The Plunge

Upon recuperating from my recent life changes, I have come to the realization that I no longer have anchors holding me back from living the life I’ve always dreamed I would live! I realized that I’m quite good at saving money and finding smashing deals. Building a budget and sticking to it is no hard task for me. Personally I work best on a weekly basis, meeting these goals on a week by week basis gives me the motivation to keep going and succeed. It is helpful to watch things grow so rapidly week after week – I even downloaded this great app to build my goals – Money Box gives me the freedom to set a goal and time frame for the goal then track when I add money to that ‘box’. It even sends me a weekly reminder to make my contribution to my goals.

Since I have figured all this out and have been on a strong track, I bought a ticket to Europe for September. It gives me plenty of time to save all the money I will need – and with a round trip ticket for $460 how could I resist?!? I’ve been utilizing Airbnb to find places to stay at an affordable price and have been doing well so far.

I’ll be spending two weeks abroad visiting three major cities: Dublin (for a 21 hour layover), Amsterdam, and Paris. The only place I have been before is Amsterdam, I lived in The Netherlands for a while and thoroughly enjoyed my time there but feel I was in the wrong place to appreciate the cozy dutch culture. Now it is time to revisit this quaint country. Paris is a city I have been dreaming about my entire life – fueled by my love of classic literature and art. I’ve found a place to stay in the beautiful Montmartre district where the artists and writers throughout the ages have called home at various times including a few of my favorites including Fitzgerald and Hugo.

When I return to New York I’ll be moving into my own place so it is very important that I stick to my budget as best as possible and try every chance I get to exceed my savings goals each week. I’ve got a roommate lined up and a plan in action which is a wonderful thing – empowering in a way – but I’ll be starting from scratch. I’ll need to buy dishes and a bed and all the things that make four walls a home.

All of these decisions have made me feel a little overwhelmed but I’m grateful I have begun the planning process for this at such an early stage and with a steady income and money in the bank. There is a lot happening in my life but its a beautiful start to something wonderful and new.

Why China?

I’ve been asked a lot of questions lately about my current plans, most common: why China?

This is not an easily answered question as there are many factors involved in my decision. For one, Asia is a continent I have never stepped foot on and I have a goal of visiting every continent in my lifetime; this would bring me to my third. I live in North America and have traveled on two different occasions to Europe.

Experiencing life in a third world country would be a brand new experience as well and another factor. Aside from the aforementioned places, I’ve been on numerous family cruises to various islands in the Caribbean. These experiences were all luxury type vacations which is not what I am looking for at this time in my life. I would like to live in a place where I can experience a life with different challenges than my own. Where my services can be opening doors into the futures of those I encounter.

All the places I have lived for extended times have been either a democracy, monarch, or a combination of the two. I’ve never visited a communist country let alone lived in one for a year. I find this to be an intriguing factor in my adventure because I am learning what it is like to be a human all across our world.

During my college years, I took a few history classes with Dr. Parssinen who taught me a bit about Chinese history. There is a vast amount of it, but we focused on the Opium Wars for our Narcotic Drugs in Modern Society class. From the Opium Wars to the Silk Road and Marco Polo to the number of dynasties – it is all fascinating. Living on this side of the world will give me the opportunity to learn so much more.

So you see, there are a lot of things that draw me to China; the history, language, culture, political standings, and geographical location in Asia. Just like a cherry on top of the metaphorical sundae, China also pays well and holds teachers in high social regard.

Teaching in China

There are so many things to consider while realizing my need to teach english in China. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and plan on homeschooling my own children until they reach high school. In fact, while abroad I will be studying for the GRE to apply to grad school when I return for my MFA in Creative Writing – which is what I need to become a college professor.  I love the look in a person’s eyes when a concept clicks and they get that light that says they genuinely understand. It gets me fired up.

The thing about China is that I have never been to Asia or a communist country which poses completely different cultural norms and hopefully a huge shock. I’m ready for it and I need it. I yearn to make a difference in other human lives, this opportunity would definitely help bring that credo to life. The experiences of everything from Shanghai to the Himalayans makes me tingle inside. I want to know what life is like on the other side of the world.

What makes me nervous about China the most is that I’m a vegetarian and I don’t know any Chinese. Not even hello. I’m a pleasant individual overall so I think I will get along just fine and I plan on taking some kind of basic mandarin or something. Finding food I can eat to survive while I’m there is very frightening because I can’t say ‘I am a vegetarian, I do not eat meat. Dairy and eggs are okay.’

For a bit that was a deal breaker. Then I came to the realization that while living in the Netherlands I did most of my eating from a grocery store which meant visceral stimulation. As long as I can see it is a fruit or vegetable I am okay. I can cook rice and meals for myself at a lower expense as well.

Once that got me over the major hump, I stumbled upon a few youtube videos that shed some light on the experience for people who eat like me by people who eat like me. This one in particular I found exceptionally helpful:

So this is something I will be practicing for the next few months and am certain I will be referring back to once I get abroad. Now to think about how much I actually plan to bring with me and what to pack in. I was thinking of investing in a 60L pack or something and staying minimal. Perhaps a small checked bag for hygiene products to get me by the first  few weeks and a picture or two of my family.

xxx Sam

Teaching English Abroad

Good afternoon travelers! Have any of you taught english abroad? What countries have you worked in? What was it like? I’m very interested in participating in an opportunity of this nature and need some real information, not just some website that could or could not be a scam. I’m looking for people that have been through the TEFL course and interview process and have already taught abroad or are teaching abroad now. Is that you? Do you have any advice or suggestions?

I’m curious about the cost of the TEFL course, what countries are the best, and where you found the jobs that ultimately hired you. Also, how much money did you leave your home country with and how much did you return with? What kinds of things did you learn?

What’s a Pilgrimage?

The meaning of a pilgrimage through the eyes of a pilgrim:

The journey takes many forms, there can be a religious aspect to it however it is not a requirement. For me, it has more to do with a personal journey and growth. I don’t subscribe to any particular creed. Be happy, be honest, and be kind. That is my mantra. Finding your true soul is a journey that starts inside of you, therefore any one person’s pilgrimage will not match any other. It starts when you allow it to.

Although the Camino De Santiago is largely rooted in a catholic background, the pilgrims on the route of Saint James are of various backgrounds. Any pilgrimage begins when you allow it to, traditionally from your front door. However the traditional route of St. James starts in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ends in Santiago, Spain. Spending, on average, thirty days walking from France through to the tip of Spain is not an easy feat for anyone. Especially not when you stick to the true path of a pilgrim, relying on the way to support you through your travels. Breaking down both your physical and mental being and building you up again – much like daily life.

You see, a pilgrimage does not have to be some set trail that has been walked for centuries. A pilgrimage can be you getting up from your chair, going out your back door, and walking to another town or through the woods. It may not have much significance to an outsider however on said walk through the woods you may have reached a personal ‘aha!’ moment that alters the way you view your life forever.

I can’t wait to have a pilgrimage of my own, to travel and reach a true transcendental state must be absolute bliss. Although I’m not so sure I can wait until I find my way back to Europe to complete the Camino. That goal will never leave my mind but I think that some preparation is required. Some cultures and religions believe in yearly pilgrimages; so why can’t I take multiple pilgrimages throughout my life? I can and I will!

I want to call myself a citizen of the world and travel across our earth however when looking at my list (I keep a list of places I have been before) I realize that my focus has always been out of the Americas and I never took the time available to explore the land on which I was born. The land that my parents fell in love in and travelled across both together and alone. I need to experience the Appalachian Mountains and the Continental Divide. I need to see what the Rockies look like and the West Coast. I need to know what it is like to breathe in higher altitude, to truly be cold in the winter, and to see Redwood trees that I can’t wrap my arms around. I wish to hike and camp and build fires in as many states as I can. I want to simulate parts of the Oregon Trail and try to understand what the Gold Rush was like. Stand on old battlefields and put myself in the shoes of the people who fought there.

I am a firm advocate that seeing is believing and believing leads to true understanding. Emerson said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” I feel that he uses the term experiment precisely because they are meant to be learned from. Scientists create a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to prove their hypothesis is correct or debunk it. But no matter what, any good scientist will always try the experiment.

xxx
Sam

Road Trips and Clarity

Last week called for an impromptu road trip to the East coast of Florida to beach hop down the coast with my boyfriend, Michael. Packing the cooler with water and snacks, we embarked on our journey at four in the morning. The two of us marveled as the sun came up over state road sixty — greenery all around us and open road ahead. It was glorious. We made a pact to take the back roads as much as possible for any trip we do. We want to see as much of the natural beauty the world has to offer as possible.


Sunrise over 60

Sunrise over 60


 

We arrived on the east coast at 8am ready for some breakfast and a nap. While we ate, we found the nearest beach about twenty minutes away from I-95. Hutchinson Island was delightful; so much different from the beach I grew up on. There are sand dunes with foliage blocking your immediate view of the Atlantic, the wooden stairs were picturesque. They took us over the dunes and down to the beach where the sand was darker than I’m used to and filled with bits of shells that stick to your skin. The roar of the ocean swam through my head as I drifted asleep on the shoreline. A bit colder than the Gulf of Mexico, the waves enticed me in. We watched the storm roll in from the water and decided it was time to move on.


Hutchinson Island D Hutchinson Island R Hutchinson Island L

 


 

We raced the storm and successfully made it far enough south to avoid the rain and hit another beach. Hollywood Beach was a cute little town complete with a fabulous beach front. Instead of dunes we encountered a line of retro, stubby bars and hotels with a stone broadwalk about ten feet wide and two and a half miles long to walk or ride along the beachfront. The ocean was crystal blue with a few patches of brown seaweed, but the water was shallow for a good while which was perfect  for a little crashing around in the waves. The storm was nowhere in sight but as per Florida guidelines it stormed a few hours later and we found ourselves stuck until it passed. Gotta love happy hour showers.


Exploring the Hollywood Broadwalk

Exploring the Hollywood Broadwalk

Michael Lounging

Michael Lounging

Hollywood Beach F Hollywood Beach L Hollywood Beach R

 


 

It is so important to fit in little trips throughout your month to inspire your soul and help you clear your mind. It is a rejuvenating experience embracing what nature has to offer both nearby and far away. Crashing on the beach, driving all day and night, and showering at the beach accesses made me yearn for a cross-country road trip. I am certain that I can live that lifestyle and be completely happy; the vagabond lifestyle has whispered in my ear and I cannot shake it off. I’m convinced that traveling is a drug – heroin of sorts. I don’t care where I get it, but I must go!

xxx

Sam

Flashback: Library Visits in Bergen op Zoom

Whilst living in the Netherlands working as an Au Pair, I spent a lot of time at the library. I would spend hours reading books and sitting in the aisles basking in the smell of knowledge. Used books have a very particular aroma.

It was during this time of my life that my passion for F. Scott Fitzgerald really solidified. I had read some of his works in high school and enjoyed them enough but returning to his works as an adult really opened my eyes. In the last weeks of my stay, I stumbled across The Love of The Last Tycoon and was flabbergasted.

Since returning stateside I have searched every bookstore I find for this book. Nobody carries it. “We can order it for you though.” Call me old fashioned, but I wanted to pick it up with my own two hands and consciously remember buying this book – not have it arrive in the mail.

Since 2011 I have been determined that when I was good and ready to read Fitzgerald’s final book it would appear in my life. Yesterday was that day. I decided to go mosey about after getting my car washed and stumbled into Mojo Books & Records.

The smell of used books knocked my socks off as I opened the door. To the right was a café serving locally roasted coffee and organic teas. Off to my left and beyond ahead was a maze of shelves filled with an eclectic collection of books in all genres.

As I always do, I started in the classics and went hunting for F. It was mostly copies of The Great Gatsby and some chunky compilation books. I was feeling defeated and just about to give up when I noticed a book hidden between two Gatsby novels. I couldn’t read it in the darkness of the shelf but when I pulled it out my heart stopped.

Fitzgerald was at the end of his life when he wrote The Love of The Last Tycoon. He originally named it STAHR / A Romance but he wanted it to sound like a movie title to disguise the true content of the book. He had thought of changing the name weeks before his death in 1940; according to Sheilah Graham, whom sent his work in progress to his editor.

Fitzgerald’s last months, who knows how long, was spent thinking and working on this story of the last frontier – the film industry. How wonderful to be able to combine two of my greatest passions – film and good writing.

Fitzgerald has always been high on my list of inspiring men. It was nice to see that someone of that caliber saw that twinkle the film industry holds. There is so much possibility, and so much deceit. Nothing is as it seems. But we have come a long way since the days he speaks of here. With Independent Film on the rise and cameras so affordable, everybody thinks they are a Spielberg.

From Holland to Florida, three years later but I found my book and it was as glorious as I imagined. I’m sure I’ll be finished with it before I know it. I also bought a book on three African empires called A Glorious Age In Africa and one of those chunky Fitzgerald compilations.

By the time I ever settle down anywhere I will have a room stacked with books for my children to expand their minds. Also on my radar – Graduate school in South Africa? Further my education in a few years and be on the ground floor to help sustain a continent. But more to come on that as my research furthers. For now still working towards Twenty Four Weeks, Twenty Countries, Three Continents. Attached are some pictures from a visit to the library with the children and a dear friend.

xxx Sam

Notice the view of the Library Behind

Notice the view of the Library Behind

Reading to Zena

Reading to Zena

Owen

Owen

Lexa

Lexa

Annelies & Lexa

Annelies & Lexa

Owen

I really enjoyed the floors of the library, you couldn’t help but feel creative!

Reading to the munchkins was my favorite.

My Inspiration

This morning my mom left for an eight day missions trip to Guatemala. I am so proud of her for going out of her comfort zone and exploring the world. She has never traveled past caribbean cruises and has decided to jump in head first. After her trip to Guatemala she is going on another trip! This time she will head to Maine to take a photography class ON a sailboat. They will have time on and off the boat exploring different areas off the coast of Maine. Not only will she have classes and one on one sessions with a professional photographer, but she will also be given the opportunity to learn how to sail the ship. I can’t wait to see pictures of her sailing and her pictures of the exploration.

My mom is such an inspiration to me; while she is in Guatemala she will be helping out on a coffee farm, teaching some children, and building a house with her missions group. On her own she has been collecting loose, cotton skirts to hand out to women she meets along the way. She has such a kind heart and is really stepping out of her comfort zone for this trip.

This morning I called her to give her my best advice. I told her to let go of any expectations she may have because the beautiful thing about travel is that it never turns out exactly how you plan, but the experience is always better for it. It was quite an interesting experience giving advice to the person I always look to for mine. My mom and I have a very special bond that I wouldn’t trade in for the world. She has worked so hard and come so far. Taking these trips are already giving her a new sense of confidence and control in her own life. I can’t wait to hear all about her adventures on land and sea, and the lessons she learns. It is so important to remember that we never stop learning at any time in our lives.

Twin Thing

((Short Story written by me, Sam, in 2011))

Before everything I was still a child, innocent and happy. We were both happy at one point splashing in the water, the wind blowing salt through our hair. But one day our world shattered as if it were a thin stained-glass globe at the wrong end of a rocket launching. Funny thing is, I can’t quite pin point when it was. It all happened so fast: the drugs, foster care, mom came back, more drugs, dad came back, the violence started, and my sister couldn’t handle it.

I just found my happy place, I tried to take her there but she couldn’t see it. She was always afraid they were coming back to get us. So we left, and every time we left we had to leave where we went because they were still coming. The problem was that they never stopped chasing us. Instead of enhancing our lives, we lived on the run.

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The Things You Do Abroad!

Just a few years ago, before I started traveling, I was very set in my ways. For a human being who still was a child in life it was not surprising to be so naive. I always crossed in crosswalks, and never ate new things. I always ate my pizza starting from the tip, never with the crust. There was always a logical way to do things, never a reason to step out of my box.

As I found myself calling the Netherlands home and yet on vacation in England, I couldn’t help but feel I was out of my comfort zone. Certainly I was able to communicate with the people around me however it was all new. My feet had never touched these stones; my nose never experienced such a spell-bounding fragrance. The sights and the smells were overwhelmingly new and there I was with a giant smile pasted on my face standing in the middle of it all. I knew then that I had to dive in; Its all or nothing and I hadn’t come all this way for nothing.

One day in London, I had scheduled lunch with two girls I met on my internship back in France followed by dinner and drinks with a friend from high school living in the area. I filled in the time between with random wanderings around St. Paul’s Cathedral and Picadilly Circus. I found a beautiful park to sit in and observe what life is like across the pond. I talked to strangers even though my mother always told me not to. Stepping out of my box never felt so good.

When I went up to the office to meet with the girls, they said they planned to take me to a sushi place. Being a vegetarian and quite picky, I had never had sushi in my life but today was about ‘c’est la vie’! Knowing I am a vegetarian, my friends were sure to pick one of everything I could eat on the food escalator. Yes, you read that right. Sushi that comes circling around the room past tables. The color of the dishes its served on determines the price of your meal. I wasn’t fond of everything but I tried every single vegetarian dish this place offered. My taste buds were overwhelmed. It was the most amazing mixture of tastes I had ever experienced.

Realizing I had been missing out on so much by limiting myself, I decided at that moment that risks are a very important part of life. When Amanda asked me if Indian food sounded good I couldn’t let myself chicken out. Spicy is not my thing so I was super nervous about dinner. Getting lost on the way there definitely didn’t help the situation but once I found my friend and we started catching up I found myself with strange food in front of me. It was delicious! There was a kick to it, but the aroma of the restaurant and the yoghurt sauce they gave me for dipping made me forget about the spice after every bite. We had such a wonderful time talking about things past, present and future then took a rainy jog across the River Thames.

I’m so glad that I allowed myself to be so open during my travels because it has carried over into my everyday life. Instead of writing things off right away I am more willing to get to know it better, wether it be food, ideas, or even people. The ability to be open to things unknown is guaranteed to change the way you perceive the world.

 

xxx Sam