PCH Road Trip: Seattle to San Diego

The Pacific Coast Highway, commonly known as the PCH, is a stretch of road that covers 656 miles along the Pacific Ocean.

And I want to drive that sucker from top to bottom.

A simple text from a friend ignited this specific trip planning. She merely said she wanted to travel somewhere together, but I got so excited at the thought of planning a vacay, I go into hypermode.

Immediately my mind is racing, “What can we do that is Covid Kosher?

Rooooad trip! Road trips are totally Covid Kosher, and if we travel somewhere that has consistently great weather, we have the option to camp (or glamp) to further minimize our impact.

Driving wise, I immediately think of the PCH.

I truly adore the West Coast. My first taste was a work trip to Seattle that lasted nearly three weeks, and I drank it all in. Mt. Rainier stole my heart, the Pacific Northwest Pine Trees gave every other tree I’ve ever seen in my life a run for their money. I was hooked and could easily see myself bouncing from NYC and shipping over to Seattle for a few years.

Then a few more work trips over the last few years have sent me to LA, Santa Monica, Malibu, & Santa Barbara causing me to get even more hooked on the West Coast. Basking in the beachy vibes, the views, but most importantly – the PCH drives through Malibu. Holy crap were these drives nothing short of enchanting. I often had a hard time focusing on the road and found myself distracted by the mountains to one side and the ocean to the other. It felt surreal, just to consistently be driving by such iconic views.

So in sorting out what made sense for this road trip, I took what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned from additional work-related research, and boom – the below locations were decided.

PRO TIP: make this trip international by making your start Vancouver and your end Baja

. . .

Now, here is where things get a bit different with this article. I’m not going to breakdown my personal plans for each city and give you insight on my research, blah, blah, blah. No, I’m going to ask you to come with me on this journey.

Whether it be metaphorically, or physically – I want you, curious reader, to help me plan out this trip.

I’ve started an excel document which you have full access to in order to make this a shared process. I encourage you to add in some links to must see spots in the cities we’re visiting – whether it’s tourist traps, hiking trails, cool shops, great bars, or hole in the wall restaurants… drop those links in! Maybe add in suggestions that some cities deserve a longer visit… it’s up to you!

You might be wondering, “Why would I meddle with her travel documents?” Guys, I have an original copy with my intended plans, but I want your recs too! Maybe this is the first step in your very own PCH road trip with friends or family and this can be a resource you guys use 😉

Click here to go to excel

**excel tip: in order to stay in the same box, but get text to drop (list like formatting) hit ALT+ENTER and it will start a new line within the same cell (best for if you want to add any notes to your recs)

Click here to go to google maps

I Made a Vision Board for 2021: Part One

Let me be the first to say that I am a natural pessimist, an anxiety-ridden, serial depressive who is an enneagram 6. I’m not one for religion, overly positive mantras or crystals, but I’m willing to try just about anything at least once if it’ll improve my mental health and life. Like many others, 2020 was a rough year mentally, physically and emotionally. Fresh off the hell that was Q4 2019 (see How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart for further understanding), 2020 was doomed from the start. It was to be a year of transition, a metamorphosis if you will. 

When 2020 started, I was at my heaviest – emotionally, physically and mentally – and the most uncomfortable in my own skin. Each day was a trial, presenting countless obstacles for my personal and professional life. However, through all of the changes and adjustments, one thing prevailed: I suddenly had time. More time than I knew what to do with. 

I began having to confront things that I’d been able to push away thanks to being busy at work or by spending time with friends. I discovered pieces of myself that I wasn’t a huge fan of and wanted to change that. Serendipitously, 2020 became the year of realization and inner growth. Now, I won’t be one of those bloggers or influencers that vomit positivity and about how great 2020 was. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 SUCKED. But through the darkness, we can find light. That’s why I wanted to make a vision board for 2021.


What is a vision board?

A vision board, sometimes referred to as a dream board, is a physical way to manifest what you want. It’s a visualization tool used to manifest or ‘visualize’ what dreams or ideas you want to project into the universe. Personally, I’m not into all that touchy-feely stuff, but again, anything is worth a try at least once. This year, I’ve learned that there is no bigger obstacle than myself. I am what creates (and thus destroys) my own happiness. I am the only one who controls that. 

What is included in a vision board?

It can be anything you want. There are a few different ways to go about building a vision board, so truly there is no wrong answer. I made two – one for general ideation (completed) and one for specific goals (in progress). I included quotes, reminders, photos, souvenirs, small tokens/gifts and stickers. Besides the cork board itself, I only purchased one magazine to cut up – otherwise everything else was just stuff I had lying around my house. This does not have to be an expensive project – but it will require some time and thought. 

How does it work?

Vision boards serve as a physical reminder for what you’re wanting to achieve. Seeing it everyday will help keep your goals or ideas at the forefront of your mind as you progress through the weeks and months. It can help to motivate you in a passive way. Rather than an obnoxious alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder, you can be met with a peaceful, self-created image that hangs on your wall as a friendly notice.


Here’s my vision board, broken into four segments: travel, healing, growth, reminders.

Top Left  – Travel 

Each year, except 2020, I plan a trip abroad. I love to travel and to help visualize that, I’ve included a photo of the airplane when I visited Scotland, a luggage tag from France in 2011, a polaroid from the condo in Marco Island and a few travel themed stickers. I hope to travel, whether a big or small trip, and remember how lucky I am to be able to do that.

Top Right – Growth

Midway through 2020, I was invited to join a personal and professional growth program through my company. I was hesitant at first, feeling that I was already at a transitional point in my life, but decided, ‘why not?’. I had nothing to lose, but so much to gain. I’ve included two acronyms to remember daily: one from the work program (S.N.A.P.) and one from the Emotional Detox book by Sherianna Boyle, MED, CAGS (C.L.E.A.N.S.E.)

Bottom Left – Healing

As mentioned in How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart, 2019 was a shitstorm before 2020 dreamed of it. I’ve included a dream catcher from a Lakota reservation that my grandmother gifted to me, a postcard from Annecy, a fortune cookie and quotes. This section will serve as a reminder that healing is a priority throughout this year – even when it doesn’t always feel good.

Bottom Right: Reminders

The bottom right has no true theme, but just gentle reminders. The moon cycle is a reminder that everything will pass and change. The polaroid is a reminder to get out every once in a while, embrace nature and the relationships that I’ve cultivated over the last year. Lastly, the patch, simple and straightforward –  have a nice day. 

Stay tuned for part two: goals!

It’s OK To Be SAD

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as Seasonal Depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. For most people, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often do people experience SAD in the warmer months, but it still happens!

Fall and Winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and Summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

The Mayo Clinic also firmly encourages, “Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own.”

It’s always startling to me how controversial therapy is. Over the years I’ve heard so many people say, “No, therapy is not for me. Tried it once and nope.” or the quip of, “I don’t need therapy” or even therapy being labeled as liberal poppycock is another quip that has the eyes rolling to the back of my head.

I have a very firm belief that anyone who hates therapy simply hasn’t had a good therapist. It’s so important to find the right therapist for you, therapist shopping is a thing! A sucky tiresome thing, I’ve learned in my adult life, but necessary.

The concept of therapy has never been taboo for me, it’s always been a common party of life and conversation – talking about going to see a therapist is as casual as talking about a trip to the mall, or a more accurate comparison is saying you’re going to the doctor for just a checkup to make sure all the parts are running the way they should.

I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was seven or eight years old. My mom had started seeing Suzie shortly after my parents divorced, but my sister and I weren’t brought in for a family session until a few years into my mom’s therapy journey. After one visit with Suzie, we began yearly visits until sometime in high school when it became abundantly clear I wasn’t doing ok and needed more frequent visits. Essentially, I have a habit of bottling up emotions and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I hate sharing or opening up, because I feel my problems are mine alone to bear, I don’t want to put them on anyone else.

But talking with Suzie became a such an outlet, and I will say – it was an incredible bonus that she was regularly seeing my mom, my sister, and even some other family members. This meant I never had to do a lot of the background family deep dive you usually do with a therapist – she already knew the deep rooted family problems and how they trickled into my psyche. Every visit with her was always this much needed cathartic release of emotion I had kept tightly sealed… she’s a blessing, honestly.

As I got older, moved away for school and what not, I still would hit a point about once a year where I’d be like, “DRIVING UP TO ANDERSON BECAUSE I NEED SUZIE!”

It took probably the second year of me only coming to see her in the dead of winter where she’s like, “Emily, I’m pretty sure you have seasonal depression.”

I was quick to respond, “No, no – I’m sad year round remember?

But she explained it, that yes overall I struggled with mental health, but my lowest points where I seem to be unable to take it anymore happen the same time every year – nearly without fail.

I still had a hard time agreeing with her, mainly because winter is my favorite time of the year, I love Christmas, I adore the snow (I swear I can smell it coming several hours before it actually snows), and I just love the coziness… there’s no way my favorite season would betray me so much. I couldn’t accept it.

But, she was right – it wasn’t really up to me to dispute the facts.

She also let me know that Indiana has some of the highest seasonal depression rates in the country, ranking number 3 overall!

Indiana 3rd in Google searches for seasonal depression | News Sun |  kpcnews.com
Source: KPCNews

Above is an image detailing states with the most google searches for seasonal depression – I think this graphic is most interesting because it shows how many people are wondering, “Do I have seasonal depression?” and looking into it; scouring WEB MD to see if their never-ending feeling of meh is normal. As you can imagine, seasonal depression, like clinical depression, often goes undiagnosed.

The ultimate “cause” of seasonal depression is unknown, but the Mayo Clinic says it could be:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, treatments for seasonal depression fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy (this is talk therapy aimed to help develop coping mechanisms)
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Vitamin D

Light therapy may be the one to catch your eye (it certainly caught mine) and honestly it’s something that I had always been told about and it’s my mom and my aunt’s favorite form. The quick way to get some light therapy in high dosage is simply going tanning, which I know, I know, it’s not good for your skin. But I can tell you right now, when I excessively tanned throughout college, it always seemed to be the boost I needed that day.

That being said – there are non-harmful, safe for your skin, forms of light therapy available! Very Well Mind has compiled a list of the best light therapy lamps of 2020 – check those out and maybe invest, or ask for one for Christmas 😉

Over the years, the way that I’ve tried coping with SAD is to jam pack the winter months with activities. At work it’s the busiest time which helps, I try to make it where I get to see as many family and friends as possible, and then at the tail end of winter (that nasty February bit) is when it’s the absolute worst for me – so I always try to plan a trip abroad during that time. I find that for me the depression creeps in when I have idle hands and a dwelling mind, so I work hard to eliminate as many occasions as possible where the depression could take its hold.

Some days the depression still wins, making it hard for me to even leave my bed; but sometimes I do the winning and have great days – and that’s just the way it is. It’s a balancing act to get all those chemicals in your brain steady 🙂

. . .

Ultimately, Seasonal Depression is real and not something to be taken lightly. It’s serious, don’t ignore it or brush it off – and don’t brush off your friends and family when they tell you they suffer from it. SAD can lead to serious issues like school or work problems, social withdrawal, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or behavior, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

Seasonal Depression is a real mental health issue, treat it like you would clinical depression, manic bipolar, bulimia, or literally any other mental health issue. Just because you don’t suffer the effects everyday, year round, does not invalidate the severity or the impact it has, or could have, on your life.

. . .

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

The One Where She Went Skiing

Newsflash – Indiana is flat AF. Straight roads go on for miles and miles, the most exciting a road can get is if you hit a pothole that sends you flying.

Indiana is so flat you can watch your dog run away for two weeks.

Indiana is so flat

Okay, ok – done.

Indiana is flat, but something weird happens the farther south you go. The Earth begins to rise and these mounds of dirt begin to emerge. One of the more hilly towns of Indiana is that of Paoli – home of Paoli Peaks. Paoli Peaks is a ski resort in Orange County and built on a natural hill at a 900 ft. elevation with a vertical drop of 300 ft. For well traveled skiers, this may seem like a bunny hill of a feat, but for those who’d like to ski somewhere between Louisville and Indianapolis… I’d say Paoli is the Aspen of Indiana. If you want to get real fancy on this ski-escapade, you’d stay in the West Baden Springs Hotel and drink in that wealth before hopping over to the slopes – that hotel and its entire grounds are seriously impressive and sets the tone for a lush experience.

January 2014 is when I got my first taste of Paoli, and my one and only go at skiing – and my God, was that something to behold.

If I told you I excelled immediately and was a natural born skier, my pants would burst into flames because that would be one of the biggest lies of the century. The amount of times I fell, and cursed the children who were expertly skiing past me as I lie staring at the sky were insurmountable. The number of times I threatened the lives of others, both on purpose and accident, were shocking. But the amount of times I fell and got up either by myself, or with a helping hand… were impressive.

Clearly I learned some existential things during my time skiing in the Aspen of Indiana:

You can’t just waltz in somewhere and think you’ll be perfect right off the bat. Sometimes it happens, but a lot of the time… to be really good at something, it takes time. Not just several hours either, but days, weeks, months, years to be really good at something.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at something new. In fact, go in with the mindset of “I might suck now, but I’ll get better.”

I can’t emphasize enough how enraged I was, each time I fell to the snowy ground and saw these children just expertly skiing past me. It was unfair, I was older and supposed to inherently be better – it’s how it works.

But it’s actually not, is it?

Those children have been skiing as long as they could walk, maybe. But also the way young minds absorb new things is completely unparalleled to an older/adult brain.

In all walks of life, it is highly likely you will come across a younger person who simply knows more, or does something better, than you. Don’t be bitter about it, be better and maybe even ask them for help. Don’t let pride and ego stop you from being better.

I’m really, really terrible at asking for help. I’m an incredibly determined person and fairly confident in the fact that I can do anything. There’s not much I can’t do on my own, and I quite like it this way.

But do you know how much quicker something can get done if you invest in an extra hand? It took me a couple hours into skiing to just finally ask anyone and everyone for help on that slope. And it’s so crazy – the more people I asked, the more friends I made, and the more enjoyable the day went on to be.

It’s so important to try new things, but sometimes trying a bunch of new things all at once is too much. It sends your body into a bit of shock and can ruin the vibe pretty quick.

By the time I got the skiing “down”, down as in not falling every few minutes, I was quickly convinced by a friend to try snowboarding. I should’ve drawn the line and said, “No, thanks – I still want to focus on skiing and get this solidified before the days done.”

But no, I of course agreed and created this new obstacle for myself. Within moments of trying to snowboard, my body, well my mind really, was just like “Girl, you’re maxed out for the day. You’re done. Also, you now hate everyone.”

Setting goals is just as important as setting limits. Respect yourself enough to do both, and communicate your boundaries to those around you.

It really is as simple as that – don’t let one mistake keep you from trying again.

Epic fails = epic character building.

. . .

Emily at Paoli Peaks in 2014

Airport Tips and Tricks

It’s that time of year, folks! The holidays are coming, which means that most of us will soon be heading home. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to drive back to your hometown, but to those of you (like me) who cannot, you have a dreadful flight ahead of you. Not to mention the extra concerns you have to think about due to COVID. Here’s the truth: no matter how much fun it is when you get to your destination, you must first go through airport hell. I’ve compiled a list of tips that can make your trip a bit easier, internationally OR within your country.

1) Vegetarian


No, I’m not saying to stop eating meat.  That’s just crazy.  I like a good hamburger as much as the next person, but listen:  When you’re on an international flight with a hot meal included, resist the urge to order the meat.  When the lady comes around and asks, “Chicken or vegetarian?” ORDER THE VEGETARIAN.  You know why?  That chicken is going to have the consistency of rubber and the taste of plastic and your vegetarian lasagna is going to be cheesy and spinachy and everything good in the world.  So trust me, meat eaters, vegetarian plane food is worth it.

2) Window Seat


I’ve always chosen the window seat, but sometimes you can’t help what seat you’re given.  However, if you do have the option, GO FOR THE WINDOW. In this seat, you can decide when the blinds are closed or open (we all know that asshole that leaves the window blinds open the whole time and the sun shines perfectly into your retina when you finally get comfortable enough to sleep). Speaking of sleep, when you have the window seat, you are given more options to find that (limited) comfort you require to do so. There’s the wall to lean on, for one. You can also put down your tray table and lay your head on that, in the traditional school-desk-napping style, without blocking your neighbors from the bathroom. HOWEVER, if you have the pleasure to sit by the window, don’t look out the window when you’re over the ocean. I don’t care how macho you are…looking out into a vast sea of emptiness can make you hyperventilate faster than the amount of time it takes for that adorable baby next to you to stop being adorable because it’s screaming its head off.

3) The Security Line


I have a few pointers to help make the security line less annoying.


-Hats:  Don’t wear them for your flight.  I get it; they’re cute and cosy!  But as soon as you get in line you have to remove said hat and your hair is not going to be okay. Trust me.


-Shoes:  You have to remove your shoes in line and I’ve learned the hard way to never wear your lace up combat boots or your converse that are tied so tight that you can’t slip them on and off.  You’ll be holding up the line and fumbling and throwing things everywhere…just wear something easy to remove and put back on.

-Water Bottle: I always carry a water bottle with me because hydration is important (duh!), but I’ve made one mistake a thousand times– leaving water in my bottle when going through airport security.  I know you can’t have liquids, so I’m forced to chug an entire bottle of water in about a minute so that I can keep my reusable bottle.  It’s kind of like an episode of Fear Factor: drown yourself in drinking water in an airport.  So don’t do that.  Also, why don’t I just throw the bottle away?? Because buying a new one in the airport is going to cost me $20 and I’m not about to waste that.  Just bring an empty water bottle through and refill it on the other side.

-Carry on liquids: You should all know that there’s a limit to how much liquid you can have in your carry on. However, don’t forget to put them in a Ziplock before you leave home! Some airports keep these baggies on hand for you, but many do not. Therefore, say goodbye to your tiny hand sanitizer and lotions. OH and if you carry a purse or a small bag daily that you plan to bring on the flight, check for any over-sized bottles of liquid beforehand! I have lost SO many expensive creams, sprays and even cough syrups because I forgot they were in my purse and was forced to throw them away. Trust me, it’s not a good start to your travel experience.

4) Waiting to Board


This is so boring, right?  Sitting by yourself in an uncomfortable chair for hours is not something many people enjoy.  My advice is obvious:  take advantage of the wifi and for god’s sake remember your phone charger and head phones.  The most important thing I can tell you to do, though, is to talk to your traveling peers.  You’ll know who is willing to talk.  I’ve had many interesting conversations with people that I never would have met if it wasn’t for the waiting time at an airport.  It makes time go faster and also they’ll probably watch your bags so you can go pee without lugging your life along with you.  (PSA: don’t just trust anyone with your bags…use your intuition.  Most people have good intentions, like you.)

** 5) COVID

This section only applies to us “frequent fliers” while Coronavirus is a very real threat. Honestly though, I’m unsure if this will ever change. Anyway, in your taxi, in the airport and on the plane, WEAR YOUR F*%!ING MASK. Also, be sure to carry hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in your carry on. Oh, and keep your distance from others, please! I won’t go into detail about why this is so important because I’m not your mom. I’ll end it with this: follow the guidelines.

Safe travels and happy holidays! xx

My First Car, Mumford

To date, one of the most pinnacle moments in my life is the moment I got my license. When I turned 16, I got my learners permit, and six months later on the dot I walked out of the DMV with my license in hand, ready to hit the road. One could easily say that getting your license is important to everyone, but you don’t understand – my having a license, being in control of my own transportation… this was big.

Being raised by a single mother who works full time, meant that I was often shuffled around relying not on just one or two people to transfer me where I needed, but multiple family members would help, along with numerous family friends throughout the years. It takes a village to raise a child after all, and it takes a village and a half to get one across town to various sporting games, social festivities, and other extra curriculars.

But having to rely on multiple people to get me where I needed never bothered me, why should it? All of these people cared about me so much they willingly hauled my butt around Madison County.

The main reason I was eager to get my own car? Driving myself to school in the mornings.

No, no – I never had to take the bus, but my sister and I fought like cats and dogs every single morning. Not just screaming matches, but nearly every morning there would be a WWE match taking place in the kitchen. Mainly these resulted from a toxic mix of night owls being forced from their dens before 8AM and my incessant need to be on time, or early rather, to school.

I was the kid who would scream throughout the house, “It’s 7:15! WE NEED TO LEAVE!” then the following minute would pass and I’d release an exasperated growl while pacing in the kitchen, “7:16, PEOPLE, I REPEAT IT IS NOW 7:16! WE NEED TO LEAVE!!”

Now what’s hysterical, is anyone who knows me today knows I struggle to be on time. But what can I say, as I age priorities change!

But anyway, the minute I had my license I had all the control I could possible need at the time – I could leave whenever I wanted.

. . .

The story of how I got my first car, is quite standard (maybe?!) I worked a comically dramatic summer for my dad in Kentucky. It was a particularly dry and hot summer with the temperatures hitting over 100 degrees each day, and my daily duties were a mix of helping my step-mom with some admin stuff, cleaning around the houses that were in construction, shuttling my siblings between various sports. As you can imagine, there were also several dramatic instances of me “quitting” because it was too hot to function. I earned a hundred or so dollars here and there, enough for gas and to funnel $25 a week over to my papa. He had offered me his 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible for $500 plus the condition that I kept a job while I had the car.

So by the end of the summer of 2012, I had sent my papa the $500, road tripped to his house in Pennsylvania to pick it up, and secured a job at the glorious Waffle House in Anderson, Indiana.

A 16 year old with a convertible and unlimited access to Waffle House hashbrowns? I was livin’ the Hoosier Dream!

I got attached to my Sebring fast. It was an older car, that had a decent amount of miles on it, 100k or so, but it was well maintained and ran great. This might sound crazy, but it always seemed to run the best whenever I played any Mumford and Sons song, so naming it Mumford was a no brainer there.

Good ole’ Mumford got me through my senior year of high school and only a few weeks shy of getting me all through college. I ran him bone dry, his life ending at somewhere between 326-346k miles, but to be fair towards the end he ran me (and my parent’s bank accounts) dry too.

Notable Mumford Moments:

There was a point in time when my driver side door just decided not to open. The lock would jam and that was that. It lasted a few months before it decided to work like a normal door again, but those several months were a freaky mix of me either awkwardly climbing through the window or stealthily sliding in through the passenger side. This also happened in the winter months, so having the top down to easily hop in wasn’t a thing…

Speaking of the weird lock thing, it also somehow triggered the door into never fully shutting all of the way? And during those few months when the door was mysteriously locked forever, my car alarm would randomly decide to go off throughout the night. My neighbors loved me 😉

This may or may not be news to you, but convertibles are the ultimate getaway car. Mumford helped carry out the greatest heist of all time – the stealing of a massive shark from some poor boy’s graduation party. (don’t worry the hostage was returned safe and sound later that evening..)

Soft top convertibles are glitz and glam, until that thing happens. Soft top owners, you know what it is… the rear glass separates from the top *face palm* I found the glass had separated in the worst way possible – after it had snowed A LOT, then the snow melted… and caked the inside of my car in mildew. The rest of my car’s life was a one of a duct taped exterior and a ‘heavy duty febreeze before driving’ interior. This smell only enhanced that summer when my AC didn’t work… LOL

Ironically, this photo is from a few weeks before the car’s passing, just after I found a local place that replaced the glass for around $100, but if you look close you can still see the duct tape battle scars :’)

. . .

This car, Mumford, he held all of the peak memories from my teenage years. Mumford played such a vital part of my friend group, he was the friend you could always count on to provide a good time. When you grow up in the Crossroads of America, all you and your friends can really do when bored is just hop in a car and fly down some back roads screaming the lyrics to your favorite songs – which made a convertible with a brand new stereo (courtesy of a Papa who loves to rock n’ roll) the perfect car for a bunch of teens to feel wild and free.

It doesn’t matter how new your car is, it doesn’t matter how fancy or sleek it is, it doesn’t even really matter if the car is a bit quirky – not when you’re 16. When you’re 16, all you need is a fast car with damn good stereo.

. . .

Share your first car stories in the comments below!

Emily’s car Mumford: 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

How My Mom Prepared Me for the Covid Era

Standing in line at CVS, I glance down to ensure I’m perfectly placed on the red dot – maintaining adequate social distance from the person in front of me. I don’t know them, I don’t know their story, most importantly I don’t know when they last sanitized their hands.

After they’ve received their bag with the receipt inside, I patiently wait for the cashier to sanitize the surface before calling me forward. I drop down my items, which are an array of nail polish and a cute first aid kit – super handy to slip into my purse – and I watch as each item is scanned and tossed in a bag. Once all of the items are accounted for, the cashier asks for a phone number – which I quickly recite by heart.

Nicole?” they ask.

I pause for a moment before it sets in, if there’s ever been any week in my entire life where I can confidently say I am my mother.. it is certainly this one. I smile, not that it can be seen beneath my thick mask, and respond, “Yep, that’s me.

. . .

Recently I was in California for work, and this is where I got to put my Covid Officer certification to use. I was onsite to primarily enforce proper sanitization and go the extra mile to ensure we were doing all we could onsite to prevent the spread.

It was almost startling how natural it felt to me to enforce all of those little preventative actions. You know, the ones that are seemingly hard for most of the population? The cough in your elbow or shoulder, wash your hands, stay away from buffets or shared food in general, always have hand sanitizer on you… wipe down high contact surfaces repeatedly…

But these small things, I’ve realized, are just the tip of the iceberg on the little hacks my moderately-germophobic mother raised my sister and I on. I’ve now had two productions I’ve been a Covid Officer on, and each time I asked the person in charge, “How high do you want me to turn up the volume, because I can turn it up real high or be more moderate…” but what I was really asking is “How much of my mother do you want to see come out?

Some of my favorite mom highlights and rules growing up:

MOM RULE ONE:

DON’T SHARE DRINKS OR FOOD

MOM RULE TWO:

DON’T TOUCH HIGH CONTACT SURFACES WITH YOUR BAREHANDS UNLESS GIVEN NO OTHER CHOICE…

MOM RULE THREE:

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN ALWAYS

Honestly, what is most hysterical about my mom being such a germaphobe and coming off very… high strung up above, is that growing up she still maintained ‘cool mom’ status. My fave mom quote ever is, “What I cannot see, I cannot prevent…” and not to mention my mom always helped me throw the most fun and memorable parties growing up.

So this is to say – you can be fun, cool, and have all the party vibes in the world… but still practice being sanitized, being aware of how germs and sickness can so easily spread, and do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

. . .

UK Adventures: Beast from the East

Buckle your seatbelts everyone, I’m about to take you for a wild ride.

End of February going into March 2018, I made the ultra-fun decision to go visit one of my friends, Linus, in his home country ~ England. It would be my first time going there ever, and I hadn’t seen Linus since we’d studied abroad together in 2016, so this trip was revved up to be an ordeal. An amazing ordeal.

I did my research and the cheapest way, and really the most fun way, to get to Linus was to first fly to Paris and meet one of our mutual friends there, then together her and I would fly to London that same day, and then… you know what, I’m actually a psycho planner so below is what had been planned:

See my full excel here if you’re looking for planning inspo… LOL I AM NOT ASHAMED

As you can see, we get to do a fun trip hitting various cities. Our two days in London (really only one proper day) we went to Warner Brothers Studios and did the FULL Harry Potter shebang. It was bliss, I would easily pay the 40-50 bucks to go again, and again, and again. It was magic and everything I hoped it would be and more…

PRO TIP: You have to book your tickets for WB Studios in advance. Like as soon as possible, because depending on the time of year, they can be all booked up for several weeks out!

After our super fun Harry Potter escapade, we hopped in train up north to the main event: the visit with the lovely Linus in his humble abode located in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I’ll be real, the only Newcastle I had ever heard of was the one in Indiana, so I didn’t know what to expect when signing up to visit this town. But I’ll be quick to say Newcastle is a pretty major city that perfectly maintains the English quaintness I was craving. We had loads of fun seeing the town, great shopping, fun nights out. We went to this great bar called The Alchemist and the cocktails were so extravagant and hands on, I felt like a witch brewing potions – and lemme tell ya, the potions were working!

At this point you’re probably thinking, “This trip seems so nice! Way to be dramatic, Emily. So much for a wild ride…”

Well here we go… if you scroll back up to my lovely calendar, you’ll see that we had an unassuming day trip planned from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It made sense to do, it was a two hour journey via train, we could easily leave Newcastle early morning and leave Edinburgh late evening. Not to mention, the train tickets were stupid cheap. It was a great setup.

PRO TIP: Check the weather before you travel anywhere – near or far!

Our journey begins like most, tickets are bought, including surprise tickets for an unsuspecting Linus & his roommate as gratitude for letting us crash at theirs during our visit. We’re all buzzing with excitement to journey up to Edinburgh. I can’t wait to catch sight of the castle, more Harry Potter vibes, and of course catch some Scottish accents.

We’re nearly halfway through our train ride when we notice a light snow flurry begin to pick up intensity, and it’s not long before our train makes an unplanned stop. We’re at a standstill for nearly an hour, and it’s unknown when we will start moving. Linus’ roommate’s mother begins texting her frantically, “You guys are crazy to go to Edinburgh! Didn’t you check the weather?! You should turn around and come back…”

Upon the relay of the mother’s message, I speak quickly and firmly for us all, “No, this snow is nothing. We’re fine!”

Oh, those are the famous last words, aren’t they?

The snow certainly was nothing compared to the harsh winters experienced in Indiana, this weather would barely get us a 2-hr Delay from school! But what I had not taken into account is that the UK is not equipped for this kind of icy weather. It didn’t come often enough for it to be a problem, so when it did the country would just simply hold tight at home and wait out what they call a Beast from the East.

The ‘Beast from the East’ is a phrase used to describe cold and wintry conditions in the UK as a result of easterly winds from the near continent.

When pressure is high over Scandinavia, the UK tends to experience a polar continental air mass. 

When this happens in winter, cold air is drawn in from the Eurasian landmass, bringing the cold and wintry conditions that give rise to the ‘Beast from the East’ moniker.

Met office UK

So, basically it’s a crazy polar vortex that can be blamed on Scandinavia, ultimately. This is when the Beast from the East becomes a focal point of the story.

As we finally make it into a snowy Edinburgh, I’m awestruck. This is where some of my favorite film, TV, and literature is set – this is the backdrop of all of my daydreams – I’m in heaven. We wander around, snapping photos and trying not to slip in the quickly piling snow. Then we get to the castle…

Instantly I feel transported back in time – I can almost see the historical figures walking around. is this real life? Am I really here?

We continue, or mainly I continue, to snap photos and relish in the atmosphere before we soon declare it time to explore elsewhere – maybe grab a bite to eat before the train back, maybe finally try some Scotch because when in Rome… 😉

We don’t make it very far from the castle, when suddenly the wind picks up and snowflakes fall in thicker form. What had first felt like a gentle breeze with wisps of snow, now suddenly becomes a rioting force whiting out the landscape. We make a dash into the nearest pub to escape the beast, and quickly get cozy at the bar while we wait for a table to become available.

As we’re waiting, the chatty bartender quickly learns our story. Pouring scotch into a glass, she tells us very seriously, “Everything is closing down, I’ve never experienced anything like this. Even the castle is closed down, and it’s not been closed down in some 50 years! I’ll be surprised if the train will take you to Newcastle tonight…”

We nervously laugh in response and brush her off like idiots.

An hour or so later we’re stuffed to the brim with bangers & mash, scotch, and beer. Once the bill is paid, we begin to make our way through the now full blown blizzard towards the train station.

Well, reader, have you guessed what’s happened yet? Have you?

After a lengthy walk with many near-falls, we make it to the train station. We’re immediately met with a flustered conductor who tells us that all trains have been cancelled and that we should check back in the morning. He then points us to their office where they get us booked up in a complimentary hotel for the night and even equip us with meal vouchers for the inconvenience.

Im Fine GIF - Im Fine Friends GIFs

At this point, all we can do is exasperatedly sigh and get on with life. It’s just one night… I quickly google the hotel to find that it’s actually a 5-Star hotel anyway, so it’s totally fine. And it’s only one day of being the same clothes, luckily I always carry contact solution and spare contacts, so it’s fine. Seriously, I’m fine.

Chrissy Teigan GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

The next morning, Linus’ roommate checks with the train station and they tell her we need to check back later – nothing’s moving as of now. But they also quickly add that they are doing tickets on a first come first serve basis and in person only – so we need to be physically coming down to the station periodically to check the status...

Each morning and afternoon we dutifully check in at the station to see if there’s anything leaving Edinburgh, but always we get the same answer, “Nothin’ yet.”

Days quickly turn into weeks, weeks turn into months…

Just kidding 😉

We ended up being stranded in Edinburgh for four days in total. The trainline, Virgin, put us up in incredibly nice hotels each night and also provided us with breakfast and dinner vouchers each day. They were “perfectly splendid” and we lucked out with their hospitality.

Unfortunately though, due to the weather, everything in Edinburgh was closed down – all of the shops and museums and the castle – truly the only things open were the pubs. So we weren’t that put out, just drunk and stuck in the same clothing everyday LOL!

One of the highlights was when Linus and I stumbled upon this secret little pub off the beaten path, it was so cozy and felt so unapologetically Scottish – it was truly a highlight of the stranding. We were even encouraged to take off our shoes to dry them by the fire – it felt surreal and as if everything was a purposeful vacation in that moment.

So now we’ve hit a super fun part, and I’m curious if you’ve done the math and caught what’s about to go down next!

Not only had my return flight to Paris been missed, but by the time we made it back to Newcastle, so had my return flight back to the US 🙂

PRO TIP: Book all of your travel (flights and hotel) with a CREDIT CARD! Most credit cards have some of the best travel protection imaginable and will refund you for nearly everything – as long as it’s a valid excuse like sickness or weather, etc.

Nope GIFs | Tenor

But did ya homegurl use a credit card to book her travels? Or at the very least get traveler protection?

I was able to rebook my flight to Paris just fine since the UK was so greatly affected by the winter weather, but France was completely unaffected… so I was out a good chunk of change for my flight back to the US.

Needless to say, major lessons were learned, incredibly unique experiences were had… yet out of everything, there’s only one thing I would change. That’s right, after all that chaos I only have one thing to change.

My attitude.

Due to everything constantly changing, being completely out of control of the situation, additional vacation days being used that I had originally allotted for other things throughout the year… it was all eating at me and a lot of the time I struggled to properly enjoy what was put in front of me: an extended, nearly free, vacation with friends I don’t get to see very often. I wish that I embraced it all a bit more openly and accepted that the situation was out of my control, and just lived in the freaking moment. Clearly, there were definitely times I was able to get outside of my own head and enjoy myself, but can you just imagine what more experiences could’ve been added to the list if I just let go?

PRO TIP: Let go & live in the moment.

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in. 

New York Apartment Moments

I moved to New York City almost immediately after I graduated college in 2017. The stars aligned and aligned, and continued to align and I’m still here, with the same company, jivin’ on.

One thing I’m frequently asked, by friends, family, and strangers alike is, “How much longer are you staying in New York?

When I first moved to New York, this question always made sense for people to ask me. My internship had an end date, I have no family here, costs are outrageous for housing, I moved here knowing only one person and that person I honestly only knew from a few shared classes in college. There was nothing grounding me here, I knew that and that’s why it was such a valid question for people to ask me.

Then, the internship abruptly ended 2 months in – because I got promoted 😉

So things only then started to become a bit grounding for me – my job became a real adulty job, friendships began rapidly growing, and almost excessively I began meeting more people… the city was morphing into my home. Yet as the years go by, I still get asked, “How much longer, Emily?”

Recently it clicked that the reason I’m asked so much, besides the point of people simply wanting me closer to them, is that maybe I’m not speaking enough about how much this place is my home.

When my mamaw passed away my freshman year of high school, she had cancer and it was incredibly touch and go a lot of the time. It hit a point where my dad ultimately told me, “No news is good news.” Which, in some weird way, I think this phrase held so much reassurance to me that I carried it on through to my adulthood. I treat everything with a “no news is good news” attitude – even in the very way I conduct my conversations with others. If I’m not talking about an aspect of my life, I assume everyone must realize that’s because those parts are good, or maybe even great! But what I’ve failed to understand is that this means when I’m talking in detail about anything… maybe I dwell a bit more on the bad or negative things happening – which then in turn paints a more negative picture of my life to others.

So of course it makes sense that people are asking me, “How much longer are you staying in New York, Emily?” because they’ve really only been hearing a quick quip of “Oh yeah, it’s great but…” and then I dive more in depth about mouse horror stories, or the terrible roommates, not to mention they regularly hear me say, “Send the package to my office because things get stolen from my apartment!

Today, I’ve decided to switch my narrative and share with you all some little magical things about each place I’ve lived in NYC, to spread some positivity around 🙂

. . .

HARLEM: MAY 27, 2017 – AUG 1, 2017

This was the apartment that welcomed me with open arms into the city. Albeit, itty-bitty tiny arms, but welcoming arms nonetheless. I paid $750 per month to live here incl. utlities (3 bedroom but I never saw one one of the roommates)

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: I lived with a bartender who would come home with her friends at 5AM and proceed to throw crazy parties each morning. There was no AC, and the dead of summer in NYC was so unbearable, every night I would take a cold shower and then take a washcloth to put behind my neck to keep me cool throughout the night. Living here was also the brokest I’d ever been in my life. It was rough, and not only all of that, my bedroom was so terribly small that I could lay on the floor and have my fingers touch one side and my toes touch the other (and I’m somewhere between 5’4″ – 5’5″!)

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: Almost every night, just before falling asleep, I would get to relax to the sound of a neighbor playing jazz music from their window, sometimes opera music, but mainly classic jazz. It was one of those grounding “I’m in NYC, I’m here…” moments, it felt like a scene from a movie – to fall asleep to that music on a twin-size mattress on the floor of a Manhattan apartment. There was also this Halal place at the end of my block and they had the best lamb over rice I’ve ever had… period. And the commute to work from this apartment was one of the most stable commutes I’ve experienced.

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CHINATOWN: AUG 1, 2017 – OCT 27, 2018

This place felt like a step up from my first apartment because the room had a queen size bed OFF THE GROUND, was generally larger, and also it was downtown right around where I loved going out the most. I also only paid $750 a month to live here incl. utilities (5 bedroom).

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: I lived in a five bedroom apt but a couple of the rooms generally had more than one occupant. Most of the occupants did not speak English. And we also had several furry roommates that did not pay rent – AKA MICE. WE HAD ALL THE MICE. It was a terror, one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. Link here to my personal blog to read more of those deets. I also lived above a grocery store which was under the Buddhist temple, which was under the Chinese Mafia gambling ring location (if you’ve seen Marvelous Mrs. Maisel it was identical to what Joel stumbled upon when opening his club..) – then after climbing all those stairs you’d find yourself at my apartment. We also had a stove top but not an oven – and I didn’t catch this until after I moved in…

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: Some of the craziest party nights of my life took place while I lived here and my roommates put up with my drunken loudness silently and without complaint. Even though communication was hard at times, it was somehow a friendly almost family like atmosphere you could tangibly feel. One roomie had an adorable Yorkie named Cofi and it was so fun to get greeted by her each day. Living in Chinatown itself made it feel even more real that I was in New York – or more like out of the country even. Just walking around the area, I get that same buzz in my soul that I get when traveling to a new city. Then the smell hits me and I’m ready to bounce, but you get the idea 😉 UGH AND LASTLY THE FOOD WAS PHENOM!!!!!!! So phenom…

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SPANISH HARLEM: OCT 27, 2018 – JULY 31, 2020

If I said Chinatown felt like a step up, man oh man, just hold your horses for this place. It was newly renovated with exposed brick in every room, only one flight of stairs to climb, WASHER AND DRYER IN UNIT!! It was a dream. I paid $1,207 a month plus utilities to live here (2 bedroom)

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: Roaches, roaches, roaches. The renovations throughout the building rattled the roaches and our apartment was coated in the beasts. My roommate and I had severely different cleanliness standards. There was a loud motorcycle gang that would rumble through the neighborhood at all hours, right by our windows. Lastly, our super and management company were the worst…

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: You could buy the prettiest freshest flowers and herbs from nearly any corner of any block whether its a bodega or a genuine flower shop – Spanish Harlem was stocked. And everything was fairly priced too. Speaking of Bodegas, there was a bodega on the corner of our block with the absolute best burgers and fries ever. Best enjoyed at the end of a night out. And the guys who worked there, along with those who also shopped there from the neighborhood, were the absolute friendliest people who could always bring a smile to my worn out face. I’ve also embarrassingly had a card declined there and they let me just have my order on the house without even a second thought. On another note, people would often park right outside our windows and blare music. To which I had a love/hate relationship with, but reflecting back it was mostly love. On Sundays it was typically soulful gospel music, and every other day the genre was fair game. I also often found myself Shazaming their music and adding it to my own playlists to jam to later. And lastly, every morning on my walk to the train, I always exchanged a nice “good morning” with a traffic cop – it was small thing, but it was still a burst of kindness I could count on each morning.

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Most currently, I’ve found myself out of Manhattan and living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This place… I’ve only said good things about this place. I feel blessed to have evolved up to this point – great roommates I actually enjoy hanging out with, a BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL APARTMENT WITH ALL THE AMENITIES… the cover photo for this article is the view from my building’s rooftop…

It’s a dream.

To reflect back on the whole, “no news is good news” thing – I shouldn’t have carried this past the situation with my mamaw. No news is good news is best for situational uses only. It’s so important to share the good things with those who care about you, because if you only share the bad, they’re going to worry and assume that’s all there is. Bad.

So share your good news, share your great moments, share the small nice moments – don’t assume everyone knows you’re experiencing good things. As my nana always says, “Do you know what happens when you assume? You make an ASS out of U and ME!

What is Home?

I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.

Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!

After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.

All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?

Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.

My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:

  1. We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
  2. I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?

Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”

My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.

So, again, where is home? Where do I go?

I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.

I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?

My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”

But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.

I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.

It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.

1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.

Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.

Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.

Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.

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2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.

Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.

Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.

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3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.

I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.

Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.

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I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.

AKA -> homesickness.

All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?

I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.

Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.

Social Media: The Wild Frenemy

Social media is wild, absolutely wild. It’s a force of nature that we treat as the annoying storm that never passes, but really, it’s a waking tsunami filled with inspiration, motivation, and community. It’s indubitably the ceaseless war between left and right, positivity and negativity; it’s your side, my side, yet is it ever the truth? Social media has the power to grow the smallest of feats and the ability to take down even the strongest of foundations.

Social media is everyone’s frenemy.

It’s that person you keep close to you out of fear of what will happen when out of sight, it’s the person that sometimes when you let your guard down with them you find they’re actually not that bad, but it’s also the person that you do let your guard down with… and it’s exactly what you expected: your words get twisted and shared, your meaning lost, and your venting rant falls into the ears of a snake, it’s now something that can never be erased… the way others view you now tainted.

I grew up in a weird transitioning stage of technology. My first phone was a Cingular flip phone, with no camera, I had a trove of VHS tapes, portable DVD players were the shit, and I got a Facebook when I was in sixth grade (2006) then a Myspace the following year – oh, was my mom mad about the socials.

In these early years of social media and multimedia messaging, parents and teachers alike were quick to preach to us all, “What you post and what you text lives on the internet forever, be careful!” As we grew up, ‘be careful’s morphed into, “Your job looks at your social media as much as they look at your resume, think about your future!”

So, I’ll say it again – social media is wild.

It has single-handedly fired up civil rights movements, kept these movements relevant, and it’s created community. Everyone can find a community on social media, they can learn about causes they never even knew to care about, they can find an account to follow with the right inspiration they’ve been looking for. Across the board between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the limit does not exist with how you can shape, reshape, and reshape again, what your feed and what your personal brand looks like.

If you feel your socials are one note, or too political, or too this, or too that… change up your algorithm.

Go through the accounts you follow, the people you’re friends with, and follow/unfollow – get things off your feed that don’t bring you happiness, advance your knowledge, or aid in personal growth.

Instagram was an easy cleanse – I unfollowed a lot of the random meme accounts and celebrities and then asked myself what I wanted to see, what I needed to see, during moments throughout the day when I take my IG scroll breaks. Do I want to see what food people are eating? Or how about the same dumb meme with knock-knock-joke level humor shared one million times across like 10 accounts? Heck, no! I wanted some finer scrolling content, thank you.

I wanted quality, inspirational, powerful content. After each scroll break, I wanted to feel rejuvenated and ready to take back on the world. I wanted girl power content, I wanted spiritual content, astrology out the ass content… I followed accounts like The Female Hustlers, Black Female Therapists, Oh That Witch Again, and Taurus Scopez.

With Facebook, I felt a bit more conflicted on how to cleanse as I’m not typically one to randomly delete people – which is the standard way to cleanse these days. I generally feel that deleting people isn’t really erasing the problem, and I also think it’s important to try to put yourself in other’s shoes whenever possible. So by not deleting people, I get to do this, attempt to somehow see the world through their eyes – what they come across on their timeline, decidedly resonate with, and then go as far as to share onto their own platform… it says a lot about them. What one shares on social media is very telling about how they are as a person.

FYI this is me lowkey admitting that I psychoanalyze what most everyone posts 😉

Ultimately, my Facebook solution was to actively go through and make sure I was following, like actively going to profiles and hitting the follow button, those friends who have a good rep in terms of posting a wide range of content. My second solution was to find private groups to join. My top favorite groups that keep my Facebook feed filled with Grade A quality content are The Solo Female Traveler Network and Road to 100 Countries. Both pages keep my feed adequately filled with people’s personal travel stories, their tips, and overall inspo to get out, travel, face any fears and knock down any barriers.

So as wild as social media is, I think we must face that it’s something you can’t really ignore or pretend doesn’t matter in this day and age. You just can’t. So, take this frenemy by the horns and own it – make it what you want, because while you can’t ignore it, you can certainly tell it what to do.

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Side note – with a post about social media I feel I should throw in that I hope you’re following PKC on Instagram & Facebook 🙂