Site Categories

Site revamping is never fun for me! There’s endless learning about formatting and editing, and I’m more serious about my presentation these day.

I know one thing’s for sure: I have a huge respect for web developers and designers now! Sheesh

Health, Wellness and Food – vegan and plant-based eating / recipes and inspiration/ fitness challenges and motivation for the non-gym lover

Travel Bug – budget travel / solo trippin / living abroad / expat life

Money Talk  – investing / financial literacy / motivation for entrepreneurs / life as a freelance creative

Educate. Learn. Grow – higher education stories / TEFL/TESOL experience / literacy and success

Dani’s Corner – intimate dicussions / taboo topics / mindful expression

Money Ish.

Steps I take to do something when I feel stuck

Sometimes I wake up stressed about money.

For the record, I want to say: I am not a fan of money. I don’t like its energy. It’s dense and noisy. Money as a currency carries with it a weight of intense energy. Because it was not created in love, but rather in desperation and greed, it’s vibration is so disturbing to my spirit.

A good friend said the other day, “Yea. But we need money to survive.”

And I thought, “Actually, no. We don’t need money to survive. We need money to thrive in society,”… which at its very core has taught us everything we don’t need to survive. 

Money is a distraction from what matters. To survive, we need hydration and sunlight. Because we’re basically complicated flowers. Even food is not necessarily a need; if your body has water, fresh air, and sun, you can actually receive nourishment from nature. But that’s a whole other post.

When I wake up stressed about money, it’s usually because something unexpected has popped up on the radar of responsibilities. 

Instead of wallowing in the moment, I usually spend about 2 to 3 minutes down the rabbit hole of anxiety. And then, I need to clean.

I get to cleaning or throwing stuff out. It’s the worst if you live with me, because I tend to throw away important things that (at the moment) aren’t all that important… haha until the very near future.

Purging is my way of coping with stress. Decluttering somehow frees up mental space for me to deal with what is attacking my peace.

If I can’t get rid of anything, I clean and organize. But, since my place is always clean, I have to find something to straighten or clear out or enhance. Usually, I just wind up shuffling things around to a different position.

Then, somewhere in the process, I get ideas about what I can do.

The ideas don’t come when I’m racking my brain. They don’t come when I’m frustrated and bothered. 

They come when I’ve distracted myself from the situation, and busied my hands doing something that brings me peace.

It’s like how it is when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. When you try to force yourself to sleep, it won’t happen. The more sheep you count with the sole expectation of drifting to sleep, the more thoughts of what needs to be done or what you didn’t do come floating on in. 

Now, as I sit here at my laptop with a newly cleaned floor, I’m feeling positive and ready to be productive, not anxious like I was when I awoke.

Time to write some articles and get paid.

‘Cause problems don’t solve themselves in your head. Gotta get up and do something.

via GIPHY

“Ready When You Are!”

All I knew was that I wanted some professional photos. I have tons of pictures, and they’re mostly selfies.

The more public I become, I realize the importance of branding.

I’m finding the lane I want to be in, and how I want to apply my talents and skills wisely.

My only “musts” were to be in yellow, wearing a dress, outside somewhere in nature.

I scored this amazing yellow dress by shear happenstance. I was just stopping by FreeBird Cafe to get a smoothie and some crystals I’d been eyeing. I stepped to the back, where they have a little boutique of donated items. 

I fingered through the garments and was gravitated toward this long, yellow dress.

For the past few months, yellow has become a staple in my garments. I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with it but since last winter I’ve been drawn to yellow more and more.

And I had to be outside.

Since I’m basically on the path to being a full-grown hippy now, being outside is my therapy. It brings me joy and makes everything almost make sense.

The other day I was feeling cloudy-brained and took a short drive up the street to a nearby park. It’s actually an arboretum. After just a few minutes of fresh air and connecting with the trees, I felt immensely different. I took a stroll around the park, reading all the signs of the trees that told about the trees’ age, name and type.

Nature is therapy. It’s both the medicine and the cure.

So then I’d been eyeing the work of a South African sis who lives here in Chiang Mai. She has beautiful work. It’s another great perk to living in this city — it’s crawling with talent. It’s a magical place.

We shot in the morning, right up the street at my favorite waterfall.

It was my first shoot, and I’m not the best when it comes to poses in pictures without some direction, but overall I’d say it was a great shoot!

I love the pics, and wanted to share 💛 

Nature and Yellow. 

Photo credit: Lindsie Muller
Instagram: xlovelindsie

Home Love; it’s where the heart is

Nomad life is something else.

I’m always torn between feelings.

On the one hand, I really love living in another country. I enjoy visiting new places and seeing the world. On my own terms, I make my own decisions. It’s great.

On the other hand, sometimes you miss your people. Back home, I had no shortage of connections in many forms. 

Some were spiritual connections; they helped me dig deeper beyond the surface of matters. Some were fun connections, never nothing to do! Some were soul connections — we just vibed. Some were long-term, loyal connections that I’ve spent years with!

I do miss the camaraderie that living at home allows. I grew up in Atlanta. I got used to the city because it was home. I could make friends wherever I went. It’s like it infected you with a sweet pride or something. 

Southern hospitality could be a myth or the best thing that ever happened to you, depended on the day haha

I now see how much I miss companionship. One of my good friends came to visit from the States with our mutual friend, and my heart was full the entire time.

Felt good catching up; just being in good company. 

It felt good having familiarity around. Travel can change you. And since embracing my natural introvertedness, traveling has made it that much easier to isolate. Although I don’t think it’s a good thing, I genuinely am not bothered being alone. So I have to catch myself when I notice I’m having too much me-time.

But having my friends in town just lit up my world! 

Huay Kaew Waterfall – my favorite lil local spot

Hugs and excursions and laughs and good food. Friendship is like the gift that keeps on giving.

Maerim Elephant Sanctuary: (mud)bath time!

I wouldn’t change my decision to move, for sure. I’m enjoying so much about life; I’ll have to do better putting them into words. 

Spending time with one of my loves was absolutely everything. Our mutual friend — I met her in my girl’s Zumba class when she was an instructor many years ago — is super cool, and definitely the life of the party. I can go and keep going, but this life makes you slower. Especially in Chiang Mai. It was cool switching up the energy a little bit.

I got to get away from the computer for a while and just enjoy this magical city. It’s easy to get comfy like you’re a local and not take advantage of all the close-by interesting or fun things there are to do here. It was nice to go on some adventures, and to have some girls-night-outs.

I am so grateful for the wonderful, authentic people in my life. There are over 7 billion of us on this earth; it’s nice to make some wholesome connections.

In true Gratitude Awareness fashion (insert plug: check this month’s edition of Expat Divas — a magazine catered toward women of color who travel; I’m a contributor discussing how to incorporate a gratitude journal into your life daily to manifest blessings!), I am grateful to be surrounded by amazing people. 

My friend circle is healthy. I’m not the smartest one I’m surrounded by, so I can learn from others and grow. I’m learning to weed out the unnecessary and focus on being my best self.

Cheers to incredible friends and connections! 

p.s. Everyone has an open invitation to visit!

Who are you? …asking for a friend

There is peace in standing in my own individuality.

In a world that’s swiftly becoming a melting pot of sameness, finding my flow has its challenges. Today it’s easier than ever to “find your tribe,” at least virtually. For years the # symbol was identified as the number sign and now can lead you to identify whatever cause, idea, or group you desire.

It’s so easy to follow I’ve lost sight on precisely who’s leading.

Everywhere I look, I see perpetrators and fakes. I won’t place the blame on anyone; being singled out is tough. It’s not always easy to be different. The road less traveled sounds noble, but it can get lonely. And if you’re stuck continuously on companionship, it’ll be even harder.

Recognizing my bubble has not been easy. I’ve had to step outside of myself long enough to notice my effect on and from others. Where once I thought I was “just being me,” I found myself more and more entwined in someone else’s ideal.

Folks talk about getting to know yourself, but few speak up on exactly how that’s supposed to happen, what it should look like, and how you know you’re done. Are we ever done? 

If the universe is continuously evolving (and it is), then we are also continually evolving, whether we recognize it or not.

If you think evolution looks like some grand arrival with a gold sticker that reads “Enlightened,” you’re going to be sadly disappointed. 

So, my individuality has involved me releasing the parts of myself I’ve come to identify with through tradition, cultural pressures, and my environment. I can’t release it all, of course, but I am learning what works, what doesn’t, and what was never even my decision in the first place.

Case and point: I was raised a Christian; Jehovah’s Witness, in fact. If you’re an outsider to the faith, I don’t knock you for what you think you know. And if you’re an insider, I don’t knock you for what you think you know about my upbringing specifically. 

My dad is a character. I grew up admiring him with every inch of my soul. I thought he was so powerful, intelligent, and strong. Even though my discipline I held on to the belief, “He’s doing the best he knows how,” and I was a good kid.

I was a loyal kid. A wholesome, obedient, calculated kid. To be honest, I really think I was the quintessential “baby girl” to every dad’s dream. I held on to that identity for a very long time. And doing so caused me a lot of pain.

As I grew up and wanted to explore this world through experiences and people, my long-held ideals began to crack. I didn’t want to disappoint my father. It hurt me to think I’d let him down. But I wanted to live. Out loud.

Considering all the ways my life could’ve gone wrong, I’d say I did pretty well, but my dad doesn’t see it that way. I decided to “leave the faith” officially — signed letter and all — in my 20s. It was during a particularly bumpy time in my life, but I don’t think my position as a Witness made things better or worse.

My dad doesn’t see it that way, though. Apparently, my leaving the faith was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If I didn’t leave Jehovah, I wouldn’t have tried to hurt myself. If I didn’t turn my back on Jehovah, I would be married with kids in a stable, happy home. If I didn’t leave Jehovah, I wouldn’t question so much.

On the outside looking in, I was lost, confused, and heading for destruction. All because I gave the congregation — and therefore Jehovah’s love — the deuces.

If you were raised in a religious household, you understand. Everything that happens or doesn’t happen all leads back to how strong your faith is.

I identified as a “good girl,” even when I was wilding out in college. In my defense, I presumed that’s what college was for. I had never had so much freedom, and just a taste of it was the sweetest, most confusing pleasure I’d ever known.

Suddenly, I was responsible for all of my decisions. Sometimes I chose wisely; sometimes, I didn’t. What I do know for sure is my “faith” had nothing to do with it.

I think Christians can get so caught up in their dedication to the holy book or holy spirit they forget the most crucial detail of all: being human. Part of being human means I will err. According to the good book, I can’t help it. So, why I’ve become less deserving when I do err is something I may never understand. It means I need to pray harder because I’m faltering. I need to trust harder because my faith is dwindling. I need to devote myself; I’m weak. 

In this world, mistakes are expected but not allowed. 

Well, part of me growing into, through, and with myself has included my recognizing where my imperfections lie.

I have a tendency toward passive aggression. I’m working on it.

I have a tendency to prefer isolation. I’m occasionally working on it.

I have a tendency to create impossible expectations. I go back and forth with working on it.

Accepting individuality, for me, is not saying, “Here I am. Accept me or f*ck off,” but more like, “This is me. I’m complete but human. Forgive me while I figure this out.”

My individuality now includes a host of labels, some I never saw myself identifying with — vegan, hippy, natural, fit, traveler, single, solo, writer, teacher, immigrant… The hashtags grow by the day.

And I won’t say they won’t change. Some will, some won’t, but I’m allowed to shift. I’m allowed to figure out where I flow. I’m allowed to make dumb decisions without someone calling me out on it to make me feel bad. Ultimately, even if I have been here before, this time is unique, and this time is all I can manipulate right now.

This individual cannot meet every single expectation, and I won’t dare try. I’m catching myself when I feel inclined to “follow” a new trend. I don’t want to identify with everything that I’m into at the moment. I may just be curious. 

Today I may like seeing girls kiss; tomorrow maybe I’m consumed with puppy videos and trying to pick up all the trash. The thing about individuality is I get to choose who I am; not anyone else.

I’ve decided to stop making excuses when I’m not comfortable, not sure, or not ready.

I’ll leave when it’s time for me to go.

I’ll decide when my gut gives me the go-ahead.

I’ll answer when I like the way my words sound.

And, at any moment, I can change my mind. I’m allowed. Because I will allow myself. 

I won’t ask for permission to be me anymore; I’ve granted it to myself.

A Lesson in Awareness – a short story

Yesterday I set out at approximately 11:15 for what should have been a 20 minute walk to the store to pick up some food items. Because I don’t have data I took screenshots of the route and (thought I) studied the steps carefully. 

The third step in something told me I was going the wrong way, already 15 minutes into the walk, so I turned back to go a different route only to wind up 20 minutes later exactly where I’d turned around. Yep. A big fxkin circle. 

After several turn-arounds I attempted, unsuccessfully, to ask 2 passersby if I was going in the right direction. But the older black lady kept saying she only spike French, and the elderly white guy appeared grumpy and not interested. A few steps later and a “Grüsse” with a smile my eyes begged to the guy I’m approaching “please help me”. He confirmed I was in the right direction but went the wrong way. I turned right when I should’ve turned left. “You’re on the right road, but it’s a 20 minute walk that direction”
I was riddled with exhaustion as the heat of the day was creeping into my pores. 

I settled on the small grocer I’d passed 15 minutes sooner, which I’d decided against because their fruit was the price of a full plate. But I better get this food here, thinking how far I’d have to walk holding groceries on the way back. 

Finally, I reached home about 12:50, back and shoulders sore from the weight of the bag and the heavy ass pineapple I decided to hold because the bag would be too heavy. Exhausted from climbing the stairs to the top of the village where the house sits. Only to unpack my bag and realize three of the (most expensive) items I’d purchased weren’t even in my bag. I literally felt tears want to surface.

But still, yesterday was a beautiful day. 

I found not 1 but 3 places to buy food, know which way not to go, and learned 2 new words in Swiss-German. I’m thankful I was able to take money out of the ATM with no problem, and the sore on the bottom of my foot from wearing the wrong shoes has eased this morning. I got more than my allotted daily steps in, and my legs look Amazing!

None of yesterday’s events will matter in a month, a year, 5 years. And that’s what meditation has taught me. That it’s not about being at peace all the time because life is always perfect, but that sometimes shit will happen and whether it happens or not I have the choice to allow it to take over me.

None of yesterday’s events will matter in a month, a year, 5 years. And that’s what meditation has taught me.

Of course I was upset. I had to pop the idea out my head everytime it surfaced during the day – “I lost fckin 12 francs!” But surfacing those thoughts only brought shame and disappointment. I don’t want that stress in my body. So I’d say out loud just as quickly as the thought came, “And. What you gon do about it?? Shut it.”

There was only 30 minutes until it was time to teach. No time to cook or prep anything cause I didn’t prepare my classroom. But my students didn’t deserve to be affected by the events I’d experienced beforehand. So I washed up, put on my teacher red lipstick and rocked TF out those classes.

Everyday ain’t perfect. Annoyances will happen. All the time. Being a foreigner, and black, and not speaking the language I’m susceptible to a lot more ish to go wrong. When it does, I look to learn the lesson now instead of internalize everything that went wrong.

After class I was sad I didn’t have the items to make the dish I’d been hoping for, but I decided to make a list of everything I’m grateful for, including the food I was able to grab and the friendly faces along the way. It helped remind me what went wrong is far less meaningful than all that goes right.

Everyday ain’t perfect. Annoyances will happen. All the time.

Everyday can be sunshine. It’s about perspective.

I didn’t post this yesterday because I put myself on social media restriction. I’ve also noticed my increased tendency to check FB and IG lately and needed to check my intentions. Be sure I’m not crying for validity in exchange for what some days make me feel very needy emotionally. And craving to connect to familiar faces, even if they’re internet strangers.

I’m going back to that damn store today. And I’m taking the bike the owner mentioned I could use this time! And I’ll probably have to repurchase the items. But I’ll make a video tutorial of the dish, and share it. Cause it’s gonna be Bomb ❤

Nomadic Identity

I’m noticing a thing about nomad life: You have to be so much more careful protecting your identity. Everything you do becomes who you are.

If you go hiking, you’re a nature enthusiast. If you try vegan restaurants, you’re edgy. If you check out a few bars, you’re living on the wild side.

This era of appearances can make the truth a bit harder to see. Sometimes, it’s downright invisible.

What you cannot rely on as a nomad is the convenience of reputation. Instead, people are seeing you for who you present at face value. And that, you can imagine, may not always be in the ideal light.

You don’t get a friend-pass because folks know you don’t handle conflict well. You don’t get a girl-pass because the moon and the influx of feminine energy is is effin with your insides. You don’t get a black-pass for not wanting to do black shit every day.

Familiarity has its perks. It doesn’t take twice as long to tell a story because you have to fill them in with all the background details. Instead, trust flows like water. Suspicions are reduced. So when you happen to do something “out of character” the handy compilation of history comes through with a caption to remind people, “Oh, Dani’s just having a moment.”

But as a nomad, you don’t get that moment to behave strangely with no consequences. Each moment is your social responsibility, and social responsibility is quite a responsibility when adding a layer of newness to the equation.

It’s fantastic meeting new people. I love listening to folks’ story because everyone has one, and no two are alike.

But. I might not want to be held to my social decisions a year from now. Maybe I made a left when I should have gone right, figuratively speaking. We are all trying out different turns in life, and everyone’s GPS is in a different language.

The thing about a story is we are each writing ours exactly the way we want it told. Sometimes, we exaggerate, but we’re hopefully mostly telling the truth. [Mind you, whether we like it or not, personality and energy speak well before our mouths. smile]
Just a part of being human.

[Sidebar:: The key is finding someone who is telling their story as authentically as possible.
Finding as many someones trying to not only live in their truth but speak in their truth as well. This, I’ve come to learn, is not easy. But, I think the closer you endeavor to be your own authentic self you will attract like-energy.]

The bright side is being a nomad affords you the chance to tell your story as often as you like, and change it when you want to start over.

I’m discovering my identity, and how I want to tell my story. That’s what I came for. That’s what I left for. Not to get caught up in generalizations. Not to get distracted by the same western problems. Not to confine my mind, my body, or my soul into any box – literal or figurative.

I didn’t leave America to form or subscribe to generalizations. Nor did I go to be filed under any.

I left to learn. I left to expand. I left to transform.

From the outside looking in, some of my actions may not have looked like the best choices. Some were, some were not. But, I’m new at this solo-traveling, nomad life so I’m giving my own self a pass.

Mistakes are allowed. Without them, we don’t learn. Without learning, we are bound to repeat.
So now, I prefer to describe life as a custom pathway. Not a racetrack.

My task: Control the pace.

Forest Gump said, “Life is like…”

So yesterday my wallet was stolen while my friend and I were at the beach, enjoying the beautiful waters of the Andaman Sea. We were just returning to our things, ready to grab a bite to eat and possibly head to another beach when that sick feeling came over me. I was sure where I’d left my wallet, but it wasn’t there.

After the initial thought discovery dissipated, my mind jumped into repair mode: Turn off the cards. Fortunately, the thieves didn’t get to do much spending. They’d charged one of my cards at a nearby restaurant for 500 Thai baht, which is roughly equivalent to 15 USD. A “pricey” meal for Thailand, but a loss I could stomach.

Being a solo traveler, it’s important to be safe and always aware of your surroundings. I admitted to myself I was not overly precautious about my surroundings because of the mysticism of the beautiful ocean, the smiles on people’s faces around me, and the comfort that comes with traveling with a companion.

The thing, though, is it’s impossible to take every single precaution, but I have learned a valuable lesson (one that will cost me a few inconveniences, but nothing detrimental… fortunately!).

  1. Never keep all your forms of payment in one source. I typically don’t do this either. I happened to have all three of my debit cards in my wallet at the same time, because I was traveling. Usually when I reach my destination I will keep one card behind in my accommodation. And I never travel with my passport unless absolutely necessary. I obviously forgot to do this, and now I remember why I do.
  • Listen to your intuition. I am almost certain I know who swiped my wallet, and the exact time it happened. A little voice in me told me to ask my friend to put my purse in his bookbag while we were in the water, but I pushed it aside as paranoia. Special note: Paranoia, when it’s common sense or intelligence, is not only a good thing – it could one day save your life (or, at the very least the rest of your day while on vacation). Don’t push it aside. Act on it if it makes sense.
  • Be gentle with yourself with bad things happen. Listen, you can be the smart and well-traveled and still get taken advantage of. You cannot control the actions of others, nor can you predict their behaviors 100%. I beat myself up after realizing what had happened because I kept thinking, “I knew better. I’m never this stupid.” The thing is, we are all susceptible to the evils of this world. And sometimes we encounter situations we cannot understand the meaning of for us. “Why did this happen to me?” I don’t believe in coincidences. Yes, I provided the opportunity for the setup, but I think much more level-headed when I remove myself as victim and insert myself as student of life.

I’m writing this on the patio of a beautiful Airbnb condo with a step-out pool and ocean view. I have decided to be grateful for my blessings, instead of wallowing over an experience that has now happened and of which I have no control over – whether I’m stressed and sad about it or not. Things could have gone far worse. I’m not alone, and I’m not broke. My ticket home is already paid for, and my friend has resources should I need help (special note to self: Travel with someone who has access to resources, just in case!). My cards can’t be used, and I have cash at home I can use until I get my replacements.

Shit happens. Sometimes it happens to us. It’s natural to feel sucky at first. Of course, I felt violated for being robbed and disappointed in myself for letting my guard down. Beating yourself up over the past isn’t going to make things better. In fact, research has shown stress actually has a negative effect on our bodies physically. It’s nearly impossible to be productive, positive, or grateful when we’ve triggered stress through our brain. It cuts off reason and positive action, because those chemical receptors have now been charged. Breathe, forgive the perpetrators for taking advantage of you, forgive yourself for setting up a situation for you to be taken advantage of, put on your best dance playlist with a glass of wine, and enjoy life!

Shit happens. Sometimes it happens to us.

Be wise, but be free. Be strong, but be willing to accept help. Be kind, but be in-tune.

Life is good. It’s all about perspective.

When I Knew…

A couple of weeks ago I was under severe anxiety. So much so that I wasn’t sleeping  a full night’s sleep for going on six days. My mind was restless and every single worry I could think of was swarming in my head every moment of every day.

The primary factor causing my anxiety centered around the looming presence of my going abroad to teach. I have decided that I’m moving to Thailand to teach English, and could not be more excited! But, with that comes a lot to do!

Imagine the stress and work it takes to move. Now, imagine doing so to another country. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language, and doing it alone. Insert major freak-out! On top of that, I was facing some dilemmas that had me questioning whether I’m making the right decision.

I have spent the past, oh, four or more years working toward this goal. Before, it was just a dream. But as time passes by, and my ten-year work anniversary is approaching (the date I decided to benchmark for how soon I will leave), the ever-present dream is becoming a reality. I’m now a few months away from what is very possibly the riskiest, most-adventurous, scariest decision of my life. And there are so many unknowns. It’s the unknowns that worried me the most. Of course, I know I can’t solve every single issue that surfaces, but when thoughts of them arise I can’t dismiss them. This is my life I’m talking about. What the heck am I doing!

So I was concerned about how smoothly this getting to Thailand and finding a job and a place to stay was going to go. I’ve been in contact with alumni from the academy I received my TEFL certification on their Facebook page, which has served extremely useful and comforting in facing all my ignorance. Many have suggested I should have no problem at all finding a job given my credentials – I have a Bachelor’s in English, two master’s degrees, one of which is in education, the 150-hour TEFL certification plus the optional 30 hours in Young Learners and Business English I chose to add on, 20 practicum hours including a minimum of 6 hours of direct teaching/tutoring, and experience in teaching, tutoring, and professional training. The minimum requirements (I hear) of most Thai employers is that one simply be a native-English speaker and possess a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Right. I’m good.

But, I’ve never done this before. I have responsibilities. I have debt. Maybe if this were ten or so years ago, when I was fresh out of college and full of optimism about the world and its effect on me I might have approached this journey differently.

But this is not ten years ago.

I can’t just leave everything I know on the whim that I’ll be good without any assurances. I just can’t. I don’t think that way. Never have, and definitely can’t for such a huge leap as this.

One night my emotions had hit a peak. Perhaps I was running on fumes from having so little sleep, which affected my ability to be my normally positive self.

I had a moment where all the emotions rose up from my gut and pronounced themselves through tears of frustration, confusion, and surrender.

I cried over memories of abandonment that created the independent soul I am today. I cried over the idea of being 30-something and not married like I’d planned, which sparked questions like “Am I doing this to run away? Am I going to be happy?” I cried at the thought of leaving my beloved Champ, who is my baby in every sense that it could mean to a loving pet parent with no human children. I cried over the joy I feel for setting my mind to something and going after it, while at the same token thinking, “Why do I have to be so dern strong-willed; this is why I’m single!” I cried about feeling lonely, being afraid of being alone, and moving to a country where I could possibly face that lonely several times over. I was miserable. I was sad. I was exhausted. I was losing the energy to self-motivate.

So I prayed. Out loud. As I cried. Asking for a sign. “Higher power, higher being, higher self, Universe, angels and celestial beings, God, mom, someone. Am I supposed to do this?”

I went to bed just hoping to sleep the whole night through.

I woke up the next morning about five minutes before my alarm went off. I wanted to cry again just out of sheer happiness! I slept!!

It was a sign. Something was shifting.

I reached out to a contact of an organization I’d been eyeing for a while – Greenheart Travel. Their mission at its core is primarily to make the world a better place through travel.

It is no secret that travel changes one’s perspective. Those who do not travel, who only know their surroundings and are not exposed to other cultures and ways of life are significantly at a disadvantage from those who do. I remember my first trip to another country with my sister. It opened our eyes and sparked a desire to travel the world even more. We were changed forever.

I emailed the contact, Sara, asking if I could be added back to their subscription list. I’d previously subscribed for updates, but, after seeing the program costs, decided I couldn’t afford to fork over more money in this transition. I’d already spent about $1000 on the TEFL certification, and, having my credentials, was fairly confident I would have no problem finding a job and a place to stay. Fairly.

Until I wasn’t.

Sara responded quickly that I was confirmed back on the list. I wanted to do the program, but the program costs were just not ideal for my budget.

I remembered I saw a post on their Facebook page that they offered a scholarship, funds of which would apply toward the program fee.

But I was a day late. The scholarship deadline had passed just the day before.

I emailed Sara and humbly asked if there were any way I could still apply. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen. If the answer was no, it was no, but I had to try. I had to ask.

Sara responded if I could get all the materials to her as soon as possible I could be reviewed. Another sign!

The requirements included a letter of recommendation from my supervisor, a video essay about my interest in the program and how I’d use it to be a change agent, and a photo essay of my hometown.

Time was not on my side, but I was determined to do everything in my power to submit all materials by the next day. I just had to try.

I ran to my supervisor and explained everything. I’m so fortunate to have a great relationship with my supervisor. He has come to the rescue on so many occasions – including this one. He helped me think of great landmarks or attractions I could snap photos of, and even added ideas to the list long after I’d left his office. He also allowed me to leave work a little early so I could get started on getting material for the photo essay.

Before leaving the office, I worked on my video essay. I recorded very possibly about 15 videos of myself, each one of which I felt was getting progressively worse. I was nervous and uneasy. I wanted it to be natural and relatable, but I either would leave something out or didn’t address all the questions they asked or went over the allotted time or the lighting was off or my eyes weren’t bright or or or… but I didn’t have much time, so I wound up going with the very first one and uploaded it to my YouTube so I could move on.

Thankfully, I work downtown where there is now no shortage of awesome places to attract visitors. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I walked. I walked. I got my steps in for the day just in that treck alone! It was warm out, and I was sweating through my blazer, but I needed great captures. I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to present them, but I knew I was collecting some great material. On the way home I stopped by a few more popular tourist spots and local spots to capture yet more, so I could pick and choose my favorites.

The photo essay became this very blog, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m a big fan of Thrillist when I want to see a new city, so I used some of its familiar format to make my own best-to-see in my city. I was very happy with the end result. Not bad for project with a time-crunch!

I worked hard to get everything in as quickly as possible. My supervisor sent me the recommendation letter that night. “Ready or not, these materials have got to get to Sara immediately!”

She accepted them and told me I should hear back within the next week if I was selected.

The wait was killing me. I resolved to go to yoga and a manifestation class to take my mind off my anxiety, and to remind me I really can’t do anything about what I can’t control anyway. I’d have to hope for the best. I’d have to believe that I did everything in my own control and surrender to patience. I’d have to know that what is meant for me is already mine.

Yoga saves lives man, I’m telling you.

A couple days later, I received an email from Sara – CONGRATULATIONS! You are a scholarship recipient! I was through. The. ROOF, you hear me! This scholarship means that I can commit to the program without as heavy a financial burden. The scholarship basically covers half the program fee. The other half I can work on. That I can live with. If I work hard enough in my side hustle and budget properly, I can raise the money and be just fine.

This program includes an orientation that will help acclimate me to Thai culture, guaranteed placement, assistance with Visa douments, basically everything that I was nervous and anxious about. On top of that, I’d be starting with a group of individuals, which means I wouldn’t be alone! I may not be able to pick where I’ll work, and that was a little unnerving at first, but worst case – the contract is only six months if I hate it. Or, I’d love it and the placement could land me somewhere I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I chose to focus my energy on the latter.

Being accepted into this program not only solidified the idea that I am on the right track and this is going to be my reality but also eased the fears I had of doing this on my own. Because of Greenheart Travel, I have a plan. I can officiate my departure. I know where I’m going and when and have a guide along the way.

I’m strong, but I’m very human.

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and thoroughly looking forward to my next steps, knowing I have a team behind me that has my back and my best interest at heart. And sure, I am paying for these things, but the way I see it, Sara has gone above and beyond in her communication and for that reason alone I’d recommend this program. She’s professional, friendly, and seems to understand what an anxious, inexperienced world traveler like myself is going through.

So. There you have it, folks. I’m going to Thailand. And now I know for sure I’m meant to. These signs weren’t for nothing. It’s when I knew I was headed in the right direction.

This is happening. This is really happening!

Until next time!

Atlanta, GA., you rock!

Atlanta, GA. Home of some of the best eateries, historical districts, and sports events of the South. Walk, bike, or commute via train and bus, this eco-friendly city has become the mecca of new businesses, non-profit organizations, and musical entertainment. Here are some of my favorite must-see spots if you’re visiting my home town. A little bit of fun, a little bit of history, and a whole lot of sunshine and good food! I’ve loved this city since I was little… I think you will too!

 

 

Downtown Atlanta has no shortage of things to do. Make your first stop a tour of the CNN center – you can even star in your very own newscast!

Must do: Grab exclusive CNN apparel at the CNN Store.

 

And directly across Marietta Street, near Ted Turner Blvd, take a stroll, grab a juicy burger, fries and float at Googie burger, or let the kids run through the ring fountain at Centennial Olympic Park – which was built and opened during the 1996 Olympic games. Now the park boasts several events and visitors throughout the year. Depending on what time of year you’re in town, you could be in for a special performance treat, and often for FREE! Downtown Atlanta’s newest attraction near Centennial Park is Sky View – the 20-story high ferris wheel. It’s a great way to see all of Atlanta, and even catch a glimpse of Stone Mountain far off inn the distance!

Must do: Do some people watching! No, really. This park’s scenery alone is perfect for doing absolutely nothing.

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There’s an ongoing debate among transplants to Atlanta and natives between Waffle House and IHOP. The famous American chain, many of who’s locations are only in the South, will fill you up on delicious breakfast food, served diner style, without pinching the wallet. Go’head and get your hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered – it’s the southern way 😉

Must do: Have the pecan waffle. I mean, it is “waffle” house after all 🙂

 

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Believe it or not, the Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit facility that is home to thousands of marine animals, profits of which go toward aquatic research. The Aquarium holds over 10 million gallons of water. How’s that sound if you’re thirsty!

Must do: Take a gander through one of visitor’s most favorite exhibitions – the Ocean Voyager Tunnel. Feel like you’re under the sea as you watch an assortment of fish, whales, and turtles swim over your very head. The experience is breathtaking!

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Atlanta is also the birthplace of Coca-Cola, and around here we call it soda not pop thank you very much. Cool fact from Coca-Cola’s website “Did you know? The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta.” Think about that the next time you pay $1.69 plus tax for your beverage! Mmmmm. Ice cold fizz.

Must do: The World of Coca-Cola museum. Learn about and sample colas from all around the world!

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Did someone say football? No, not the NFL… College Football! Check out the College Football Hall of Fame to find out how your favorite team scores around the nation! Georgia is home of the UGA Bulldogs, GSU Panthers, and Georgia Tech Buzz. With all the visitors to Atlanta each day, there’s pretty friendly rivalry to discuss… or not so friendly haha Go Panthers! (yes, I’m a GSU alumna)

Must do: Walk over to Stats to catch a game and grab a cold beer. You’ll probably work up an appetite after all that friendly competition!

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The Atlanta Streetcar is the perfect way to hop off and on in downtown Atlanta to take in all the attractions. So, if your feet are getting tired, or the little ones just need a break, let the streetcar take over for you. You can pick up the streetcar at several locations throughout downtown, and for a minimal fare. Sit back in a climate-controlled motorized trolley and hop off and on through the Fairlie-Poplar, King Historic, and Sweet Auburn districts.

Must do: Visit the King Memorial Center. The first stop on the streetcar, and loaded with history from our favorite native civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must-see attraction in downtown Atlanta. Nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, on land donated by the Coca-Cola company, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is an interactive, cultural experience enjoyed by all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. You’ll leave learning much about civil rights, human rights, and the dignity for all.

Must do: Sit at the lunch counter exhibit. Sometimes history is painful, but this exhibit makes the discrimination of some brave African Americans during the Civil Rights era real and literally in-your-face.

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MARTA – It’s smarta! Five Points MARTA station is the center of it all. Although it’s name comes from the convergence of the five main streets of downtown Atlanta – Marietta, Edgewood, Decatur, and the legs of Peachtree Street – the train station has become more popularly known for it’s center convergence of the north, south, east, and west lines of the MARTA train lines. Directly south will take you to the airport, while either direction north can take you to Doraville or shopping in Sandy Springs. Head west for the Atlanta University Center, or far east and take a hike up Stone Mountain. Leave the car, and hop on the train. Grab a day pass for easy off-and-on access.

Must do: Visit Underground Atlanta. Once a thriving underground merchant shop, now rich with history and a food court that’s sure to have something for everyone!

The South’s LGBTQ community calls Atlanta home. From bars to events, there’s no shortage of activities, establishments, and must-see events. When you’re ready to leave the bustle of downtown Atlanta, hop over to East Atlanta village – just a couple exits east of downtown’s Capital. East Atlanta Village is a hip, concentrated, friendly local mini-town, and the location of Mary’s – voted Atlanta’s best gay bar 5 years in a row!

Must do: Everything. EAV has something for everyone. Suki Suki Collective – a mash of food vendors all in one convenient location. Stop in to Grant Central for a slice of delcious pizza, or Tomatilla’s if you’re feeling Tex-Mex, or 5 Thai for sushi and noodles, or Argosy for a cold beer and some people watching on their open patio. Can you tell I love EAV?? Yep. No shame.

 

In summary, as you can tell, I love my city! There’s so much to do, and there’s definitely something for everyone. These are my favorite attractions, but they only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear about your favorites when you’re in my city!

 

(Special note: This post was created as part of a scholarship entry. The pictures in this post are original captures made by me.)

(Update note: I got the scholarship!!)