It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.
A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.
Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.
I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.
Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.
What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.
Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.
I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?
I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.
All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.
Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.
I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.
By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.
It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.
No shade to Women’s Running, but… I was so excited for last month’s cover story: “How to Eat Healthy While Traveling”. I really needed some new tips. Of course, I was disappointed to find that the article was one page and super generic. Stuff like: drink water, eat almonds. Definitely tricks that work in a pinch but if you’re someone who travels A LOT for work, you can’t sustain yourself off of almonds and water alone. And when you’re traveling with Celiac’s disease like I am, it can be even harder.
I often find myself in airports with incredibly few options (MIA I am looking at you and the one Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand) and I’ve come up with a REALISTIC guide to eating well when you find yourself in airport terminals all the time.
This one is a no-brainer and when I say snacks I mean SNACKS. I read a lot of posts where the author recommends you make your own salad or meals in Tupperware and bring them on board. That sounds lovely if you’re traveling on a vacation or to a house with a place to wash your dishes. But when you’re traveling for work, you are often running straight from the tarmac to a meeting. It’s stressful enough to waltz into an important meeting with your luggage, but add on an entire tote bag full of dirty tupperware? No thanks. Also my bag is usually full of documents, folders, and my laptop, which doesn’t leave much room for meals.
Instead I pack snacks that are DIVERSE and I know won’t upset my stomach. The worst thing is trying a new granola bar and then 30 minutes later fighting bloat in a cab on the way to a meeting. The worst. Always go for real ingredients and different flavor profiles. The different flavors is CLUTCH for me because I know that if I bring only fruit based bars, I am going to feel sick eating just fruit all day. Here’s a sample of what I usually pack for a typical work trip, it’s enough to cover all of my flights as I usually have no time for myself to go grocery shopping anywhere I go:
The dreaded airport meal. Even the airports where I fair pretty well (JFK) it’s still not something I look forward to.
1. In airports with few options or when you are crunched for time, the best item to look for is a salad. But do your best to find a place that actually knows how to make a salad. Do not go to the Sam Adam’s Brewhouse and ask for a salad, I promise you it will be heavy and kind of gross. Instead look for small cafe’s or even the tiny Grab N Go stations. I know the salads are pre-made but most Grab N Go’s tout a commitment to vegan or organic produce so you know you’re getting pretty decent goods.
2. And while yes, I am trying to eat healthy while traveling for work, I do my best to avoid eating some usually good proteins in airports (fish, steak etc.) because of how they are prepared (though one time I did get airport sushi)… but if I need the protein I pick chicken. It’s lean and easy to tell if it’s cooked right. You don’t have to guess much with chicken.
3. that annoying person who asks for dressing on the side and side salad substitutions for fries. It seems like you’re making a big deal but you’re not. If you’re nervous about it, you can ask your server upfront if they make substitutions or changes. It’s polite and your server will be prepared to help you and you’ll be prepared to order.
AVOID CARBONATION & GUM
Part of eating healthy while traveling for work for me is keeping my gut happy. I love gum and I love seltzer but oh my god… the BLOAT isn’t worth it. It took me forever to realize the connection between these vices and my painfully bloated tummy on a flight. High altitude can already cause bloating, don’t help it out by adding bubbles. Opt for flat water (and a ton of it!) and mints. I know they aren’t sugarfree, but honestly a little sugar is better than being so painfully blown up that you can’t eat dinner later or sit through a meeting properly.
YOGURT IS KING
Unless you have a dairy allergy, yogurt is an amazing friend. If you have a hotel mini-fridge grab extras at the hotel market (most of them have these now) and toss some in there for breakfasts and late night snacks. And if you can find yogurt at the airport — YASS! The key to eating healthy while traveling for work is making sure you are full but also getting the same key nutrients you would on a regular day. Yogurt is an excellent source of protein and also contains natural probiotics that keep your digestive system on track while you travel. Gut health = your health.
STARBUCKS HAS BANANAS
Bananas have a ton of fiber and you can find them at almost any Starbucks. Did you notice that there are Starbucks literally everywhere? I hate their coffee so I am often the girl who has a banana and water and who says “No” to “Anything else?” but I am okay with that. In a rush at the airport, hotel, meeting space, whatever, I can grab a banana and know that it will help me make it to my next meal. Bonus points if you packed the PB packet like I told you to.
There are so many variables when it comes to dining out while traveling for work and sometimes the worst culprit is yourself when you’re alone. I’ll be honest and say that I have had a lot of burgers and fries in bed, (the days are long and I like burgers.) But 98% of the time I aim to keep my dinners as clean as possible. This is because dinners are typically the only time I am at rest, sitting down, and have a higher price point (meaning a better selection) on food. If I know I am going to be struggling at the airport, and during lunch in between meetings, I rely on my dinners to be the staples of my day. I think about what key vitamins and nutrients I missed and try to plug them in. If I haven’t had a leafy green all day, I’ll make sure I get a giant salad. If I haven’t had any protein, I’ll aim to get a nice piece of salmon. It isn’t ideal, and you shouldn’t typically eat a big meal before bed, but for surviving on the road, this is necessary.
The last thing I’ll say is this: do your best to maintain any and all routines while traveling for work. If you typically work out in the morning at home, work out in the morning at the hotel. If you have tea before bed while reading a book, have tea and read even just a couple of pages before bed in the hotel. I always pack face masks because I like to do them after flying. It also just makes me feel more at home. Keeping yourself as calm and happy as possible will keep your stress levels down and you much healthier.
Let me know if you have any of your own tips and if any of these were brand new to you! I am always looking to create content that is actually NEW and helpful, instead of regurgitating what you’ve already read.
You guys have been LOVING my reviews lately, so I am stoked to share with you my latest on Away Travel luggage. I had been obsessing over this luggage like every other travel nerd on Instagram for quite some time but it wasn’t until Old Faithful (my fuchsia piece of Target luggage I bought in college) broke on my trip to Miami in February. It was a sad day. I had used that piece for about a decade, so I figured it was time to treat myself a little.
Away comes in several sizes but I went with the smallest roller bag known as The Carry-On. I went with the deep forest green because I thought Navy and Black were too generic and I wanted something that wouldn’t turn brown after a couple of uses. It’s a beautiful color.
The best part of this review is that I have been on a whirlwind tour of the country for work and so in the past month I’ve carried it with me on planes, trains, and too many Lyft rides to count. Here’s the breakdown.
SIZE: I went with the smallest one because I wanted to guarantee it could fit on any flight, anywhere. Thank god I did. The overhead storage on a recent flight to Hawaii was so teeny, tiny and my bag fit no problem. It looks super small but this can fit A LOT. I had to do San Francisco and Hawaii back-to-back so I needed to be able to pack for 60 degree and 80 degree weather. Mission accomplished.
PACKING: In this little bag I packed: 3 pairs of slacks, 3 tops, 2 dresses, 5 workout outfits, 2 pairs of flying leggings, 2 casual outfits, countless socks and undies and bras, Converse sneakers, ballet flats, my laptop charger, my poetry book manuscript (really), all of my skincare items, and my makeup bag. Even though it is small, it is thoughtfully organized so everything has a place to go. Brilliant.
WEIGHT: I honestly was worried it was cheap because it weighed so little. It is super light, even lighter without the charger in it. I was able to lift it overhead with ease, even when it was stuffed to the brim.
EXTERIOR: Ok so this is disappointing. I got green so it wouldn’t stain but I didn’t expect white paint! From bell closets at hotels (and my own closet) my poor baby got a lot of white paint marks. Luckily they’ll come off, but I only do this after a trip, so during I have to suffer the scrapes!
DURABILITY: I didn’t abuse it too much but it seems to be putting up with all the trips and airplanes good enough.
WHEELS: The wheels move like BUTTAH. Seriously. This rolls with such ease I wanted to die. That said, they are tiny little baby wheels. So at the Amtrak station and on Boston’s uneven streets they got caught a lot. They’re great in the flat surfaces in the airport. Even carpet.
CHARGING FEATURE: Omg this thing can hold a charge. Between myself and everyone I traveled with we charged our phones A LOT on it and I didn’t need to recharge it all. It’s still on the same charge from March! And I went to Boston, Miami, San Fran, and Hawaii. It’s that great. I had no issues flying with it. Delta made me pop it out and put it in my purse. Easy.
AESTHETIC: It’s totally good looking. A guy in the airport even stopped to ask me what I thought and asked to feel it up. I gave him my mini-review while we waited in line together. I got other compliments on it as well.
So was it worth the $225? I say, YES. With the exception of it’s tendency to pick up paint everywhere I go (seriously), it’s an excellent piece of luggage. I cannot believe the amount of stuff it fits and I love how easily it fits into any overhead bin. Consider me obsessed.
I have to keep saying it out loud. I have to keep writing it down. Because the memories are already fleeting. Because it all happened so fast.
I want to keep these updates brief, honest, and from the heart. Travel blogs tend to offer either just great photos or weird sales pitches. And I’d like to keep this much closer to me, to my true experience, to the fact that I am a writer.
I am not going to recommend you quit your day job and travel the world on borrowed money. Or share with you (after charging you a couple bucks) the secrets of getting by on a shoestring budget.
I’m just here to remind you of the magic of travel, how it changes you, and how this trip to Japan in particular inspired me to be brave and kind in my daily life.
I want to mention that I went on this trip as part of a campaign (more to come later!) called #GoTohoku. After a video submission and an interview process I was selected to go. (I pretty much still don’t know why but I guess I must come off as charming.) So the fact that I went with strangers and that I found out a month before that I was going, colors some of this, but not all.
I was totally calm about the trip until the day before I left. Then I got nervous. I was totally nervous the morning of the trip. Then I lost it. I tend to keep my feelings inside but I actually started crying before I left. I was overwhelmed. Was I really going to go to the other side of the earth? Was I really doing this? The answer was yes– of course I was doing this. Earlier in the month me wanted this, so I sucked it up for her, got in the car and headed to JFK to meet the strangers I’d be hanging out with for a week.
Everyone seemed normal, on their best behavior, and then we flew.
The flight to Tokyo is 14 hours. And from there we flew to Aomori in the Tohoku region. In all, I traveled for about 24 hours and didn’t sleep. This is what adrenaline feels like. I couldn’t turn my brain off from the moment at hand. So, aside from not sleeping the flight was pleasant and the attendants on our Japan Air flight started giving me a taste of the hospitality I would encounter in Japan. I watched movies and ate snacks and listened to “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. Oddly, I listened to this song specifically 10 times a day on this trip. I wish I could tell you why. I was alert, but not panicky. I had calmed myself enough to make it across the globe.
Here’s my point: Just leaving for this trip made me braver, even before anything else happened. I believe that, like grit, bravery is something that gets stronger the more you use it. It was one thing to be brave when agreeing to the trip “Strangers? Sure! Last minute trip across the planet? Sure!” But when it came to actually leaving my house, and getting to the airport alone. That took real bravery. And yes I cried at first, but by the time I made it to the airport I had shifted gears, became the “Amanda” I pretend to be 80% of the time. I was brave. I had ACTUALLY faked it until I made it, and it worked. (Really.) If I had let my fear take hold, if I let that weird voice that was like “Hey, you should cry over this,” take control I would have never left my house. I would have froze.
I know you’re thinking, “You would have never left those people from the campaign hanging.” But I remember when I was younger, when I wasn’t brave, when I hadn’t developed any grit and I know (I KNOW) I absolutely could have done that. And I know people that would have. It can seem easy– beautiful photos and a good attitude can make an trip seem idyllic, but we have to remember that pushing ourselves to see the world, and to risk the comfort of routine, is brave. And often, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
So did I totally throw you earlier when I mentioned Tohoku? Were you like, “What is she talking about?” Let me clarify: This trip was not about Tokyo. Or Okinawa. Or Kyoto. It was about Tohoku. A little known and little visited region of Japan. Sadly, it is typically recognized as the area that was hit by a tsunami in 2011. Tohoku is a diverse area, from shrines to mountains, to perfect foliage to elegant boat tours. And I’ll get into all of it later. (Don’t act so surprised, I told you this wasn’t a normal travel blog, duh!)
Tohoku reminded me in some ways of being in the Midwest. Of course it has nothing to do with cuisine, I ate fish for just about every meal while I was there, but in the manner of the people there. Being outside of the major metropolitan cities, like Tokyo, the people of Tohoku are slower paced, kind, and thoughtful. They want to know about you when you buy candy from them, they want to make sure you are comfortable when you dine with them, and they acknowledge you.
I remember the first time I went to Iowa, I was freaked out by a cashier who wanted to know all about Massachusetts. I felt similarly in Tohoku. Even though not many of the people there spoke English confidently, they still engaged, asking the questions they could. Imagine being so engaged with others that you don’t let a language barrier stop you from reaching out to another person? I mean, damn!
On our first full day, I went out to explore a nearby shrine with some of my new friends– I’ll explain them later. When we arrived, in light rain without umbrellas, we came across a mother and son feeding the giant Koi in the pond. They gave us their remaining bag of fish food to toss in. When I took a few out of the bag and tried to return it to them, they declined. “For you,” the mother told me. It was the smallest gesture but encompasses the kindness I felt the entire time I was in Japan.
It’s these things I remember the most, the things I try to apply to my daily life in, the often lonely and discouraging, New York City. Kindness changes people and it goes a long way.
Ok now that I feel I sufficiently painted a picture of HOW this trip made me feel, I’ll follow it up with a slightly more traditional post about some of my favorite spots to visit.