Wednesday, June 28, 2017

what I learned from 4,000 miles alone

This past fall, I spontaneously packed up my car and drove from Upstate NY to Breckenridge, CO (and back). I stopped in Niagara Falls; Cleveland, OH; Chicago, IL; Des Moines, IL (on the way back); Omaha, NE; Denver, CO; and finally, Breckenridge, CO. I stayed anywhere from 1-4 nights in each city. I was in a transitional time in my life. I had just graduated college, I had just gotten out of a relationship, summer was over, and I was having one of those, “What the f*ck am I doing with my life,” kind of moments. 

My sister thought I was absolutely insane. My parents know my personality well, so they knew I was going to pack my bags and go, whether they agreed with my decision or not. I told them it was just something I needed to do…and boy, was I right. 
I planned the trip within days. My parents helped me out with money for gas (it was about 2,000 miles each way) hotels because if I was going to go, they wanted me to be safe. People often ask me if my parents were nervous with me on the road…let’s just say, they did not sleep soundly for weeks and my mom prayed all day, everyday. 
I remember the feeling I had the morning I left like it was yesterday. I was so excited but also feeling like holy sh*t, this is happening. So, off I went with my bag of quarters for tolls, a hugely overpacked car (the weather was different in every city), my skis (for Breck), and a roadside kit for emergencies (thanks, mom). A few weeks later and 4,000 miles under my belt, I returned a changed woman. Here are 5 things I learned while on the road: 

I Gained Major Confidence. This might have been the biggest one for me. I am a pretty confident person to begin with, but traveling alone really increased my confidence. I had no one to rely on for help, I had to drive in heavy city traffic (for the first time ever...Chicago—holy sh*t, stressful) while having no idea where I was going, where my hotel was, etc. I had periods of time on the highway (like 300-400 miles) where I passed nothing but rest stops and an occasional McDonald’s. I remember pulling up to a few sketchy rest stops thinking to myself, “Laura…play it cool.” Meanwhile, my heart was beating a million miles an hour knowing that if anything happened to me no one would ever know because I was in the middle of nowhere. Driving cross country by myself was not all sunshine and daisies. At times, it was downright uncomfortable. But as the saying goes, nothing grows in a comfort zone. After navigating my way from NY to CO and back, I can confidently tell you that there is very few things I am afraid of now (dock spiders still make the list though). 

I Learned How to Be Alone. This was another big one. I learned how to be alone because I had no other choice, I was completely alone. I had never traveled without my family, a friend, or a boyfriend before. I had no one to talk to in the car, no one with me in my hotel room, no one to do things with. At first this was strange, but then I got the hang of it after a few short days into the trip. I explored Niagara Falls by myself. I went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for the day, by myself (one of my favorite things I did on the trip). I skied Breckenridge by myself. I explored Denver by myself. I drove the Mount Evans Scenic Byway by myself, a tad nerve-racking once I was up a few miles in the mountains with NO cell reception and the road covered in snow (thinking to myself, if I slipped off the road would anybody ever find me…). I spent Thanksgiving alone (that might have been the hardest day for me on the trip). I think going to dinner was the hardest part of being alone. I really pushed myself to eat lunch and dinner out. This was a bit uncomfortable at first. I personally hate seeing people eat alone, and then there I was, the girl eating alone. What worked for me was bringing a journal—I would order a glass of wine while at the bar or table, and journal about my day. That way, I didn’t feel like a total loner. By the end of the trip, I was completely comfortable being on my own. I wasn’t shy or embarrassed by it. I learned that I’m completely capable of being on my own. I don’t mind it at all, in fact, I’ve learned to love it.

Story Time: I explored Chicago through a company called “Chicago Private Tours.” I wanted to see as much as I could while I was there. Chicago is an intimidating city when you’re there by yourself, hence why I paid for a tour. Online it stated that there would be other people in the vehicle. I thought, perfect I won’t feel so alone! Well, when I met the tour guides in the lobby of my hotel, I found out I was the only one that was going to be on the tour that day. I thought, hmmm okay…a little nervous, but we’ll see how it goes. So, I hopped into a big black van with tinted windows with two men. Immediately, I’m sitting there thinking…should I get out? Is this sketchy? They had great reviews on Trip Advisor? Am I going to end up on the news? However, I decided to stay in the van. I shot my parents a quick text that said, “Hey, don’t be nervous but I’m on a private tour of Chicago in a black van with two male tour guides. They seem nice. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours, I just wanted you to know where I am.” I look back now and think, WOW if that isn’t a parent's worse nightmare! Long story short, it ended up being one of the BEST days of my whole trip and it made it even better that I was the only one because I got SO much out of the tour, the best pictures, and great one-on-one conversation with the guides. 

Don’t Wait. This lesson I actually learned from talking with different people throughout my trip. The most common thing people said to me after I told them I was driving cross country was, “I always wanted to do that but I never took the time.” I literally cannot tell you how many people said this to me! People of all different ages, backgrounds, situations. People with kids, single people, elderly people, people in passing, hotel staff, waiters and waitresses. The more I heard this from other people, it made me kind of sad..but reassured me that I had made the right choice by packing my bags. It’s true what they say, life is short, and it’s passing you by right now as you read this. So if there’s anything you want to do, or say, or change in your life, do it. The time will never be just right to do anything, so don’t wait. 

Materialistic S*hit Doesn’t Matter. This is perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve always known but really hit home with me on this trip. On my journey back home to NY, I remember thinking, “someday I’m going to look back on my life and be so glad I did this.” I returned home with no souvenirs but a few post cards, my hotel room keys, and my journals that I wrote in while on the road. When you're away from home, you miss your family and friends..not your "stuff." Money is an essential part of life and survival (and it sure does make things a whole lot easier...I’m not telling you anything you don’t know), but I promise you if you think having more “things” is the key to happiness, it’s truly not. The best things in life can’t be bought. They are people and places, memories and pictures. They are feelings and moments. These are the things you leave with when you reach the end of your life, these are the things that are most important.  

Live for You. Last but not least, this is a lesson I wish I had learned when I was 18. When I say, “live for you,” I mean…live the life YOU want to live. Not the life your parents want you to live, not the life your teachers or coaches want you to live, not the life your friends live, not the life society tells you to live. Reflecting back on my senior year of high school, I had not a clue what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. Senior year is all about career planning and college and questions and more questions about who you are and what you’re going to do and blah blah blah. It made me feel like a loser for not knowing. I often felt like what’s wrong with me? That’s what society pushes in your face from the day you graduate Kindergarten: get good grades, graduate high school, go to college, get a career, get married, start a family. Nobody ever tells you, HEY, it’s okay if college isn’t for you…it’s okay if you don’t have a plan…it’s okay if you don’t want a set career…but it’s also okay if you do. I met some of the most AMAZING people on my trip with the most amazing stories—particularly in Breckenridge, CO. Many of them in their 40’s and 50’s (some even in their 70’s!!) that drove out to Colorado to ski bum when they were in their early twenties and never left. They’ve been in the ski industry their whole lives because skiing and/or riding was their passion. They then found love and someone to marry, settled down and started a family. Bottomline, the one thing that all of these people had in common was that they were SO happy because they followed their heart and passion. Those are the kind of people that inspire me because they are the ones, that I believe, truly “get” it. Nothing is worth it in life if you’re aren’t happy. There is no right or wrong way to live your life. Nobody is better than anybody else. You gotta ignore the naysayers, find your passion, chase your dreams, decide what you want and make the necessary choices to live YOUR best life, the way YOU want to. 

In closing, I want to tell you that it doesn’t matter what’s been written in your story so far, it’s how you fill up the rest of the pages that counts. My road trip changed my life, it changed my perspective, and most importantly, it opened my eyes and helped me grow. 

Go find what makes you happy, take time for adventures and most importantly..

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura 

f*ck what others think

Over the course of my 23 years of life, I’ve had my fair share of moments worrying about what others thought of me. Like most, I’ve been criticized, rejected, talked about (not in a good way), and made fun of. We’ve all been there. But why do we care so much about other people’s opinions, even those of total strangers? Because it’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted. The desire for connection and to fit in is one of the six basic human needs according to the research of Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes. 

If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout the years, it’s that the less you give a damn about what others think of you, the happier you will be. 

Here is how I taught myself to stop caring what others think:

1.) Realize that no one cares as much as you think they do. 
Everyone is busy thinking about themselves. The human brain has like a gazillion thoughts a day. You might be 1 thought out of a billion. They think about you, talk about you, whatever, and then they move on. Don’t sweat it. 

2.) Unhappy people are usually the ones evaluating and judging others.
The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. 
“The people who go out of their way to make hateful comments must have a pretty crappy life. Why would someone who is happy or building a worthwhile life take the time to do nothing more than be hateful?” 

3.) Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  
Stay true to yourself and know your values. Be proud of who you are and not ashamed of how someone else sees you. In thirty years, nobody is going to remember your choices except for you. 

4.) Don’t entertain negativity.
Purge your life of negative and toxic people and resources. Negative people are cancerous. I am noooooo stranger to defriending people or unfollowing them on social media. It’s simple, if someone doesn’t make me feel good, I don’t keep up with them. Same goes for real life. 

5.) Not everyone is going to like you and there’s nothing you can do about it. 
My young naive brain grew up with the notion that if you’re nice to someone, they should be nice back to you. I quickly learned that’s NOT always the case. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to want to be your friend…and that’s okay. Don’t waste your time trying to get everyone to like you, because guess what? It’s impossible! Instead of worrying about who doesn’t like you, focus on being a better person for those who do. 

6.) Only trust a few opinions. 
Find a few close people in your life that you know you can trust—people who know you and have your best interest at heart. For me, that’s my family. For some of you, that might be your friends or a teacher, or whoever. Find your people and confide in them. Others opinions don’t matter. 

7.) Detach yourself from response. 
This one I learned from fitness guru, Elliot Hulse. You need to learn how to detach yourself from the good AND bad responses from others. Notice how people respond to you, but don’t carry it too far. He uses this example of a “bird in a tree.” You have a bird in a tree singing his sweet song—person #1 thinks, “Thank you for singing such a sweet song.” Person #2 thinks, “That bird is so f*cking annoying.” Guess what the bird does? He keeps singing because that’s what he does, and that’s who he is. He is unaffected by the good and bad opinion of others. 

8.) Become your own best friend. 
Learn how to make yourself happy. “When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that the only approval and validation you need is your own.” 

9.) F*ck em. 
This one I learned from my dad. Just be you and if people don’t like it—f*ck em. Kurt Kobain once said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not." 

10.) Let go of perfectionism. 
Realize that everyone has flaws and you don’t need to be perfect to be accepted by others. If you learn to accept your flaws and imperfections, no one can use them against you. 

11.) Focus on yourself. 
Self-love, self-respect, self-worth..there is a reason they all start with “self.” You cannot find them in anyone else. 

12.) When someone speaks of you negatively, be flattered.
To be in someone’s mind is to have power over them. Revel in the fact that they subconsciously reserve thoughts and energy for you.

13.) This is your one life. There are no do-overs. 
Last but not least, you gotta realize that we only get one opportunity here are on earth. People are always going to judge. People will be ignorant assholes. People will always have an opinion. The solution: screw what they think. Let loose and live your life. Spend your time and energy living an awesome life and using your talents, gifts, and abilities to make the world and people around you better.

What’s worse: the opinion of others? Or not living your life to the fullest? 

“You can’t let people scare you. You can’t go your whole life trying to please everyone else. You can’t go through life worried about what everyone else is going to think. 
Whether it’s your hair, clothes, what you have to say, how you feel, what you believe and what you have. You can’t let the judgment of others stop you from being you. Because if you do, you’re no longer you. You’re someone everyone else wants you to be.”

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura

the rebel's manifesto

A few months ago I was scrolling through Pinterest and came across this list called, “The Rebel’s Manifesto.” I thought it was SO badass that I printed it out and taped it on the side of my fridge. 

I think there’s a few different “definitions” of what a rebel is, but to me, a rebel means this:

  • Someone who has their own morals and beliefs.
  • Someone who remains true to themselves and their values without giving into any form of pressure.
  • Someone who doesn’t follow the rules. 
  • Someone who doesn't follow trends. 
  • Someone who stands up for what they believe in despite what anyone else says. 
  • Someone who knows who they are and does not compromise themselves for society, for their family or friends, and certainly not to “fit in.”
  • Someone who expresses their true authentic self and individuality. 
  • Someone who is straightforward and honest and tells it like it is.
  • Someone who exhibits great independence with their thoughts and action.
  • Someone who lives their life the way they want to and not what everyone expects of them. 
  • Someone who doesn’t give a damn what others think of them. 
  • Someone who prefers dangerous freedom over peaceful safety. 
  • Someone who doesn’t ask for permission. 
  • Someone who can confidently stand alone.

But the really cool thing about rebels? Most don’t even know they are one. 

So, print this list out. Save it to your phone. Look at it everyday. Let it inspire you to live an authentic life. Let it encourage you to become the best possible badass version of yourself. Let it comfort you in the sense that it is okay not to fit in. Let it motivate you to speak freely and honestly. Let it push you to do the things that you are scared to do. Most importantly, let this list remind you that life is short—live it well and live it for you. 

1. Do the opposite of what you were taught in school.

2. Care not for the opinions of others. They are based on their own thoughts and fears.

3. Study the work of other rebels. Steal things from them. Research with fury.

4. Forget about the competition. They are on a different path than you. Trends are for suckers.

5. “There’s nothing we really need to do that isn’t dangerous”— John Cage. 
Do the things that scare you on a daily basis.

6. Make a mess.

7. Embrace your darkside. Your so called “Dark Qualities” (or labels) are a source of great power. Find a way to incorporate them into your work. Feature them. Pay particular attention to what makes you angry.

8. Exercise your voice. Put your thoughts, ideas and opinions out into the world 
even if it scares the shit out of you (see number 5).

9. Expand your horizons. Leave home. Visit other places/cultures. Wander aimlessly.

10. Never limit your playtime. Even if your brain is telling you otherwise. 
All of your best stuff comes from it, if you allow yourself to remain open to the unknown.

11. Question EVERYTHING.

13. Follow your heart.

(There was no number 12 included in this list. Why? Because a rebel doesn’t give a shit if there’s no number 12) 

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” —Steve Jobs 

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura

living your best life

I am extremely passionate about personal growth and development. I love reading articles, tips, tricks and books about living your best life or how to improve yourself, be a better human, etc. What I’ve learned throughout the years is that little changes make a BIG difference. 

Here are some tips and tricks that have I have applied to my own life: 

Start Fresh Every Day
Forget about what troubled you yesterday, last month, a year ago. Forget about what you did or didn’t do, whatever or whoever made you upset. Finish each day and be done with it. Don't bring yesterday's baggage into today. Remember that life always offers you a second chance—it’s called tomorrow. Everyday is a new beginning.

Be Kind & Compassionate
My Dad taught this one to my sister and I when we were kids. He stills says it to this day. No matter what you do, who you are, where you are at in life…everything comes back to kindness & compassion. Take the time to listen, take the time to talk, take the time to care. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand their situation. Remember that random acts of kindness go a long way—a simple smile, or, “Good morning,” can change someone’s entire mood and maybe even their day. To put it simply, be kind and compassionate and remember that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 

Have a Positive Attitude
Don’t be a Negative Nancy. Nobody likes Nancy. Having a positive attitude is SO important when it comes to living your best life and being happy. Free yourself from negativity, free yourself from negative people. All it does is bring you down and hold you back. Look for something positive in every day, even if some days you have to look a little harder. Your mind is a powerful thing. Your attitude determines your direction. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.

Stop Judging
Judgement comes from a negative place. Judgments mostly have to do with us, not the people we judge, and the same is true when others judge us. Every single person on this planet has a different story. We’re all on some type of journey--surviving, evolving, growing, trying to find our way. None of us are perfect. We have all made mistakes. Bob Marley nailed it on the head when he said, “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect and I don't live to be. But, before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.”

Go The Extra Mile
Pushing yourself makes you stronger. Get to work a half hour early. Bust out an extra 5 or 10 minutes on your morning run. If you don’t know whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, unload it. Volunteer to help others. Be the first one to show up and the last one to leave. Don’t do what’s more. There’s a reason the extra mile is never crowded, it takes effort and effort is what marks the difference between living a mediocre life and an extraordinary life. 

Make Yourself a Priority 
We are often so busy taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority, it is absolutely necessary. Get enough sleep. Exercise and move your body. Eat healthy, throw in some fruits and vegetables. Relax. Breathe. Enjoy alone time. Do things that you enjoy. You are worth it. 

Practice Gratitude
As corny as it may sound, practicing an attitude of gratitude has changed my life. Gratitude has changed the way I think, the way I speak, the way I react to others and the way I look at life. Every morning before I get out of bed, I thank God for another beautiful day. I thank God for my life, my health, my family, my dogs, my friends..the list goes on. I name as many things as I can think of. I have learned to be grateful for big things, small things, and everything in between—the sun shining, the beautiful trees, memories with my loved ones, the food in my fridge, the roof over my head, the bed I sleep on, being able to move and exercise, good music in my ears, fresh water to shower with…there is literally always something to be thankful for. Life is SO very fragile. Everyday we wake up is a blessing and although everyday may not be good, there is good in everyday. 

It also helps to start each day with a positive affirmation, quote, word, etc.
Here is one of my favorites:

Promise Yourself
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
—Christian D. Larson

Here’s to always living your best life.

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura