On Top of the Nordic World

Latest travel trip to the serene, untouched country of Norway. We spent 5 days exploring cities such as Bergen, Gerinagerfjord, Alesund and the area of Jostedalsbreen National Park. Traveling to Norway was the most peaceful experience I have had while visiting a country.

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A Gal in Paris: A Stroll in Le Marais

The arrival of spring in Paris has been marked with nights huddled in bed listening to raindrops fall along white rooftops, roaming the desolate streets as grey skies peak overhead and small ounces of blossoms preparing to bloom. It is the halfway point: my sixth month of living in this inspiring city. 

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Skiing the Swiss Alps in Skinny Jeans

I missed the feeling of fresh air pressing against your face, the wide open spaces of pure nature surrounding you.

I missed the miles of untouched beauty stretching for what appeared to be to the ends of the Earth.

I forgot what it felt like to want to be free. The mountains were calling and without hesitation, we came running

A few weeks ago my friend and I took a trip to Annecy, a small mountain village on the border of France and Switzerland. Prior to arriving, we had little knowledge of the town, except for its geographical proximity to the Alps, which peaked over the rooftops of this quaint city. We found ourselves walking through the streets filled with vibrant buildings and along the town's central lake -- scenery so incredibly breathtaking with hues of winter blues. 

We spent two days exploring the town, to eventually hitching the bus to the top of the mountain to the small ski resort of Semnoz. It had been three years since I had thrown on a pair of skis and by the sheer site of the powder and the groups of people gliding down the terrain - I decided to be a little spontaneous. After all, skiing the Alps had been a major bucket list item of mine for years. I was completely unprepared, lacking the basic winter wear neccessary for the sport, but my excitement outweighed menial outfit concerns -- okay, so I may come back with frostbite... - what's an experience if you don't lose a finger or two? In a matter of moments, I rented the equipment, strapped on my lift pass and was ready to hit the slopes in my skinny jeans.

As I rode the lift to the top, I stopped at the peak to look out at the horizon of snow covered nature surrounding me. I was alone on this massive heap of frozen Earth, feeling the air hit my back, wanting to never move from this patch of the world -- I felt as if my feet had found a place to stand still, to take in the true, unfiltered imagery around me. 

I found myself thinking a million things at once. I thought about how fortunate I felt to be able to travel, to see the world as I have always wanted. I thought about how much has changed in such a short period of time, how much I had changed and how I was continuing to grow, to mold, to figure it all out -- how reaching the top of this mountain felt so oddly metaphorical (the bi-product of viewing your life as one big story). I thought about how happy I was to be alone, to allow myself to bask in this moment of silence. But, how I also wanted to share this view with the people I love -- and how I wish sometimes they could all be in one place together -- Man, they would have really loved this view.

I find it inexplicable more times than none, that in the little moments of life is when I can say I have found the most clarity. Whether it's riding on the bus staring out the window, sitting in the corner of a cafe people watching, eyeing the wings of a plane as they float into the sky during takeoff or on top of a snow covered mountain looking out into the abyss -- my perspective shifts in the most simplest ways. 

I believe in finding your place of silence, your place marked with solitude that allows for a break from reality. Sometimes the hustle is good, sometimes you need to hear the noise to wake you up, sometimes you need to be shoved into a crowd to know you're not alone. But, there will be those times where you catch a ride to the top of the world and just allow yourself to be. Allow yourself to want for nothing but the hum of the wild air. In those fleeting moments, is when your start to make sense of your world. There are plenty of things in life that will stop you, things that will scare you and things that will hinder you from taking the leap. If there is one thing I know, it's that life is about the unexpected, the unanticipated. It's about making every moment an adventure, being so full of experiences and always hungry for more. There will be things that will try to stop you from climbing your metaphorical mountain. Take it from me when I say, keep going, the view at the top is better than what you could ever imagine. 

Even if all you have is a pair of skinny jeans, you bite the bullet of the cold and you strap up your boots to head out to the slopes. Because when life gives you a snow covered mountain -- you go skiing. 

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Hey New Year, Wanna Hang?

I'm going to get the ball rolling with a fact you may hate me for stating: Making a new year's resolution is hella hard. 

When categorizing what one hopes to change about themselves in this new beginning of time and space, there are a few standard methods of organization:

  • More frequent trips to the gym
  • Less late night binges in the snack closet
  • More openness to loving relationships
  • Less letting your significant other walk all over you
  • Stop letting your boss walk all over you
  • Buy that house
  • Buy that car

No scratch responsibility -- Buy that plane ticket.

Whichever category you find yourself fitting into as we are now a few days deep into 2017, I want to be the one to tell you that this little charade can go either way. You can make the resolution and stick to it or you can throw change out the window and keep on keepin' on with your bad self. 

Let's flash back to last year's resolution when I vowed to give up eating McDonalds at the start of 2016. Now don't judge me for my over indulgence of America's favorite fast food: I was semi-poor, sometimes intoxicated and definitely overweight - a time in my life I like to refer to as college. Either way the absence of cheeseburgers and fries were replaced by 6 am wake up calls to hit the gym before the day started, swapping salty snacks for salad and hoping that if I willed my mind enough to do so the pounds would fall off my waist. Who says you can't use the power of positive thinking? 

My stint from grease and over consumption fell from grace eventually at the site of shining yellow arches, starved and hungry on a midnight drive home. I can admit, I am weak. So in a more rigorous attempt to embrace the new year, I've decided that 2017 resolutions should be rooted in making me a better person rather than trying to deny my love for cheap, easy access food. 

And so I started to brainstorm ideas. What could make this slightly dysfunctional twenty-three year old less of a complete mess and more of a functional, semi-adult in society?  If I'm being truthful, which I will be because what's a blog if not the hard, honest truth, I will say that there are a handful of things I knew I needed to stop doing to start building some level of sanity.

I will say that 2016 was a dichotomy of a year. The first half I spent nights in my sorority room panicking about how I was going to survive off of the salary most people made right out of college. How would I eat? Where would I live? Would I need to sell a limb just to afford a dental cleaning? It was anxiety at its prime, followed by binge eating Indian food and drinking bottles of red wine. Then something happened once I graduated, flipped that cap up in the air and say see ya to university life -- I suddenly felt zero pressure to be an adult. I finally tasted freedom and I wasn't going to give it up anytime soon.

Like most college graduates who are confused about their future, I decided to avoid it and backpack across Europe for two weeks. As life would have it and as I warned my parents prior to hopping on this international excursion, I did indeed fall in love. Don't get too excited, this isn't about to turn into some mushy fairytale. Nah, I feel in love with the adventure. Being in a different country every few days gave me some level of heightened perspective that I never knew existed and when I become intrigued by something, I chase it with every fiber in my being. So there went the responsibility, there went the stability and functional parts of my brain that pushed me toward the social norm and in walked the free spirited, wanderer with her heart set on experience.

I can't say that 2016 was perfect in every aspect. Yeah sure, I moved to Paris -- a place of life, love, culture, adored by many -- it's been a beautiful ride. But like everyone else, I messed up in 2016. I made mistakes and discovered fatal flaws about myself that can only come through making some not so great decisions. I let friendships slide, I put faith in the wrong people and let fear get the best of me.

Yet, in the messiness of it all I realized that 2016 taught me a lot about the person I thought I was and the person I actually want to be. In 2016 I was the girl who tried to please everyone, the girl who was content with subpar relationships, who thought she could be content with half-assed appreciation and respect, the girl more concerned with making others happy than her own self.

And in 2017, I aim to give that girl a wake up call. In some ways, I've figured it out and in others I'm still completely lost but that's okay, in fact it's what is expected of a 23 year old who classifies microwave popcorn as an acceptable form of dinner. I'm still a mess, but I'm one that's learning and one that will continue to make mistakes and grow as long as I am up to the challenge. 

So to 2017 I say, let's be friends. Let's be the type of pals that don't bullshit one another, let me know when I'm being weak, selfish or scared. Tell me that I need to pursue my passions and make sure I follow through. Most of all, be there when I need you, cause you know I will. And if you find me sitting by the Seine, eating french fries from McDonald's try not to judge me: I'm frugal, hungry and sometimes missing the good old USA. 

 

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I'm Busy Trying to Become Who I Am

I want to take a second to thank Lena Dunham, whose monologue on the first episode of the show Girls, is what inspired this post on a laid back Friday night while sipping my second glass of red wine. (Am I French enough yet?) 

As I have mentioned in my previous posts about my move to Paris, this year is the time for me to take a breather between graduating from college and moving on to the next stage of my life. Which I'm pretty sure is called adulthood, with things that echo responsibility and maturity, but I'm secretly hoping it's all just a big conspiracy theory -- guess I will find out sooner or later. But with this avoidance of stability and structure comes the question that I'm almost positive everyone asks themselves on a day to day basis: What the hell am I doing with my life?

I can say with complete certainty that I have never known exactly what I wanted to do. I was never the one with career goals and plans that lead me down a path that I could follow with careful steps. I am someone whose idea of success has never been defined by fiscal means and monetary gains. I have always measured my life through the standard of experiences. And yet right now, I'm living an experience that people would describe as "once in a lifetime." Well, when you put it that way, I better be making the most of it right?

Moving here took me off the path that I think most of my family and friends had expected I would follow in the months after graduating. In the back of my mind, I always thought -- I'll probably just end up moving to New York City, I've always wanted to know what it would be like to live there and who cares if I didn't have the perfect job upon arriving, I could figure it all out with time. I was completely okay with the idea of just moving somewhere because I thought it was a place that would fit my personality, they have coffee shops right? Okay I'm sold. But was the caffeine to corner ratio what I wanted to define my future with? 

So instead of following suit, I jumped. I threw caution to the wind and moved across the world.

One night, as I was sitting at a bar with a group of women each from differing countries, we began discussing our feelings of what we hoped the next year in this city would bring. It was evident everyone was searching for something, searching for some level of personal, emotional, intellectual clarity. As I was discussing my plans: to travel, to write, to capture the world, to better myself -- one of the girls said to me:

"You can be anyone you want to be here, no one knows you."

It was a statement that shifted my balance. You're telling me that I could shed the parts of myself that I felt were holding me back? That I could really start to express my creativity and mind without fear of being judged? The idea was refreshing, I could start being who I wanted to be because no one here could define me by their preconceived notions of who they thought I was. I've always been steadfast with the idea that life is about constantly redefining yourself, the act of altering bits and pieces to figure out who it is you exactly want to be. She was right, I could let go of who I was, to work towards the person I hoped to become.

I can admit that in this past year I've been selfish. I have let my personal relationships slip. I have been severely lacking in communication. And I have yet to send one person at home a postcard from Paris and for that I sincerely apologize (I really need to get my priorities in order). This has been a year of having absolutely no clue what I want, figuring out what I could potentially want, questioning these dreams and plans and therefore doubting them just to restart the entire cycle. And even though I am aware of the people I have been neglecting and know there has been radio silence on my end, I have started to realize that sometimes you have to step back and figure out things on your own. 

And even though this is me taking full responsibility for my shortcomings, I am holding onto the idea that there is no better time in my life than now to be selfish. Who knows where I will be in 5, 10, 15 years? What if I'll have major responsibilities that require all of my efforts and attention?  Will it ever be possible for me to truly do what I want, when I want ever again?  And you may think that it's wrong to purely focus on yourself, that there is a negative connotation associated with such self indulgent behavior. But trust me when I say, be selfish for a short time. Put your feelings, your goals, your needs at the top of the list and work every day to construct whichever version of yourself you aim to be. Reevaluate your relationships, change your major, find a new job, spend time alone -- be busy trying to figure out who you want to be. 

I'm going to walk the streets of Paris, sit for hours in a coffee shop working on my writing, carry my camera everywhere as if it is a physical part of me, travel to places that I've only dreamed of experiencing and find inspiration wherever I can. Because I am truly certain that there is no better time than now to do everything I want to do. To the people I love, believe me when I say it's not you because it really, really is me. I promise that in this pursuit of myself I will try to call more, let you know how much I appreciate you, and if you're lucky.. I'll send a postcard or two.

 

 

You Are Where You Need to Be

I often hear people say that they feel their life is unsatisfying. Whether this discontentment stems from a job, a relationship, financial stress or the yearning to pursue their dreams without knowing where to begin, everyone seems to have something that is holding them back. In truth, I have felt this level of dissatisfaction, a feeling that my situation was not allowing me to live up to my full potential. I would be lying if changing one aspect of my life magically erased these concerns, in fact I'm positive that with most insecurities and worries, these will never completely diminish. Yet, when faced with the idea that I had been complacent for too long with the direction in which life was taking me, I knew I needed a change. I knew that in order to achieve what I defined as happiness, I had to create the life I wanted to live. 

For as long as I can remember, writing and photography have been the constants that has allowed me to express myself. As I studied creative writing in college, I realized that this kind of artistic outlet helped me discover my internal thoughts and complexities. I find that with any situation, I can only understand the purpose and lesson it offered once I turn my thoughts into words on the page. 

Photography has always been a way for me to hold onto moments. Life is fleeting, time is short and being able to grab an experience through my lens, makes me feel connected to that place, time or individual without limit. I started photographing people as an extension of my love for storytelling and wanted to be able to capture the beautiful, raw emotions of the human experience. In the most subtle way, my work shows the people, places and moments that I have loved, that I have lost, and what I hope to one day find again. 

I was walking home tonight, a busy Saturday along the Seine with the Eiffel glistening in the background and thought, "I have to keep doing everything that I want to do." These past two months in this city has inspired me in ways I never thought possible -- it has pushed me to keep pursuing my creativity and has allowed me to realize how much I aim to achieve within these next few years. 

If I have any knowledge to impart on those who are looking for change, it's this: you have to curate the life you want to live. Start with small changes to give your happiness a new perspective. Jumpstart your morning with a cup of a new flavor of coffee -- download music that makes you want to do nothing but dance around your room -- take a different way home from work -- buy yourself flowers or food or wine or a new pair of boots and indulge like you never have before. Deviate from the monotony you have become so accustomed to and embrace that there are little adventures in the everyday aspects of your life. Yes, you can pack up your bags and move somewhere new, you can quit your job, or you can sell your worldly possessions and travel the globe. You can do whatever you feel will make you happy. Just remember that contentment comes with knowing what you want, having dreams and pursuing them and making choices that allow you to become the person you want to be. 

With small and careful steps, I have found a level of happiness through the art of writing and photography. I have found it through traveling to new places, meeting people of varying cultures and opening myself up to what the world can offer. I have found it through my first and forever love of music. I have found it in my relationships, ones that have ended, ones that have lasted and ones that I work tirelessly to maintain.

The level validity and acceptance you hope to gain will take patience. It will be work, it will be difficult, it will be a rollercoaster of emotions. Yet, in the grand scheme of life and time -- there is none to be wasted. Make the most of what you can achieve, embrace the beauty of the little moments and be conscious of what you want to come next. It may not always seem like it, but I can assure that one day you will wake up and realize that you are exactly where you need to be. 

Then, she began to breathe, and live, and every moment took her to a place where goodbyes were hard to come by. She was in love, but not in love with someone or something, she was in love with her life. And for the first time, in a long time, everything was inspiring.

Fallin' for this City

I have to admit, I've been slacking on my writing lately. For someone who calls themselves a writer, I've been neglecting the one thing that makes me who I am. In an attempt to make a small resolution, I decided that the arrival of October marks a new leaf I am about to turn over. If you didn't catch the change of season pun -- don't worry, the execution was poor on my part. But in all seriousness, October is the beginning of the time of the year that makes this girl all kinds of stupid, annoying happy.

Even when I lived in Florida, where change of seasons don't tend to exist, I still reveled in the moments of a crisp, autumn breeze and the scents of pumpkin and spice. And if I think I loved it then, I didn't know what I was missing. It's as if one day I woke up and everything in Paris changed: the temperature dropped substantially, the leaves turned a different shade and suddenly the fashion was jackets and scarfs that I am quietly envying from afar.

In the past month, I've come to see how different life abroad can be. With a few bumps in the road in regard to still not having a bank card, still not having a transport pass and still being unable to figure out the total cost at the market (I should really practice my numbers)  -- I have to say, I'm learning that life in France takes patience, a lesson that I have fully embraced. Despite these minor hiccups, emphasis on the minor, because even though I may be a little lost and confused among the red tape, I live in Paris -- who really is going to complain about that -- things here have been ideal.

As someone who thinks in creative conjectures of the world with her romanticized ideologies, I find the change of season to be a metaphor for my life at this moment. Yes, I came here at the end of summer if you want to harp on logistics, but the turn of fall is the time where I'm really starting to feel at home. I feel a level of comfort and ease as I have figured out exactly how to get to my French classes, where my frequently used Metro stops are and have started to recognize the faces of people from my neighborhood. I made some new friends, despite they are also from America and that doesn't really count, it's been nice to be able to discuss our experiences together. In truth, I yearn to make French friends, but the language is slowly, slowly growing on me, so I see that taking some time. Patience, Patience, Patience. 

I have been walking around lately, looking up at the beautifully sculpted architecture of the Parisian structures and can't help but think to myself, "I can't believe I live here." You write down all the things you want to do one day, you make a bucket list of your life and yet you still never know if you will achieve them. Mine has always been to travel, to see the world and the list -- it keeps growing with time. And sometimes I just have to pull myself back to my grounded state -- yes, you live here -- appreciate it -- enjoy every moment. This feeling is still as surreal as it was about six weeks ago and I hope it never goes away. 

 

 

A Year in Paris

It's been three weeks since I arrived in Paris. I boarded a plane, moved to a country to which I had never been before, unpacked my bags and settled into my little studio, my home for the next eleven months. I spent the summer preparing for this move to the other side of the world, anticipating what would happen once I arrived, thinking about how I would feel living in a place that is completely different from the standard normalcy that I knew.

I have yet to feel a wave of culture shock or discomfort. And although it seems odd to not feel the slightest bit of unease, I have obtained a sense of peace being here. I expected to feel overwhelmed, wanting to experience all of Paris once I arrived, diving in head first with a mentality that there is much to see with little time. Yet, I realized I am not on a vacation with a departure date, I actually live here. I have the next year to walk along my favorite street corners, learn the names of the people who work at the corner market I frequent and find myself completely lost within the city (in the best way possible). 

In order to experience situations that deviate from your comfort zone, you have to give and take to put your plans into motion. I happen to be working a job here that has absolutely nothing to do with what I studied and isn't what I would describe as my passion or life long career aspiration. I put my career plans and goals on pause to take this year for myself. Essentially it is a gap year to figure out what exactly it is I want moving forward. In the last month, my friend & I started a small company, I began thinking about pursuing higher education and even seriously considered the idea that for the next few years I may not want to call one specific place home. I am someone with an abundance of dreams, a handful of items on my "things to do in my lifetime" list and this move is a fitting beginning. This work opportunity is described as a cultural exchange, the ability for me to fully integrate myself into the French culture by understanding their way of life, learning the language and being surrounded by the feeling of a family while being on my own. There is purpose and understanding that this is a stepping stone to reach another goal. Even though a year may seem long, before I know it this sliver of my life will be over and I will be moving onto what is to come next. In my planning nature, I am taking each day to appreciate the beautiful opportunity I have been able to make a reality, with the mindset that I must start putting into motion the plans for my future. Because if there is one thing I know to be true, it is that time waits for no one. 

Before I left, I sat with my dad and discussed my lack of attachment. He told me that he feels that at this point in my life, I feel no attachment to one singular place and that is why the idea of moving away from my steady life and loved ones, is a challenge I have embraced without worry. In truth, I had never thought about my wandering nature in that context. I know I am the kind of person that can't be somewhere for too long. I sometimes feel I have not been challenged enough to test my personal and intellectual capacity. I overthink every situation and have an overwhelming fear that I will waste my time. I'm starting to see that all of these fragments of who I am have turned me into this person who is missing something. Whether that be a place, person or thing to fill a space within me -- to make me feel like I could stand still for a while --- is where this detachment stems from.  I can't say I have found it yet and in the spirit of being honest with myself, I'm not sure I ever will. 

Yet with all of this in mind, I am looking forward to the possibility of growth that this next year will offer. I want nothing more than to be tested and endure, learn from others and in turn figure out more about myself. I am fully aware that this will not be easy, but I can be certain that it will be worth it.

 

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Garage Band at Fuzzy Baby Records

Photo shoot this weekend at Fuzzy Baby Records in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had the opportunity to work with local musicians and comedians as shown below. Definitely a different vibe than I usually work with, but it was super cool! Not many know that I am a music junkie and have always had dreams of traveling across the world with bands. After this shoot, it's safe to say I'm going to expand my portfolio and start seeking out clients in the music industry. Thanks for an awesome time guys, rock & roll forever.