course I was being driven crazy over trying to control the outcome of things that were impossible to control.  If I could’ve controlled everything I wanted, I wouldn’t be writing this right now and I’d probably be back 4 months ago.

Moral of my crazy Valentine’s Day rant… love should be celebrated everyday not just this day and you should celebrate it amongst all the people who show you love, not just a significant other.  Start today by thanking Mother Earth and the Heavens for yourself and your beautifully out of control life and tell yourself that YOU love YOU.  Whether you are in a loving relationship with a significant other or not, remember that there are so many people who love you in your life, not just the one who gives you flowers, chocolates and teddy bears.  Most importantly, remember how wonderful you are and acknowledge all the love you have for yourself because you are you, and that is amazing.  Today is about love and I encourage all of you to think of all the people who you love and tell them, including yourself- you never know who may be feeling extra lonely and need to hear it 🙂

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I hope you all realize that everyone around you has been through some stuff, the good, the bad, the ugly.  Healing from the craziness of life starts from within and can’t be done until you are ready, but it is aided with the amazing people in your life who support you always.

Thank you to all the people who have come through my life and reminded me of the rad person I am and am continuing to work at.  You all make me smile and appreciate life so much more than I ever have.  Happy Valentine’s Day Lovers and go do something sweet for someone today!

 

Xoxo

 

Christy

 

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Two Days in Hurricane Krabi – (Pronounced Kerr-ah-b) but for this case (Crabby)

After having the most magical and busy 4 days in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, my travel partner Liz and I were beyond excited to have some r and r in our next spot – Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand. After having quite the weird morning ( I now realize this was just foreshadowing what was to come) our wheels hit land at the Krabi airport. At this point we didn’t realize you can’t get to East Railay Beach by car and that it required a taxi to a longtail and a short walk. After finally coming  to this conclusion with our Grab driver we were dropped at a pier and proceeded to get on a longtail to take us to Railay.  Now being me and knowing I’d be traveling to far off lands for 3 weeks with all sorts of weather, I brought a giant 50 pound pink bag with me and was pleasantly surprised how easy it had been to haul around… until now. After giving my 2 other bags to Liz, I proceeded to walk down a wood ramp measuring 1 ft wide by 3 feet long with my pink friend. Convinced I was going to trip and either lose the pink friend or me (not sure what would’ve been worse)- I made it to the longtail and off we went! It started to sprinkle on the longtail but we remarked how lovely and refreshing it was, not knowing this was to get 100 times worse throughout the next few hours.  

After checking into our lovely resort – Bhu Nga Thani Resort and Spa, Liz and I went to the pool while we waited for our room to get ready. We sipped on the most delicious piña coladas at the swim up bar and we’re taking in all the views of East Railay. That’s when it started to rain again. Our hotel suddenly had a room available to us and so we went up and got situated. Side note to this story: if you are ever in Krabi (Railay Beach) the Bhu Nga is amazing and so cheap!! We were so happy to have this be our resort given the weather and craziness. 

Continuing on, we had a nice big lunch… a massive Cheeseburger and fries (not knowing that was our last supper for the day.. also this cheeseburger comes in handy later). Upon getting back to the room it started to pour rain and it was so windy. We decided to take a nap given we had been up since 4 am to catch our flight and we hoped by the time we woke up we could escape the rain.  That never happened. In fact, the rain just kept getting worse and worse and we lost power multiple times throughout the afternoon and evening. Fast forward 16 hours later and we were still in the room and it was the next morning. Since we had each slept 12 hours we figured why not start the day early and we hit the breakfast buffet at 6:30 am when they opened. After that we walked to West Railay Beach and admired the beautiful beach and cliffs and scoped out some cute restaurants and shops for our days adventure. After that we headed back to the hotel to change into our swimsuits and get going. As we were walking out our door to head back to the beach… it started raining. Again! So we proceeded to watch The Staircase on Netflix for a solid 3 episodes until it stopped raining and then we moved very swift to the pool to test out the weather. After having a nice swim and laying out we were convinced we could beat the rain and we decided to head back to West Railay.

As were were approaching and approximately 100 feet from the sand the hurricane started again! We took cover at a nearby restaurant hoping to wait the storm out but it seemed to be getting worse by the minutes with table cloths flying, center pieces moving, tarps flapping and flying out of control. We decided to make a run for it (a long run) back to East Railay. It was a crazy adventure getting back and so wet and wild that rain soaked through my rain jacket!! On the home stretch of our travels back the wind picked up so strong I thought I was gonna blow away… this is where I was thanking god I ate that massive cheeseburger yesterday as I believe it was the only thing anchoring me to the earth at that time. For Liz it was the chicken sandwich. If you know Liz you are not surprised.

Anyways, I am writing this back in the comfort of our beautiful room where we have lost power twice since returning. Given we have not ate much today and the fact we have a massage in 4 hours- I am hoping this clears up soon! Until then…some more Netflix and watching this hurricane play out from a nice dry place 😊

How I Chose Happiness Over Expectation

How I Chose Happiness Over Expectation
As I’m writing this I’m getting ready to go on my next epic adventure to Southeast Asia for 3 weeks and I’m also thinking to myself how ridiculous the title of this is…this shouldn’t  even have to be a choice and why isn’t happiness the answer always?!
I know depending on where you live or how you were raised, the expectations set forth for you once upon a time we’re probably different from the ones that I had, but at the end of the day we all have them. Expectations are not a bad thing but I now prefer to call them goals and I plan to integrate them with my lifelong happiness.
I grew up in a well to do family in a small suburb of Orange County, CA.  It was an absolute bubble and I know those who grew up around me had very similar experiences. My parents to this day want me to be happy no matter what, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t encourage me to go down a lot of other paths.  Bad grades were never an option, lazy was not a thing- from when I can remember I’ve always been doing things to put myself in a favorable position with school, sports, friends, family, college, work and a career.  I’m so thankful for this and wouldn’t change my experience for anything because I know it was ultimately my path and the choices I’ve made have been because it’s what I truly want and what I choose, not what my last resort or only option was.  I know I can be whatever I want and I know I have the values instilled in me to achieve big things.  Where I’ve been wrong for so long is that achieving big things doesn’t always equal being a Fortune 500 CEO or making a ton of money or getting promoted year after year.  Achieving big things to me now means waking up more days than not happy with my life, who I am, what I’m doing and those I have around me.
So, how did I get to this point and moment- well it took doing many of the things I just said don’t equal happiness to realize I wasn’t fufilled.  After graduating on the fast track in 3 years from college, I eventually got a job in account management with an insurance broker.  I was making $38,000, working my tush off and I had the goal of eventually working my way into sales since that’s where the money and fun was.  I was immediately miserable and kept trying to tell myself it would get better as time passed. Thankfully I met some amazing friends and people at this job, but when I still hated every single minute of being there even with awesome people, I realized I needed a change.  Because of the way I was raised, needing a change meant I needed A. To find a new and better job or B. Get that promotion into sales.  It was becoming humorous how many failures I had in both of those things or how not right everything felt while trying to work towards both of those things.  I couldn’t get a break and was depressed and didn’t know how this could be so many people’s daily lives.  I sat tight for a while constantly thinking of how to better my situation, even doodling at my desk daily about the things I was good at, things I was passionate about, and how I could make a change based on that.
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Fast forward a few months and I took a trip to Costa Rica in June of 2016 and had taken some time unpaid just so I could have some peace and no work for 10 days as well as celebrate my boyfriends birthday.  As I was packing for this trip, I found a book my mom had bought for me when I graduated college 2 years prior.  The book is called I Just Graduated … Now What? Honest Answers from Those Who Have Been There by Katherine Schwarzenegger.  It seemed like a fun and easy read and given the situation I was in with work and life, I thought it definitely couldn’t hurt to read.  As I began reading this book on my 6 hour flight into Liberia, Costa Rica my world was rocked.  I took away 3 very important messages-
     1. Nobody has it figured out when they’re 23 and a lot of these famous and successful people I was reading about a lot of times were well into their 30s before making it big
     2. A lot of these amazing people had quite a few no’s and big failures that pushed and led them to their successes eventually
     3. Neve give up on your happiness and dreams.
I don’t know why it took reading a book to believe 100% in all these things, but for me it sealed the deal and gave me the confidence to change course in my life and start living for me and my happiness!
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As soon as I got back from Costa Rica, I applied to school for my masters in fashion and applied as a server where I work currently.  As soon as I got into school and was hired at my job, I put my 2 weeks in and that was that.  In such a short time and so effortlessly and seamlessly I had a “new” life and pulled myself out of the depressive and down state I was in.  From there the rest is history- I am still working towards my masters… the funny thing is I’m not sure I’ll ever even use it, but, it did buy me some time and freedom to explore so many options, meet so many people and continue to grow and find my way. I am still working as a server and every chance I get I’m taking a trip somewhere and planning my next few.  At this moment I am living in such a happy place and that is because what I do and how I do it is for me. I know my story may not be the answer for everyone but I do hope it encourages you to make a change if you’re in a rut.  There are so many expectations set forth for us in society and to go against the norm and be unconventional is so scary… and leaves a road ahead that is unplanned with a covered and unclear path.  That path though, can be so beautiful and lead to so much happiness.
Final thought: DO YOU!  Let the expectations go and set goals that will put you first in a place of happiness. PURA VIDA.
“Some people believe that holding on and hanging in there are signs of strength.  However, there are times in life in which it takes much more strength to just let go.” – Pinterest
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Planning the Ultimate Euro Trip

Planning the Ultimate Euro Trip

Last summer, I went on the trip of a lifetime to Europe.  I began planning this trip in October 2016 and left for my two-month adventure across the pond on July 3, 2017.  As much as I love being spontaneous, I knew I had to have almost everything planned in advance to —

  1. Be able to afford being on the road for 2 months
  2. Be able to see as much as possible in that time
  3. Be able to enjoy every leg of the trip without the last minute stresses of thinking about lodging and transportation.

So how did I do this?  I will break it down by categories to ensure you can get through the long hours of trip planning as smoothly as possible.

Creating a Timeline and Itinerary:

When I am planning a trip the first two things I decide are how long I am going for (of course after taking into consideration my budget and work situation) and where I am going to go in that amount of time.  My favorite way to decide where I am going is to look at a map of the continent I am going to and start planning a route that makes sense.  Along with this comes making sure these areas are accessible by some form of transportation… and as much as you would think they are, I definitely found myself amazed at the routes I took.  There were planes, trains, boats, rental cars, ferries, buses and cable cars!

Once your locations are decided, I like to do research on which major airports are the cheapest to fly in and out of and then I book my flights and set my itinerary with pretty locked in dates!  Doing this makes it very easy to book other transportation and accommodations when I find what I am looking for.  Here’s what my itinerary looked like!

Los Angeles, CA –London, England

London –Dublin, Ireland

Dublin –Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos –Athens, Greece

Athens –Santorini, Greece

Santorini –Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor –Sicily, Italy

Sicily –Naples, Italy

Naples –Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona –Rome, Italy

Rome –Basel (Murren), Switzerland

Murren –Munich, Germany

Munich –Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg –Lake Hallstatt, Austria

Lake Hallstatt –Vienna, Austria

Vienna –Prague, Czech Republic

Prague –Berlin, Germany

Berlin –Paris, France

Paris –Brussels, Belgium

Brussels –Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam –Los Angeles, CA

Booking Flights & Transportation

I feel like I have become a flight connoisseur over the years as I am very picky and don’t do well on long flights.  I probably spend way too much time studying prices and cities and options, but I always get a great deal!

For the initial big flights – my favorite applications and sites to work with are Hopper, SkyScanner and Expedia.  Hopper is where I initially start and I plug in my dates and look at a year overview to see when the cheapest time to go is.  I then set an alert to keep me posted when flights are low.  I have never officially booked through Hopper because they only show roundtrip prices and I usually always do a multi city trip.  I also like to book through the airlines site to get points and miles or on Expedia for convenience and the best prices.  Once I have an idea of some great dates, I move my search to SkyScanner.com and filter out the airlines I prefer not to fly.  From there I keep an eye on things for a few weeks to a month.  Using this method, I always get a great price with good airlines and travel times.

For Domestic Transportation – depending on the continent you are on there are a variety of options when it comes to traveling.  Since this post involves planning an epic Euro Trip, I will stick to what I used for Europe.

*Flights: EasyJet, SkyScanner, Vueling and Expedia

*Busses: FlixBus, RegioJet

*Trains: RailEurope or specific countries rail website (ex: SBB for Switzerland)

Booking Accommodations

I think the biggest decision I always have to make when it comes to accommodations is whether I am going to stay in a hotel, Airbnb, or hostel.  For Europe, these three are all great options and depend a lot on budget and preferences.  All three of these options can be found in great locations (my #1 requirement) and at all different price points.

Hotel

Pros: Concierge, Maid Service, easy to get to and find, ample payment options for international guests, security, in room safe, privacy, overall an easy experience, amenities such as restaurants, gym, pool etc.

Cons: More expensive, no kitchen or fridge

Airbnb

Pros: Kitchen/fridge/cooking facilities, larger groups (esp. in Europe), more space, interaction with host and locals, affordable, can experience city like a local, laundry machine

Cons: No elevators and usually many stairs in Europe, no maid service, often no air conditioning, less security, can be difficult to find, and no extras or amenities

Hostel

Pros: Budget friendly, very social, great place to meet people, fun, in great locations, events and a lot to do

Cons: No room locks, shared bathrooms, can be dirty, loud, shared rooms, lack of privacy, no maid service

I think a great way to evaluate which option is best for you is to consider your budget, who you are traveling with, your preferences and non-negotiables, and lastly how long you will be in that destination and what you want to accomplish while there.  For my style of travel, I usually travel with my significant other and we are usually on the move frequently.  Because of that, we prefer hotels and Airbnb so that we have more privacy and security while still being in a great location.  I think for more long term stays Airbnb is fantastic and a great value since it gives you the options to cook and do laundry throughout your stay.

Recommendations

  1. Book through the same site to collect points and stay well organized (I use hotels.com or Agoda)
  2. Pay in advance if possible to save some money
  3. Location is everything – you will ultimately have a better experience staying in a great location and can save time and money on transportation if you can walk
  4. Many a times our accommodations are just where we lie our head, so it is not always worth splurging on a 4/5 star place – sometimes it is but not always!

Activities

I don’t like to over plan before I even get to where I am going.  This is the one area I leave to spontaneity that way I can enjoy the moment and take in recommendations as I go.  On this particular trip, I had an idea of certain things I wanted to see in each place and I did book a few tours and excursions that had great reviews.  The rest I left to when I got there and I am so glad I did it that way.  I think a good rule of thumb to follow is plan one or two things and have an idea of what else you want to do with an open mind in case other opportunities present themselves.  For the things I do book in advance, I like to use Viator.com.  It is always best to do some research on each location and find out what things need to be booked in advance and what can wait to arriving.

What to Book in Advance

  1. Eiffel Tower in Paris (multiple months in advance)
  2. Cliffs of Moher (in high season a few weeks to a month in advance)
  3. Santorini tours
  4. Naples (Capri and Pompeii tours)

Overall Recommendations

  1. Start Booking things in advance and as soon as possible
  2. Pay for hotels and pre-booked excursions as you book to avoid a bigger cost all at once on your trip
  3. Qapital is my favorite saving app to set travel goals on
  4. TripIt app/website is amazing to stay organized
  5. Pack lighter than you think – you can always shop while there J
  6. Watch prices on everything for a few weeks if they seem high, you will get an idea of the going rate for comparable things and know a good deal when you see it
  7. Over budget
  8. Ask for the locals recommendations, you will not be disappointed!! (Flight attendants, hosts, hotels, coffee baristas, servers, bartenders etc.)
  9. Research basic things for each country you go to – it is always great to be able to say “hi”, “bye”, “please” and “thank you” in their language as well as know tipping customs and the cultural customs of where you are along with the conversion rate and how to pay.
  10. No matter where you go in the world, safest country or not, always be alert and watch your surroundings!

This is my first blog post and I am still trying to find a flow for what you all want to know and how I can help you in your travel journey and adventures.  Please post any questions for me to get more specific and dive into a topic or email me for help in planning your next adventure!