05 June 2015

Being in the moment

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

I’m not great at being “in the moment.” I tend to get distracted or immediately think ahead to “what’s next.”

So while I was gone, I decided to really try and take in those moments, savor them and be present. But, when you’re gone for three months, time tends to blend together. So I made a note on my phone of my moments from the trip. Where I was really present and happy. And allowed myself to feel it.

Now, I thought I would share them with you. Contextual notes are in parentheses:

  • Driving from Hoi An to Hue, Vietnam (the drive was absolutely stunning. Winding roads and coastline, rain spitting from the sky while you passed small fishing villages)
  • Watching it rain in Hoi An while eating breakfast (I had not seen rain in almost a month and watching it rain on a peaceful street was gorgeous)
  • Kayaking in Bai Tu Long Bay in the rain with cliffs around me (this is in northern Vietnam, near Halong Bay, it was raining a lot of the time and I was one of the few people out kayaking while Vietnamese fisherman picked oysters off the stones on the shoreline)
  • Taking a tuk tuk from the Siem Reap airport to my hostel at “golden hour.” (This was at sunset and the dirt looked golden as well as kids ran along side part of the ride in)
  • Seeing the Sapa rice fields for the first time. (Sapa is in northern Vietnam, near the China border. It’s a very hilly and rural area, with small villages dotting the hills. The first view of the fields is a true force and makes you say, “wow”)
  • Vietnam homestay view (During my hiking in Sapa, I stayed with a family in a small village called Bang Ho, in a house on a hill that looked over the village. While the hosts made dinner, I got to finally relax a bit with a beer and podcasts, taking in the view)
  • Elephant observations in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (This was one of the coolest things I did. I went to an elephant sanctuary to see formally damaged and tortured elephants be rehabilitated in a natural setting. And seeing them up close and getting to touch them, was really f*cking cool.)
  • Sunrise hike at Mount Batur, Indonesia. (This was one of the most physically difficult and exhausting things I did while gone. In Bali, you can hike an active volcano to watch the sun rise over the hills. The hike was brutal but the view was amazing. And in the quiet, early morning hours, watching the sun rise above the clouds made the most beautiful palette in the sky).
  • Great Ocean Road. (This is a long stretch of highway just outside of Melbourne. It stretches for many miles and connects smaller towns along the coastline. The main highlight here is the Twelve Apostles, which is gorgeous, but part of what I really enjoyed was just taking in the entire drive, along winding coastline and various terrain).
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge. (This was another “wow” moment of seeing something larger than life and being totally taken aback by it. I could not get enough of it, and when I walked across the bridge and got a 360 view of the harbour from the Pylon Lookout, that was a truly amazing moment. The smile on my face from the selfie I took on it, says it all.)

I’m so glad I kept these notes because even reading it over here, it makes me smile to remember those moments.

Being present is still a work in progress, but this is a step in the right direction.

Are you good about being “in the moment?”

19 May 2015

The good, bad and ugly of my trip

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random, travel

Yes I may be one of those bloggers who talks a tad at length about about her trip. But really, nothing else exciting is going on right now.

So in this post, I’ll talk about the good/bad/ugly of the three month journey to Southeast Asia and sojourn to Australia.

The Good

  • Food! Yes, despite having food poisoning. I loved a lot of what I ate while gone. Lots of carbs, but also, a lot of just delicious stuff. Meat in Australia = awesome, Banh mi in Vietnam = stop it, so good and cheap, pad thai omelette in Bangkok = yes please! Yes, some meals were a disaster but overall, I liked everything I got to try.
  • Sights – There are a lot of beautiful things in the world, some more unconventional than others. But, if you allow yourself to see beyond your initial reaction and take in the moment, you will be surprised. Temples and elephants in Thailand, Cambodia at “golden hour,” the streets of Vietnam, rice paddies of Indonesia and the amazing coastlines of Australia. Even if it’s not what you expect, its still beautiful.
  • People. Sure, some people in Southeast Asia (and Australia) are assholes. Rude, mean, out to con you. But, despite that, I met a lot of really cool people while I was gone. I had some great roommates in southern Thailand, Cambodia, Australia and Laos. And we all had one thing in common: travel. We love it. It feeds us, and it made me realize how LITTLE vacation time we actually get in the states. I can count on one hand how many people from the US I met while I was gone. And that’s a damn shame.

The Bad

  • Bug bites – Bugs are everywhere. It’s the climate and just what to expect there. And being fair skinned and VERY attractive to bugs, I got more bites than I can count. It was not super fun, at all. Thank god for Tiger Balm.
  • Bad roommates – You never know what you’re going to get in youth hostels. Ever. And I’d say my roommate experience was 50/50. I had some that were great and some that were bad. Like in Laos where a roommate brought back a guy at 4am to have sex and proceeded to do so in our dorm room (with me and two others “sleeping”). That was something I don’t think I’ll forget…or be able to ever unhear. Other bad roommate examples include: dragging your suitcase across a tile floor at 6am when others are sleeping, fighting over the AC unit, snoring, sleeping with the light on that shines in my face, etc. Nothing surprises you.
  • Jet lag – I’m not a great sleeper to begin with and jet lag kicked my ass so hard when I got to Asia. I would say, I didn’t sleep well until more than a month in to the trip. Maybe it was the time difference with the US, but I just didn’t sleep well very much. That was not fun.

The Ugly

  • Weird health stuff – Asia is very different from the US. And because of that, my body would just react weird to the dirt and the dust. It was annoying, especially because it’s so hot that you have to wear shorts and when your skin reacts weird it’s like, damn what happened there!
  • Food poisoning – It is normal to get that there because food isn’t prepared or kept the same way as in the US. Our stomachs are just a bit more…delicate. Anyhow, I got food poisoning twice. One that was worse than the other. It was awful. Like, really awful. I also thought I would be skinner after puking for 24 hours straight…twice.

More to come on the trip and what’s happening on my end now, but I thought this was a great way to just give you guys a peek in to what happened.

What are some of the good/bad/ugly things you’ve run in to on your trips?

04 May 2015

Hello strangers

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random, travel

Hello everyone! No, I did not forget about you, or this blog. I’ve just been…busy.

Quick recap: Lost my job, lost my grandmother, lost my drive to do anything but wallow in sadness, so, I picked up and left Chicago for a three month adventure in Southeast Asia.

I needed perspective and a change of scenery. And holy f*ck did I get both.

Coincidentally, five years ago this week was my first solo vacation ever, in New Orleans. And just over four years ago I started solo traveling overseas w/a trip to Italy.

It’s funny how things come full circle.

I’m thinking through how I can write a recap on my experiences overseas. The good, bad, ugly, the tears and the moments of being truly happy for the first time in months. It was a bit of everything.

And I took 2,100 photos so, that’s going to take me some time to edit down and post on Facebook, but I promise I will.

Coming back to Chicago and “real life,” has been…tough. That’s a post for another day though too. For now, I’m back to a semi-good sleeping schedule and back to my own bed and shower. Trust me, you miss that after three months of hostel dorms and shared bathrooms.

So, more to come here, but I wanted to let you guys know (if you’re still out there) that I’m back, and will be back to normal (or semi-normal) soon.

How are you? What’s new??

05 January 2015

Auntie love

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

Yesterday, I watched at least 10x a one-minute video of my nephew laughing, which was captured by my SIL’s phone.

It was so fabulous.

The sound of his laughter is my new favorite sound (well, actually champagne popping is still my absolute favorite, so, sorry nephew).

You guys, auntie love is the absolute best.

My nephew is only 4.5 months old and I fucking love that kid so much, it is the best kind of overwhelming.

His face, ears, nose, mouth and smile are so cute, I love them.

Sure, he cries, loudly sometimes, and spits up…a lot, and on a regular basis I’m smelling like formula or trying to detangle his fingers from my hair or necklace, but when he looks at me and smiles, like he kinda maybe knows who I am, it just melts my cold dead heart.

When I was home, sometimes, we sat in the back seat together and I sang to him or sang along to music for him and we just stared at each other. He probably thought “who the hell is this person and why is she sitting next to me?” And me thinking/saying, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.” Creepy!!

Each time I saw him this fall, it was like something new was happening. He was smiling, giggling, chewing his hand (or anything he can fit in his mouth) and then…ROLLING OVER. And now, I won’t get to see him for a few months and it kind of breaks my heart. He’ll be so different then! Different? He’s so cute now!

The photos on my phone are now 90% of him. I even marked some as “favorites” just so I can streamline what I show others. For real.

When I said goodbye to him after Christmas, I cried. Hard. Like really hard. Holding him as tight as I could, kissing his head and cheeks and his perfect nose, ears, etc. It just killed me that I won’t see him again for a while. What if he forgets about me???

The hardest part about loving him so much is that I’m not local. So I miss these moments with him, seeing him daily, seeing him do new things (like roll back over again), hearing his voice and that look he gives me when he sees me and just is like “HI HOW ARE YOU. I MAY KNOW WHO YOU ARE.”

My SIL and brother do a great job of sharing photos but I just wish I could put a camera on him so I could see him at any second. Yeah, it sounds creepy, but it’s family, so it’s okay.

So, that’s all I have for now. Given the heavier topics covered here lately, I thought I’d just write about how much I love my nephew. Because I do, a lot.

Do you guys feel this way about your nieces or nephews?

01 January 2015

2015!

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!

It is officially 2015. And, as I’m sure you can all imagine. I’m NOT unhappy to see 2014 end. Which is weird because I prefer even-numbered years. But as you know, this one kicked my ass a bit so….NOPE NOT SAD.

Today, I re-read my post welcoming in 2014 and this time, I didn’t feel emotional reading it. Maybe it’s because I have a small cold and am on the couch resting. Or maybe I’m still feeling just a bit unemotional about stuff.

But in looking back at this year, despite the bad, there have been some great moments too.

Highs: Soldier Field 10-mile race (AMAZING), Paris and Amsterdam, birth of my nephew (who is so cute I cannot even handle it), reconnecting with a friend from college (who I still talk to regularly), connecting with new people in the city, depression under control, reconnecting with family at hospice while waiting for my grandma to pass.

Lows (quick revisiting): Job loss, grandma dying, stress fracture, giving up the marathon, temporary-ish weight gain from medication.

Now that 2014 is done, I don’t forget the lows, but choose to focus more on the highs, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Because they were still great things.

So, what have I learned?

I learned about loss.

Real loss. Loss of security, identity, and realizing that no matter how much you think you have your shit together in life, it can change in an instant. And you have no control over it and how it is resolved.

I learned that life is really too fucking short to be unhappy. And that choosing to be happy is really fucking easy, for those who want it.

And sadly, I know people who choose not to be.

I spent so much time in the last few months and years feeling unhappy about things I could change, but didn’t. Or feeling guilty because I wanted things and instead, denied myself them.

Fuck.that.shit.

Choosing to be happy is really simple. You ask yourself what you want, and you go after it. Or, outline the steps you need to take to get you there. And if you don’t know, what are you going to explore to maybe help you find it. And don’t give negative people, things, or moments any more energy than needed. Because they will suck you dry (TWSS) and bring you to their own unhappy level.

I’ve had a long look in the mirror, reminding myself of the following: If you’re not happy, change it. Or don’t, but then don’t complain about what the results you don’t get. And if you choose to complain, acknowledge your choices that affected those outcomes.

After everything that’s happened, I learned that decisions are really that easy.

So hopefully this realization and change in perspective serves me well in the next year.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had a great evening celebrating and my best wishes to you and yours for 2015.

I’ll be back again before I leave, not sure what my posting schedule will be while I’m gone, if I will. Internet where I’m going isn’t the most reliable. So we’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’RE ON NOTICE!

  • Early holiday decorations (not before Thanksgiving!)
  • Muffin tops (not the bakery-kind)
  • Bar Louie restaurant
  • Laundry machine hogs
  • County sales tax (10.25 percent - come on!)
  • Michael Scott
  • Harry & David
  • Chicago meteorologists