Travel Log: A Week in San Francisco

This blog has taken me almost a full year after my trip to post. It was one of those pieces that I’d resume writing and then inevitability forget about, which is surprising because it’s about an incredible trip I had exploring San Francisco. I guess better late than never because reminiscing on it has brought back all the feelings of kicking back in Northern California for a few days.

Last October a work opportunity brought me to the Silicon Valley to learn about destination marketing tech and strategy. This was my first time on the West Coast and with my signature travel style of just winging it in my free time, I found myself accidentally having a work trip more exciting than most leisure vacations that I’ve taken (this is probably due to travel and marketing tech being my passion) but I left feeling like I had made the most of being out there.

When I travel for work, I’m of course doing whatever would have been done in the office remotely along with absorbing everything that I possibly can from learning opportunities. I use my time away as an opportunity to build a routine in a whole different environment. With that being said, I try to stick to my typical diet, habits but in a hyper local to the area way. The work day usually ends a lot later with networking tacked on but spare time is spent wandering and seeing what I can find.

Where I Stayed: I made a temporary home out of the StayPineapple Union Square San Francisco. This boutique hotel was cheery, bright and within perfect distance of anywhere I wanted to go. It was hard to leave my room sometimes due to amazingly comfy pillows, slippers and the most extra branded robes I’ve ever seen. I found myself waiting at the hotel bar before meeting up with a friend one night and ended up chatting with the bartender for an hour, who had the coolest travel stories from also working for an airline. He told me about his experiences as a life-long local and gave me a run down of how the city has changed over the years. It ended in a Canadian couple chiming in and us all speaking about what it’s like to live where we all live and the places we’ve been. The hotel wasn’t in the convention district so I was grateful that I was in passing of people there for different reasons everyday. They also have free pineapple water and cupcakes in the lobby, so that was a perk.

Where I Ate: If you go to San Francisco you HAVE to stop by the BOWL’D Acai food truck. I signed up for a loyalty card for this truck because my coworker and I ate there almost every day during our stay. They have “health shots” that’ll cure any sickness brought on by a long travels and acai bowls that’ll actually keep you full. The owner works the truck sometimes and was happy to answer any questions we had about how they got their start. The attention and thoughtfulness put into their menu items stand true to their narrative of fresh, healthy and accessible. If you’re looking for a more hearty option then stop by The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. This place is the BOMB and even offers gluten-free bread. During a conference break one day I sat with a coworker at the park next door, ate their “classic” and enjoyed the beautiful October weather. Other recommendations include pretty much any sushi spot you can find, most cater to gluten-free diners and I’ve found their raw fish is usually incredibly fresh.

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Me being the epitome of health

What I Sipped On: While waiting to catch my flight back to NY I had a chance to enjoy some drinks with a few friends that decided to move out West. We stopped by a dive bar called High Tide which is full of locals playing pool and cheap drinks. High Tide has ceilings adorned with autographed dollar bills left by bar goers. We then stopped by Swig which combines mixed drinks from scratch with a live DJ and cozy but young ambiance. Another night a coworker and I explored the rooftop bar scene and ended up looking out onto the city and sipping prosecco fire-pit side at Charmaine’s on the rooftop of the Proper Hotel. I’d also suggest checking out Brass Tacks, it was a great spot for conversation and a casual glass of wine.

Where I Wandered: I had a day between my flight and conference end to explore which led me to a whirlwind tour of the city. The night before I found myself at the Swedish American Hall on a random MK adventure to see Good Old War (a longtime favorite band). It was a beautifully historic but no BS theater. It was one of the most intimate shows I’ve ever been to, everyone was so happy to be there and the bands that played were entirely candid.  I couldn’t fit in everything that I wanted to but I made sure to explore every park I came across while accidentally stumbling upon San Francisco classics. I made a bad Uncle Joey joke in front of the “Full House House,” I went to spots that ended up looking familiar only to remember that they were places I’ve seen in movies. I window shopped ornate gems in Chinatown and explored streets that San Francisco sound legends once called home. My “for next time list” includes: shopping crystals at Love of Geyesha, visiting the Camera Obscura and maybe getting touristy at Fisherman’s Warf.

More Unexpected Highlights: The Golden Gate State Park at sunrise was my favorite part of the trip. I journeyed there alone before my afternoon flight and it ended up being one of those moments that make you feel everything yet completely calm at once. Watching the sun come up and illuminate the bay while only the morning joggers were around was incredible. I sat on a rock on the shore for an hour watching dogs play fetch and just taking it all in. That week was the first time I had ever touched foot on the West Coast which something I didn’t think I’d be able to do until I was way older. That morning made me realize the importance of travel in my life and why I’m so determined to build a life and career in it.

All in all, San Francisco is definitely a bucket list city. I forgot to wear flowers in my hair but I did experience a trip full of authenticity, great people and a place where history and the bustle of emerging tech industry meets. It was a city that was more of a feeling than a place, one that has strengthened my bond with certain songs that I’ve loved for years and one that I still go back to sometimes when I’m finding inspiration for my future trip planning and art.

NorCal, I hope we meet again soon!

In case you decide to take the trip out & need a solid playlist: Going to California by MK Harrigan on Spotify

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Reflecting on Early Adulthood…so far

Recently, I’ve felt like I have started a new chapter in my life. Not necessarily on purpose but just naturally. I’ve been more focused and have had more direction with my life this year. I think part of it may be due to turning 24, which is still so young in the grand scheme of things but a number that I’ve always thought kicked off adulthood.

I’m writing this on the anniversary of when I set roots in this city for the first time. I was 22 and carried no idea if each year ahead would bring a move or what would change in my life that year. I can tell you that when I moved here I was naive enough to try to plan out my whole life on a timeline. In retrospect, I didn’t even know who I was. I was only just starting to learn about my passions and was still driving around a half broken minivan that I had spent the summer camping out in at concerts or driving to my job in from my parents house 50 minutes away the first two months after graduation. Turns out that getting the job, having a relationship and living on your own does not make you an adult. I took all of those things seriously but looking back, I had hardly made any personal growth since the end of college and I now see a girl who was playing pretend.

23 brought hard life lessons and a sense of coming into myself, experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world but a sense of being lost. Things felt kind of stagnant and I wasn’t miserable but felt frustrated and slightly stuck. I saw a sign driving past a church once that said “when God doesn’t open a door then praise him in the hallway,” it resonated with me because I metaphorically felt like I was in the hallway just waiting for any door to open. And maybe I didn’t see the doors open but 23 was also the year I started to travel which led to me putting my career above all else, my first confident sense of direction in what I wanted to do or could do with my life. It was the year that I got diagnosed with pretty severe adult ADHD and so much of my past had clicked from the way I handled relationships to why I found it impossible have any type of organizational system. Maybe I’ll write about that diagnosis later but it came with hope and relief, because I had factual data on how my brain functions and no longer felt “doomed.” I started feeling in control of my life that much more.  I moved into a new apartment, I became more intuitive and started actively learning about myself. I gained a lot of independence by letting myself spend time alone to get to know myself.

23 was a year of learning but 24 has brought the most change that I think will stick with me. I started becoming confident in my abilities professionally and mentally. I started picking up every hobby that I wanted to without fear of “sucking” or being judged. I started learning healthy boundaries and being appropriately empathetic without taking someone’s feelings on as my own. 24 came with a lot of loss but also a lot of bravery. I also have a greater sense of gratitude for the friends I have and even the lessons I learned from people who have hurt me. 24 has been more of a quiet acceptance of the inevitable but faith in my ability to handle it. I know that I’ll always make mistakes, have lapses of judgment and I will be at the sharp end of the sword with people I care about again- but I’m not holding myself to an insane standard anymore and I now see how this all has shaped me into the person I’m becoming.

I’m not sure what the future will bring, no one really ever is. I don’t know where I’ll be in life a year from now. I have no inkling where I’ll end up living, if I’ll have a partner or who the people I surround myself with will be. For the first time, I’m actually okay with this. Everything that has happened has lined up with the becoming of the person I am today. There’s been pain and tragedy scattered throughout but along with has been some of the most beautiful moments and stories I can’t tell without intense laughter too. Even writing about this is big for me, as it makes me feel vulnerable but it’s another way that I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone.

There are more lessons to come and more identity to find but I’m really excited to see who I end up being. I know I’ll feel lost again or confused but I now know it comes in waves, but I appreciate the experiences I’ve had that have given me the tools to get through them. For now, I’m enjoying just being and the crazy experience that is life during early adulthood.

Travel Log- Random Trip to Europe

In April I had a premature and over dramatic quarter life crisis. My childhood friend conveniently asked me if I wanted to go to Belgium, I had no previous knowledge of anything in Belgium but naturally, said yes (I didn’t even have a passport yet). I used my stash of “please use this on you and not student loans” gift money I had being saving up for a year and bought a round trip ticket the next day. After original housing plans falling through, an air bnb booked two weeks before and no set plan, this is what ensued:

*I wrote this jet lagged as all heck, grammatical errors will be found*

Thursday 8/8/19– Woke up in NYC after a night of working a tourism event. After a day of locking keys in a car in Albany, having to find someone who “knew a guy” to get them out and postponing an Amtrak – I was ready to get going. We met up with an old high school friend in Chelsea at a bar with the most brutally blunt but hilarious Irish bartender I’ve ever met. New friends were made from Australia to Florida, everyone was in the moment and I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. I would describe all of the time in NYC as a beautiful disaster. The city flooded that night, directions were confused and a bodega was also flooded with Coors Light. I somehow saw the skyline up close with the Empire State building in the background from a rooftop for the first time that I’ve realized even though I’ve been to the city more times than I can count now. I spent 5 hours in an airport in a haze and reentered the typical traveling “time doesn’t exist” mindset. I watched hordes of “travel couples” pass through and really appreciated the nature of my trip, setting off on a spontaneous adventure to land in a country I’ve never been to while having been in a place the past few months where I had nothing to hold me back from just going for it. I boarded my flight with an oddly comforting “here goes nothing” mindset.

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Tyler and I reuniting after 2 years, trying to learn how to instagram

Highlight: I had an in-depth conversation on life philosophy with my uber driver in NYC (go figure). I told him about my trip, how I’m leaving feeling comfortable with who I am and how I am going with very little money saved but knew I needed the experience of throwing myself into something unknown intentionally to grow as a person and that I really only cared about that. He talked about living in an expensive city as an uber driver and how happy and grateful he is for everyday he has, how he believes that no matter what if he is strong in himself and shows himself and others love and kindness, he’ll be the happiest man alive. It ended with us both deciding our souls had met before if some other life existed or that we were at least supposed to cross paths in this one. When I told my friends at the bar they agreed it was the most “MK” experience I could have had in an uber because I arrived pretty much tearing up from how the uber driver sent me off by saying “I know you’ll be content in life if you surround yourself with people with a heart like yours,” after standing by that’s the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. People are AWESOME and friends happen in the weirdest places.

Friday 8/9/19– Woke up in Belgium absolutely exhausted but excited. We were the only people staying in our Airbnb which was above a bakery that our host owned surrounded by bars and cafes. There was construction all along the street which could be seen by our rusty but wonderful terrace for the sole reason that it was ours. We met for lunch with two people who had lived in Belgium for long periods of time, there was aimless wandering, and I got to witness reminiscing from old times they had all spent in Brussels. I got to experience the Delirium village which is basically just a street of buildings dedicated to a brewing company. I watched the Liverpool game across the street from our place and made friends with a group of travelers from the UK, Australia and Ireland. They warmly let me into their group. The energy was incredible and I went to bed so ready to take on the next day.

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Me discovering I’m weird internationally

Saturday & Sunday 8/10/19 & 8/11/19– Train tickets bought the day before to Paris brought us to a studio apartment that we had to ourselves in a quiet area of the city. We lived off meat and cheese from the market and went to bed early after quiet nights hanging out in our backyard. We mastered the metro, hopped on it the first day and tackled Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Being as graceful as I am, I greeted Montmartre by falling up the stairs of the metro station. We rewarded ourselves with a happy hour aperol spritz and hours of taking in unplanned sightseeing including the Moulin Rouge which I heavily romanticized as a middle schooler. I felt lucky to be 24  and in Paris, a place that I definitely had idealized too much in the past but gained a sense of self-reliance from learning to navigate along with my travel buddy even though the only words I knew how to say hello and thank you in (with an obvious American accent).

Sunday in Paris brought us to viewing paintings that I had learned about years before. We saw works from Monet among many other artists I was shocked that I was seeing in person. We wandered among couples who actually seemed to like each other and randomly turned corners to find out we were in really important places by accident. I had a sense that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in every moment just by pure chance. Lunch was spent eating chips on church steps with the first ever Louis Vuitton store around the corner, the best type of irony but I felt happier to be there in the circumstances that I was rather than I probably could have ever been if I was living the typical Paris visit stereotype. We retired early that night, I ate a gluten free baguette for dinner and chocolate ice cream in our apartment- true class. We ended up dumping a bottle of Rose into the sink because it turns out 3 euro wine isn’t that fun to sip on.

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I accidentally realized important places were behind me shortly after while getting lost in a park

Monday 8/12/19– We ended up in Frankfurt where all the ubers are Mercedes benz and texting does not work. We successfully met up with two friends who play soccer there, one that I’ve known since I was 18 living on the same floor in the dorms (I’ve come a long way from misplacing my lanyard every weekend in his room freshman year after frat parties). We drank market wine in the streets legally and had a ridiculous photoshoot in Romer. An insane storm hit secluding all of us to a random bar in a city square where we stayed until walking back to the air bnb after having the best street food of my life. Frankfurt was an absolute whirlwind where I didn’t have to rely on the 8 german phrases I knew but of course tried to anyways, accidentally at an Irish pub first. Our crew laughed a lot and it was great hanging with two old friends and one new while visiting a country I had never been to before.

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Give a girl dad shoes & no posing skills and she can conquer the world

Tuesday 8/13/19– We woke up in Germany with a mission to get back to Brussels with a stop in Liege to visit my friend’s old classmates. This ended up in train delays that we never found out the reason for but handled calmly and a couple hours in Cologne where we saw the coolest cathedral we have ever seen. Liege was filled with a visit to the most oddly decorated bar ever to meet up with folks and a two hour Fleetwood Mac playlist setting the scene which we appreciated. I was lucky enough to be guided on an impromptu tour of the city after during golden hour and listened to a short history lesson from our local pal that I appreciated immensely. It wasn’t a tourist city at all so it felt like I was being let in on a secret of life in Belgium. We hopped on the train shortly after and headed to Delirium with one of the pals in tow then to our air bnb which felt like home to return to.

Wednesday 8/14/19– The “lazy” day that turned into one of my favorite days in Europe! We walked 8 miles, mostly in the rain and stumbled upon a building I had recognized from my favorite style of architecture but never knew the whereabouts or city. We walked into a music festival by accident and sat by a fountain. Every sight I saw this day was breathtaking. We visited every church we saw, one where I was overwhelmed with the feeling of sacred that place must be. I watched the Super Cup that night with two friends from Scotland, and Liverpool won! I thought of my cousin who had passed away in May and how I’ve been watching games in his memory, but now in Europe where I never thought I’d be. I thought of how I felt after the first one I watched after his passing where they won and I was amongst strangers midday at a soccer bar in Syracuse. Every win and reprise of You’ll Never Walk Alone felt important that trip, as I was truly grateful for life and my decision embrace fully living it despite previously having been terrified of committing to the trip.

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Standing in front of all the beer I couldn’t drink because celiacs disease (a reoccurring theme)

Thursday 8/15/19– We took the train to Brugges and I was in AWE of how beautiful it was. Canal ways and Dutch influences made this city absolutely unforgettable. We saw a parade of carriages pulled by mini horses and watched strangers play piano on a platform. We made it back to Brussels that night and capped off the night with dinner over mussels, a glass of free wine from the restaurant and one last visit to the city center at night. I went to bed that night not wanting to leave.

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Got to listen to a music festival for free because you guessed it…we got lost!

Friday 8/16/19– Hurried to hop trains to the airport. Got upgraded to Delta Comfort + behind first class on tickets that are supposed to be by no means upgradable, took this as a good omen. Long drive/train ride back to my apartment from landing in JFK and somehow stayed up till 5 am Saturday in a state of delirium, very on brand for my life

Unexpected Lessons, Thoughts & Feelings

  • Being back has been hard because of general jet lag malaise, getting back into routine and coming back to a life that I disrupted with a trip that was weirdly transformative. Lack of sleep is probably the largest part of this but also the switch in waking up with the mindset of “how can I make this the best day ever?” back to the usual “how do I get through today?”- I will try to incorporate the latter more often though.
  • One of my favorite parts about travel is there are always times for me that I am forced to be alone, I usually spend these times happily surrounded by strangers either enjoying a meal, coffee or glass of wine at a table and journaling. I don’t know why I don’t do this in my city more often.
  • I left the states an absolute control freak when it came to uncertainty. I threw myself into only uncertainty knowing I needed that experience (didn’t sleep for nights before) but eventually had an overwhelming sense of calm that it’d work out with each new challenge. Being back to familiarity is dizzying but I think I’ll carry this calm during messiness with me more so than I ever did before. I came home feeling way more self-reliant than I ever have before. Happy to start a new chapter with a better mindset and a strengthened independence.
  • People and feeling are universal. I approached every new face with the same empathy I hold usually and I recognized things I loved about people at home within people I met that share completely different backgrounds.
  • The way I narrate myself varies with where I am. People seem more unapologetic with strangers during travel because the subconscious fear of judgement doesn’t hit you (at least I think). With no preconceived notions, it’s easier to not try to stick to a role you might have either grown out of long ago or never really were. I usually let my freak flag fly either way but I didn’t think twice about being honest with my goals, hopes and dreams when discussing with outsiders. I think I was one of the worst versions of myself until May of last year then rapidly changed and actively worked towards changing the way I live in the world, it was awesome being able to step outside of that into a place where I could just be. There is a way to be “strong vulnerable,” it was great practicing that while away.
  • When in doubt, just find the nearest Irish Pub and grab yourself a stool at the bar even if for a coffee. Special shout out to O’Reilly’s in Frankfurt and Brussels, Waxy O’Sheas in Missouri and O’Donaghues in Manhattan.
  • Travel can be escapism but you will deal with the same thoughts and feelings. I left with things in my personal life kind of a mess, I knew these problems would still be there upon return but the experience of leaving can change perspective.
  • This trip was by no means glamorous, there were times I was anxious or generally lost but I had no choice but to try different approaches. I often go into autopilot based on feeling or intuition but having to train your brain to use logic along with it when you usually struggle with it is empowering when you problem solve in a new way. At one point I was running out of money the day before pay day with no access to internet due to an auto payment and had to get back to Brussels. I ended up significantly withdrawn for an hour but made myself bounce back and realize how lucky I was to be where I was dealing with that problem. This was huge. Seriously, I suck at using logic, this has been the first time in my life I’ve really even had to attempt to have a sense of direction.
  • It’s always great to be home even when you don’t want to be home yet. I am SO tired but was THRILLED when I walked in my apartment and got to catch up with one of my housemates. As exciting as hopping on a train to a new spot each day is, it’s always great to laugh and see people you love. Even if you wake up at 5 am the next day craving a sandwich and binge watch Tiny Home shows with your friend.
  • Things I’d do different: BUY TRAIN TICKETS IN ADVANCE. There is nothing too fun about winging it and getting the last train out while paying way more than you would have. I would probably also try to book the flight more in advance so I could learn some of the language of where I was going. The advantage was that I felt calm when I was in places after the French speaking countries where I had already felt clueless.
  • Social media: I don’t think I’ll ever regret not waiting my turn to get the perfect “Instagram picture” while abroad. I focused more on capturing architecture than angles and got to laugh to myself at people. I looked like a doofus with a ridiculous smile in every photo which is very accurate and the best type of visual memory to hold.

 

This whole trip was so incredible through the stressful moments and the wonderful ones. I have some serious post-trip depression but happy I get to return to a job in destination marketing where I have to continuously be aware of travel trends and news. Besides Paris, I was able to hit spots without over tourism issues (on purpose due to moral dilemma) and I really want to continue this type of travel. I’m in no hurry to leave again but endlessly excited to continue thinking back on all that I’ve seen and learned. I’m also really excited to not only have to choose from ketchup or paprika flavored chips. That’s a wrap on this weird journey.

6 Things That Happen When You Let Yourself Be Alone With Yourself

The past few years have been a journey into self-growth. With that being said, certain events have accelerated and led to pivitol points in this wild adventure of self-discovery. I truly believe that transcendence leads to transformation and obstacles lead to action. A year ago I made the decision to force myself to have time where I am alone with myself. I felt that I was too dependent on other people and it was holding me back from living the life I wanted to live. I couldn’t tell myself what I needed because I didn’t really know myself and I believe this has a lot to do with the fact I was terribly uncomfortable if I wasn’t right smack dab in the middle of a crowd or constantly with someone.

In college I would take advantage of every social opportunity even if I was physically exhausted because I was completely overwhelmed when I would have to be in my own head. After college, I jumped into a relationship that taught me so many important lessons but it worked as just another excuse for me to spend every waking moment with someone else, never myself. I had just moved to my current city prior to that yet a year later I hadn’t discovered anything about myself. I didn’t know myself. I was missing out on experiences not because anyone was holding me back but because I was holding myself back. I was too afraid to just go out and do, do the things I wanted to do because being physically alone meant having to rely on myself. A year of actively forcing myself to spend time with myself has been life-changing. These are the lessons I learned and what might happen to you too if you choose to take the risk:

1. You become your own best friend

I am absolutely blessed with amazing friends. I cherish both friends I see once a decade and friends I see multiple times a week. With that being said, it’s absolutely not possible to make another person your “rock.” Platonic love is real and it’s always out there but I’ve had to recognize that everyone else is on their own journey too. Just like how you can’t be the best person for someone when you’re hurting, other people have their own shit too. It works both ways. I’ve had a really bad habit of prioritizing other people and their needs before my own. As an eternal optimist, I’ve had to actively keep reminding myself that everyone will act in their own self-interest even if their intent isn’t malicious. People mess up. When you have to act in your own self-interest to cut toxic people out of your life, you’re left with yourself. If you can’t comfort yourself then you’re bound to have struggles ahead and fall into an unhealthy pattern of reliance. Everyone has a right to their own actions and emotions, own yours, grow from them and be there for yourself.

2. Trauma will resurface

In the beginning, when I started doing things alone whether it be as simple as going on a walk or traveling thousands of miles away, I felt overwhelmed at my own thoughts until I became comfortable enough to LISTEN to them. When I could finally listen to my thoughts without feeling like the room was spinning, I was able to analyze them and actually work with them. I was able to finally grow from things that happened years ago. For me, letting myself be alone with my thoughts was a catalyst of having to work through things I pushed to the back of my subconscious. I was able to recognize that these thoughts were leading to certain actions and habits that I was letting consume my life. It’s a long process and I’m still actively working to correct patterns, I have slip ups but now I know to look for a deeper reason. I’ve found this significantly reduces an aggressive guilt I tend to have as my first reaction for situations that I didn’t cause.

3. You have memories that no one can touch

My favorite moment so far in my life has been one I experienced all by myself, that I know no one can touch or tarnish. I had just traveled across the country for work in a very bad period of my life. Outside factors left me feeling hopeless and anxiety ridden but here I was going to the West Coast for the first time which had always been a dream. But that week I got to disconnect from everything at home, I got to learn from experts in my passion (which is my career), I felt empowered. On the last day I traveled to see the bay in San Francisco before my afternoon flight. That morning I watched the sun rise and light up everything around me next to the Golden Gate bridge. A bridge that to me represented hopelessness from knowing that it’s a spot where a lot of people have taken their lives. The glow of this moment, the silence of the waves crashing on the beach left me speechless. I cried happy tears that day because I realized that everything was going to be okay. I smiled the whole way home. It’s beautiful to share in moments with others but I’ll never have to attach anyone else to that memory since I experienced it alone, one I needed.

4. You actually meet more people

Maybe it’s just me but I have met way more people during my solo adventures than out with a group of people. I know that I crave socialization, more specifically- I crave community. I find that when I set out to spend time with myself I often meet people in more authentic ways. There’s no bias and you usually can connect on whatever you’re both doing. For example, snowboarding is one of my favorite hobbies but not something a lot of people that I know are into. I didn’t want that to hold me back so I started frequenting a local mountain, throwing on some tunes and “shredding the gnar” however my little heart desired. I ended up finishing that season with a bunch of new pals that I’d make sure to do a run with when we crossed paths. I met people from all over the states who came out with the same goal I did. Heck, I even made friends with the bartender, I left with her knowing my usual lunch order, always having a safe place to charge my phone and having someone to give me tips on the cast iron pans I just bought. The season is over and although I typically hate winter, I can’t wait to get back out there to my seasonal home away from home, one that I discovered on my own.

5. Your intuition sharpens

Weird flex but I’m highly intuitive- when I give myself time to be. This is both a curse and a blessing. The other day I realized how now it’s not something I can push aside because of how strongly I trust myself and this voice. My newest lesson as a result of that is that ambivalence is truly not an option anymore. I know when I know because I’ve allowed myself to be perceptive from letting myself be alone with my inner voice. You learn to trust your gut feeling that you know isn’t just stemming from insecurity or anxiety. You know when you know, unfortunately this means that you no longer have the permission to use ignorance as a coping skill. You can’t ignore red flags in romantic or platonic relationships or even with yourself. This is also a blessing because you truly realize deception. You get the ownership over your actions. Whenever I react too fast it’s because I haven’t sat alone with the situation and I’m actively trying to ignore what my intuition is telling me. The truth isn’t pretty, but trusting your own truth and what you feel in your gut leads to growth. I’ve made a recent promise to only surround myself mainly with people who live honest lives, because that’s all I’m really trying to do, that’s all we have.

6. Your relationships become healthier

One thing I’ve never understood are people who move into relationships just for the comfort of being in one, but I have experienced staying in one because of the discomfort that a break up would bring. Neither are healthy. I worked hard to be comfortable with my independence, therefore I only get involved with people who support that but also supplement my life. I can now recognize when people like me for who I am versus just wanting me around to fill a void, because I don’t go in search of someone to fill a void. I’ve also realized the importance of giving each other time to just be by ourselves, since I value my alone time so much so. Of course this goes a little haywire in the dopamine and oxytocin craze of new relationships but it’s something that I’m confident that I’ll carry with me throughout future relationships.

It’s still an everyday lesson and I’m constantly growing from trying to understand myself better through alone time but I’m forever grateful for the positive aspects it has brought to my life. I encourage you to be get out there, spend some time with yourself and really enjoy what it brings to you.

 

Things to Do in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I’ve stumbled into many of my favorite places with absolutely no idea what to expect. I am the queen of taking a recommendation, putting it in my trusty maps app and heading out on an adventure. I heard of Eureka Springs while looking for a fun way to kill time while I was a travel journalist’s conference in Branson, Missouri. This was my first time in the Midwest and I had the urge to see as much as possible in my little amount of time there. So there I was on a beautiful Thursday morning in the midwest with my coworker- running off a suggestion, a few hours to kill and being in close proximity to a state we’ve both never been to. It took one google image search full of cobblestone streets to convince us.

The drive into Arkansas is a culture shock for an Upstate New Yorker. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more mega churches, cows or curvier roads in my whole life. After a little motion sickness from possibly the most scenic but most turn-laden ride in existence, we arrived in Eureka Springs. The beginning of the town reminded me a little of something you would find in a New York mountain town but when we got to the heart of the destination I realized it had a flare and uniqueness all of its own. The first thing I noticed about Eureka Springs is that it’s a stairstep town with stairways functioning as named streets leading up to paved streets lined with gorgeous brick buildings and people strolling. The next thing I noticed is that the LGBT community is celebrated and supported as rainbow flags adorned many of the establishments. It was a breath of fresh air in the Midwest to see people of all sexual orientations and genders to be able to have no holds on who they are in this haven.

If you walk around you’ll find memorialized springs that were once claimed magic, healing people suffering from all sorts of ailments. Bath houses that once gave those an opportunity to experience the magic are still existing as luxury spas and places for those visiting to rest their head. Yet there is no shortage of healing still happening present day in this town- shops claiming to spiritually heal are plenty and alternatives to western medicine like CBD oil are sold throughout the town. If anything, the tranquility that Eureka Springs offers is healing in its own way and the spirit of the town will certainly lift yours.

There were so many places to eat in such a small town but having been so hungry my coworker and I picked a place at random and were really glad we did. The restaurant, Mud Street Annex, advertised all-day breakfast and donned a beautiful neon sign inside deeming itself the “home of Ozarka water.” We were captivated by every little decoration but what the waitress excitingly showed us when walking to our table stole the show. In the floor there was a window looking 20-feet below where a spring resided, a hidden gem just like the town itself. We had lunch with the spring in view and I was pretty content with an iced tea and gluten-free turkey melt in hand.

After lunch came more exploring and admiring architecture. During our wandering something that made my whole trip happened- I was admiring the music of an old man playing acoustic guitar with his pup and balloon animals in tow- when I went to tip him for the free entertainment, the sun came out and lit up the park. He exclaimed “this town really is magic” in response and in that moment I was very sold on that notion.

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The cutest little park pup in the world, you’re welcome.

If you get the opportunity to visit this town, please do. It is an absolute gem full of locally owned businesses, adorable cafes and enough history to make your head explode. The whole town is like a giant art park, my favorite pieces included a memorial to a made-up goddess and a humpty-dumpty sitting on top of a wall on a hill. It was a great escape from the evangelical vibe of the Midwest, even with an artsy giant Jesus statue on an adjacent hill overlooking. My best advice is to talk to the locals, they really make the town and have the best facts to share, they’ll provide you with history you wouldn’t have known. Wander the streets, take in the music and take advantage of every photo opportunity. Next time I’m in the Midwest I plan to make a trip out of it and stay at their treehouse resort (yes, they have one of those awesome, right?) or spend the night in their haunted hotel that gives you a “ghost tracker” as a companion for your stay.

Arkansas isn’t all cows, mega churches and dirt roads. If you check this state off your travel bucket list, make sure to pay a visit to Eureka Springs- you’ll be glad that you did!

For more history, things to do and fun in Eureka Springs click here.

 

A Very Real Experience with Celiac Disease: Gluten Exposure

I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease for two years. I can’t have gluten and when I do my body starts attacking itself and it causes a few days of autoimmune issues. I basically feel like I have the flu AND a stomach virus. It’s not fun. I’m on a strict gluten-free diet that I never break. No, I don’t really miss gluten, I don’t even remember what real bread tastes like. I miss more of the convenience of not having to explain I’m not on a fad diet and I actually need to live this way. I’ve only had accidental gluten exposure a couple times, and it was more like a smidgen of soy sauce in a recipe that I wasn’t aware of until the symptoms hit me the next day. Definitely nothing major but enough to feel awful for a couple days. I never really had a huge issue until this past week.

It was my boyfriend’s birthday a couple weeks ago, my mom decided to make him a chicken riggie dinner (an upstate NY thing). Of course she made the usual gluten-free version for her and myself, along with assorted cheesecake bites that were both gluten-free and not. After a great dinner I aimlessly started eating cheesecake bites. Big mistake. I mixed up which side was gluten-free and not. When she brought this to my attention I immediately ran upstairs and made myself vomit until I couldn’t anymore. This is definitely what you shouldn’t do but I was at least 8 mini cheesecakes in and panicked. I went home to my house 45 mins away and for some reason thought I was in the clear.

That night was my friend’s birthday and I didn’t want to miss it so I assumed I was okay and went out anyways. I knew to keep the drinking to a minimum so I made a mixed drink and eventually started on another when I got to the bar. Midnight hit and as I was bopping around to the music of an unexpected 90’s themed night at the bar I started to feel sick to my stomach. I knew I wasn’t drunk so it had to be something else. I grabbed the boyfriend, an uber and as I went home, hell hit.

That night and the next day was a fun mix of feeling like I was getting repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen and having the arthritis pains of a senior citizen. I expected it was the gluten and just rolled with it. My first line of defense was a strong probiotic, water and assorted vitamins. I had a very important Monday and Tuesday at work that I couldn’t miss and a business trip to Ottawa coming up that Friday so Monday I felt pretty awful but went to work and grinded it out until Wednesday. Wednesday morning after my two busy days I had to stay home, I felt like I had gotten hit by a train. This had already surpassed my normal feelings of sickness that come with gluten exposure and the length. I started to worry, especially about my business trip. I went to work Thursday but left a little early.

I started to worry it was something more, started googling every sort of bowel disease or complication. My stomach and small intestine were legitimately in pain that I did not think was possible. I woke up Friday the day I was supposed to leave for Canada and had to go to urgent care, from there the doctor sent me to the ER because I was really dehydrated. I sat in that ER for hours getting poked and prodded at for any hint at what could be wrong. At the end- nothing, just a notion that it was inflammation from who knows what. Six days after gluten exposure I finally started to look more in celiac and what it can entail.

I found out that really no matter what you do, gluten stays in your body for 14 days. And I had a lot of gluten. I started reading into the experiences of other people and learned that it is not uncommon to be bedridden for two weeks. Everything started to make sense so I knew I had to finally let myself rest. I started off loading up on antioxidants, adopted a grain-free, vegan diet for the next few days and let my digestive system rest. I stuck with the probiotics, added slippery elm supplements in and started taking epsom salt baths (the best thing to ever exist, the magnesium calms you and detoxes your body). I didn’t leave bed for two whole days, not like I felt like I could. Monday I felt crappy still but significantly better. I was able to go to work and take it easy. I’m now on day 11 since gluten exposure and I’m not 100% but I’m getting back to where I was. The hardest thing to kick was the depression related symptoms, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried these past two weeks for reasons unknown.

Overall, I’m sad I missed my trip to Ottawa. Travel is by far the most important thing to me usually and I’m lucky I work in a job that supports it (woo destination marketing) but I really needed the time to rest and heal. I hope that this post finds anyone who might be insane googling their symptoms like I did. It can take forever to feel better, especially if you have a fast-paced life like I do. In the end, I’ve learned that celiac disease can be a b*tch but I need to focus on putting my health first more often. There will be days when I accidentally put myself in bed for two weeks and it sucks but that’s the hand I was dealt. I am eternally grateful for the people in my life that were so eager to help and send me well wishes. I wouldn’t want to relive it for a second but it puts in perspective that people do care about me even when my faux depression induced by celiac convinces me they don’t.

There is always something to take away from these misfortunes and I’m glad I’m starting to feel better. If anyone ever needs any advice on how to deal with this annoying disease, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. It is a lot better when you’re not alone.

What I Eat In a Day: Vegetarian and Gluten-Free

Hey all! Lately I’ve been trying to get inspired to make new meals that aren’t boring to me because I’m definitely not the type of person that can eat the same thing every day. I also need food that is going to shock my taste buds from time to time preferably something with hot sauce or lemon, I could really eat anything with those two.

I’ve been extremely busy lately with one month to graduation and trying to figure out this whole adult thing (if anyone can teach me how to real world, please let me know), this has made grocery shopping a bottom priority as of late. So I decided to whip up lunch with literally whatever I had left in my fridge, luckily a package of extra-firm tofu was one of those things. So here we go, this is every glorious thing I consumed April 12th, 2017.

Breakfast-

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So I decided to start my day off with some Southwest Tofu Scramble Breakfast Tacos. I completely made up and winged this recipe and I’m kind of proud of the end result. This was a game time decision, as I made these with 15 minutes to spare until I had to leave for my internship. These were fairly simple to make, and my first experience with cooking with tofu for breakfast. I have no idea the measurements of what I actually made this with because I threw it together in 10 minutes but here is what you’ll need:

  • Bell peppers
  • Red onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Extra-firm tofu
  • Taco seasoning
  • Corn Tortilla
  • Avocado oil
  • Optional: Hot sauce and Avocado

So how do you make this you might ask…how did you make all of these random ingredients you literally found in your fridge last minute taste like pure magic in your mouth?? Well, I’m here to tell you. Step 1, cover skillet with avocado oil on medium heat and start sizzling that corn tortilla. While you do that, chop up your veggies and crumble your tofu. You can really use any veggies you want, this is just what I had leftover from making shish kabobs the other night (we had one 70 degree day and I tried to be grill master). When your tortilla is nice and crispy you’re going to want to take that baby out of the skillet and throw it on a plate. Next I just put a little more avocado oil in my skillet and put down the veggies and tofu. When the veggies start to look cooked I add in the taco seasoning, which I kind of just guess how much I think I’m going to need (unprofessional cooking with Mary Kate tip). More time passes and as I start to realize I’m going to be late for my glamorous unpaid internship I take the veggies out and put them on the tortilla, add some sliced avocado and put more hot sauce than I really should on it. With this meal I also had a cup of Fit Tea, which I’ll most likely be posting on in the future after this trendy teatox is over and I look like a Victoria’s Secret model because that’s how these things work, right???

Lunch-

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My lunch was pretty simple to be honest, but really filling surprisingly for a salad. Nothing flashy about this besides the roasted tofu I made that tastes like perfect mix of crispy and godly.

LIKE LOOK AT THIS

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I made up this recipe the other day, and I kind of guess that this is how one would roast tofu but you never know. All you need is extra-firm tofu, soy sauce, rice flour and avocado oil or whatever oil you have on deck.

So here’s how you make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450, it’s about to get hot in here.
  2. Cut up yourself some extra-firm tofu cubes but first try to press as much moisture out as you can with paper towels and your hands. We want these nice and crispy.
  3. Put tofu cubes in a bowl and drizzle on mixture of soy sauce (I used gluten-free because I don’t hate myself) and avocado oil. I shook this all up then let it sit and marinate for like 10 minutes. Made myself a cup of tea and got distracted by bad Bravo reality TV.
  4. Drain your excess marinade and sprinkle some rice flour on your tofu, it’ll help it get extra crispy.
  5. Put on parchment paper on a tray and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes and watch them get golden brown and beautiful.

So after you have your tofu the rest is fairly simple. Lay out a bed of spinach, cucumber, avocado and almond. Add tofu. For the dressing I did an easy go to of 3 parts apple cider vinegar, 2 parts agave nectar, and 1 part lemon juice. Once your salad is dressed and plated you’re ready to feel like a fit goddess because you’re eating a salad where chicken tenders is not a main topping.

Dinner-

So for dinner my housemates and I decided to go out for our lovely sister Sam’s birthday. Sammi is a gem and one of the funniest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing so it was only necessary that $2.50 margs were on deck to celebrate. There’s a place in my college town called Water Street Cafe, at night it functions as a bar under a different name but by day it is a hot spot for the best food around. Highlights include: homemade gauc, wings, burritos and salads to die for. It was taco night when we went but I decided to go with nachos. I usually don’t eat animal byproducts but I’ve been good so why not. These nachos consisted of corn tortilla chips, pico, black beans, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and a side of gauc (of course I added hot sauce too). These were 10/10 and if time travel was a thing I would go back and re-eat these 12 times over.

Besides the nachos, I was able to stay relatively healthy with my meals of the day. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be rough but letting yourself binge eat nachos and drink margs once in a while really keeps you sane, trust me, I’m a doctor. Overall, a fun day of eating considering I had the bare minimum to work with. Stay tuned for more recipes and fun as I continue to fulfill my most basic human need and feed myself.